Great Lakes Today

Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations, was created to highlight issues affecting the lakes. All reports are available to stations for free -- whether or not the station is in the Great Lakes region.

The main partners in the collaboration are WBFO (Buffalo), ideastream (Cleveland) and WXXI (Rochester); other stations in the region will also contribute reports. Great Lakes Today is funded through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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Payne Horning

Two replica Christopher Columbus ships are sailing across the Great Lakes this summer, offering visitors a chance to learn about the famous explorer's voyages. But some say the ships only tell half of a story.

Aboard the Pinta replica in Oswego, N.Y., harbor, tour guide Collin Foster lectured a group of students last weekend about Columbus and his famous voyages. "It was 33 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean, everybody has to remember that,” he said.

File Photo / WRVO

Historically high water levels on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River are presenting the shipping industry with both challenges and opportunities. 

Bruce Burrows, president of the binational Chamber of Marine Commerce, says $50 million in economic activity is generated each day on the St. Lawrence Seaway. But that's being disrupted because a large dam is releasing record sustained outflows from Lake Ontario. 

"The output is about equivalent to four Olympic swimming pools per second of water now flowing," he says.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

"Anyone there? Please, tell us - we're all tired and we're all hungry. Please come back!"

Fake distress calls placed via marine radio can sound completely identical to real ones.  The Coast Guard 9th District - which covers the Great Lakes - takes every call seriously.  But the agency has noticed the number of false distress calls skyrocket this year - to more than 160 calls compared to just 55 in 2016.

The 9th District's Christopher Yaw says hoax calls can greatly deplete resources needed for real emergencies.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

It’s easier to get to Sheila Consaul’s lighthouse by boat than by foot.  It sits at the edge of an Ohio state park 30 miles east of Cleveland.

“Unless you have a boat, the only way to get here is to park in Mentor Headlands Beach parking lot, walk out through the dunes area to the beach itself, walk along the beach, and then you have to get up on the breakwall,” explains Consaul.

Mike Mroziak, WBFO News

The International Joint Commission isn’t a well-known group. But it has a big responsibility – helping the United States and Canada regulate the Great Lakes. New York’s Governor thinks the U.S. representatives aren’t doing a good job.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s upset about weeks of flooding that is hurting communities on the Lake Ontario shoreline. He blames the IJC, which controls dams along the boundary waters. And he wants President Trump to replace the two U-S commissioners. One other seat is already vacant.

ANGELICA A. MORRISON

Final part of a series on President Trump's budget

On the shores of the lower Niagara River, about 10 miles from Niagara Falls, a group of biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service prepare to examine the largest fish species in the Great Lakes region – the lake sturgeon.

"They were nearly wiped out, mostly due to over-fishing," says biologist Dimitry Gorsky . "We have this remnant population that survived the over-fishing and habitat destruction."

Ben Thorp

Part 4 in a series about President Trump's budget

Thousands of dams have been built across the Great Lakes region -- but many are old and in danger of collapsing. In Michigan, conservation groups and state agencies are pooling resources to remove or repair dams before it’s too late. 

Michigan has about 2,600 dams. Most were built decades ago to generate electricity, control floods and create lakes for recreation.

Elizabeth Miller / ideastream

Part 3 in a series about President Trump's budget

A lot of attention has been focused on President Donald Trump's proposal to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which doles out 300 million dollars a year for different projects.  But there are some other cuts in Trump’s “skinny budget” that would affect the region, including the National Sea Grant program .

Three months ago, Dr. Chris Winslow became director of Ohio Sea Grant, after holding the position on an interim basis.

Chuck Quirmbach

Part 2 in a series on President Trump's budget

President Donald Trump ’s 2018 budget plan eliminates $300 million in funding to restore the Great Lakes. The plan has sparked concerns among environmentalists, because a lot of that money is being spent to protect the lakes from a voracious fish known as the Asian carp.

Derek Montgomery / MPR News

Part 1 of a series on President Trump's budget

Long-standing plans to clean up the headwaters of Lake Superior have been thrown into doubt by Trump administration budget priorities.

Federal officials have been working for years to address a century's worth of industrial pollution in more than 40 areas around the Great Lakes.

The St. Louis River estuary, which flows past Duluth, Minn., into Lake Superior, is the second largest of those projects. But the money has been zeroed out in the president's 2018 budget plan.

File Photo / WBFO

Mayors across the region, in both Canada and the U.S., are banding together against climate change.

Members of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative are gathering this week in Montreal for an annual meeting.

They announced their plan to move forward with their support of the Paris Climate Agreement. Their move comes in response to President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the agreement.

The mayors also say they’ll push for U.S. funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was eliminated from Trump’s budget plan.