Great Lakes

Illinois Coastal Management Program Grants

The Illinois Coastal Management Program is accepting applications for Illinois Coastal Grants for environmental education and outreach projects and sustainable coastal planning projects. New for this year will be proposals for habitat restoration projects and small grants. Application materials are available at the Illinois Coastal Grant Program Website at Applications will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 15, 2014. All potential applicants are invited to sign up for a one-on-one consultation about your project idea. Email Lisa Cotner at for more information.

New tool helps visualize how climate change could affect the Great Lakes

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently launched a web tool that predicts what the Great Lakes shorelines looks like under different water levels.

The Lake Level Viewer shows different water levels of the Great Lakes. On NOAA’s Digital Coast website, users select a lake to view, zoom in on the specific area of interest and change the water level within six feet above or below the average level to see the receding or growing shorelines.

Western Michigan Communities Stop Coal Tar Sealer Use

Read the full post at Coal Tar Free America.

Western Michigan has recently seen an uptick in activity to curb the use of coal tar sealers. In the last two months Whitehall Township, the City of Whitehall, Fruitland Township and Laketon Township have, by ordinance, decided to no longer use the sealers at a governmental level and to encourage their residents to do the same. The nearby City of Montague has not yet taken a formal action, even though the City itself does not use coal tar sealers. However they did ask citizens to stop the use of coal tar sealers in Montague…

Great Lakes fishery managers need insight on climate change impacts

Read the full story in Great Lakes Echo.

Great Lakes fishery managers worry that their operations may be harmed by invasive species, habitat loss and climate change in the long run, according to a new study.

The study focuses on their need for information about climate change.

Kate Mulvaney, a research participant in the Environmental Protection Agency-funded Oakridge Institute for Science and Education program, said a team of researchers “from a bunch of disciplines,” fisheries ecology, social sciences, climatology and engineering, worked in this project. Mulvaney is the lead author of the article published in the latest issue of Journal of Great Lakes Research.

EPA Announces Removal of Two Toxic Hotspots on Lake Superior and Lake Michigan from Binational List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that two U.S. Areas of Concern, Deer Lake in the Lake Superior basin and White Lake in the Lake Michigan basin, have been removed from the binational list of toxic hotspots that were targeted for cleanup in the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

After decades during which only one U.S. Area of Concern was delisted, federal agencies have accelerated cleanup actions during the past five years by using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Three Areas of Concern – including Deer Lake and White Lake – have been delisted since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010. The United States and Canada designated 43 Areas of Concern under the 1987 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, in an effort to target sites contaminated primarily by industrial activity that occurred before modern environmental laws were enacted.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work we have done to significantly reduce threats to public health, enhance recreational opportunities and benefit local economies and that now, today, Deer Lake and White Lake have been delisted as Areas of Concern,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is accelerating cleanup work in the remaining Areas of Concern, which will bring new economic opportunities to communities all around the Great Lakes.”

“Today’s announcement is fantastic news for the communities involved, and for all of us who care about the Great Lakes,” said Sen. Carl Levin. “The restoration of these two areas of concern shows what we can accomplish with the focus and funding that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides, and it should inspire us to redouble our efforts to restore other contaminated areas in the Great Lakes.”

“Today’s historic announcement is a major achievement that reflects the decades of hard work by local communities in the U.P. and West Michigan and the importance of federal funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. “Deer Lake and White Lake are the first areas in Michigan to get a clean bill of health thanks to this federal partnership, which invests in the health of our Great Lakes and waterways. Today’s announcement shows once again the urgent need to invest in partnerships that clean up, restore, and protect our Great Lakes for generations to come.”

“The delisting of the Deer Lake Area of Concern and the White Lake Area of Concern is great news for Northern Michigan,” said Rep. Dan Benishek. “As a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, I’ve been a strong advocate for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has made today’s news possible. Northern Michiganders, and all who live and work in the Great Lakes, understand why efforts like the GLRI are so important to preserving the Great Lakes for future generations.”

“This announcement is the capstone on years of work to clean up our Great Lakes shorelines,” said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant. “We appreciate the support from federal partners through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to make this happen, and we appreciate the continued support and hard work of local groups to restore Michigan’s natural resources in our Areas of Concern. We look forward to more good news from this program in the years ahead.”

The Deer Lake Area of Concern was located along the southern shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This Area of Concern was contaminated by mercury that leached into water flowing through an abandoned iron mine and by other sources of pollution. High levels of mercury contamination in fish and reproductive problems in bald eagles were documented. A Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant ($8 million) was used to complete the final work required for delisting: a project that diverted water from the underground mine to the surface, where it was redirected to restore a trout steam known as Partridge Creek.

The White Lake Area of Concern was located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in Muskegon County, Mich. This Area of Concern was contaminated by decades of pollution from tannery operations, chemical manufacturing and other sources. Over 100,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment was removed during the White Lake Area of Concern clean up. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding ($2.1 million) was used to complete the final work required for delisting: a project to restore shoreline and over 40 acres of degraded fish and wildlife habitat.

Last summer, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality formally requested that EPA start the process to delist the Deer Lake and White Lake Areas of Concern. EPA reviewed the environmental monitoring data submitted with MDEQ’s requests and determined that both Areas of Concern were eligible to be delisted. EPA provided notice of intent to delist the two Areas of Concern to the government of Canada, tribal nations, the International Joint Commission and the general public. MDEQ will continue to monitor ecological conditions in the delisted Areas of Concern, with support from EPA.

In 2013, the Presque Isle Bay Area of Concern (Lake Erie, Pa.) was delisted, the first since GLRI was launched in 2010. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has been used to complete all necessary remediation and restoration actions at three additional Areas of Concern: Waukegan Harbor (Lake Michigan, Ill.), Sheboygan Harbor (Lake Michigan, Wis.), and Ashtabula River (Lake Erie, Ohio). Environmental monitoring is ongoing at those Areas of Concern to assess their eligibility for delisting. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding is also being used to accelerate cleanup work in all of the other remaining Areas of Concern on the U.S. side of the border.

Resilient community on the rise

Read the full story from the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment.

Only one month into the fall semester there is already an unseasonable chill in the air. But things are heating up in classrooms across the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Duluth campuses as more than 200 students in dozens of classes begin work on an impressive array of projects with the City of Rosemount, this year’s Resilient Communities Project partner community.

RCP, an initiative of the Sustainability Faculty Network at the University of Minnesota, with funding and administrative support provided by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs and the Institute on the Environment, organizes yearlong partnerships between the University and Minnesota communities. The partnership is bringing the expertise of hundreds of graduate students to sustainability-related projects identified by Rosemount city staff and community partners.

Today, Rosemount is a rapidly developing outer-ring suburb located 15 miles from the Twin Cities but the city has a long and rich history. Settled by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the early 1850s, Rosemount organized as a township in 1858 and was incorporated as a city in 1974. Rosemount has a land area of nearly 36 square miles and is home to a mix of industry, commerce, agriculture and residential development. With its population expected to double by 2040, Rosemount faces unique challenges and opportunities in the coming decades as it strives to become a more sustainable and resilient community.

This fall semester, RCP has matched 25 community-defined projects in Rosemount with more than 35 University courses. The projects are wide ranging and engage both undergraduate and graduate students from a variety of disciplines. Here are a few highlights:

Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River

Amanda McCormick, Timothy J. Hoellein, Sherri A. Mason, Joseph Schluep, and John J. Kelly (2014). “Microplastic is an Abundant and Distinct Microbial Habitat in an Urban River.” Environmental Science & Technology Article ASAP. DOI: 10.1021/es503610r.

Abstract: Recent research has documented microplastic particles (< 5 mm in diameter) in ocean habitats worldwide and in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Microplastic interacts with biota, including microorganisms, in these habitats, raising concerns about its ecological effects. Rivers may transport microplastic to marine habitats and the Great Lakes, but data on microplastic in rivers is limited. In a highly urbanized river in Chicago, Illinois, USA, we measured concentrations of microplastic that met or exceeded those measured in oceans and the Great Lakes, and we demonstrated that wastewater treatment plant effluent was a point source of microplastic. Results from high-throughput sequencing showed that bacterial assemblages colonizing microplastic within the river were less diverse and were significantly different in taxonomic composition compared to those from the water column and suspended organic matter. Several taxa that include plastic decomposing organisms and pathogens were more abundant on microplastic. These results demonstrate that microplastic in rivers are a distinct microbial habitat and may be a novel vector for the downstream transport of unique bacterial assemblages. In addition, this study suggests that urban rivers are an overlooked and potentially significant component of the global microplastic life cycle.