In the news: Lake levels look to get back on track

With the big spring thaw underway (mostly) and warmer weather on the way, Lakes Michigan and Huron are on track to get closer to their long-term water levels than they were last summer. 

From Michigan Live
"Water levels on Lake Michigan- Huron typically rise from March through July. Lake Michigan- Huron has risen one inch since early March, but is 13 inches higher than this same time last year. Although the above two lakes are higher, they are still 16 inches below the long term average for this date.

The rise in the lakes in the past month was the result of melting snow. Precipitation didn't help much to the rise in lake levels, as March was fairly dry. The dry pattern in March was good for helping Michigan avoid major flooding. However, heavy rain would have really boosted lake water levels. March precipitation over the Lake Michigan-Huron drainage basin was only 1.49 inches, which was 69 percent of normal."
Read more about the projected lake levels for this summer at the link above.


In the news: Cause of Lake Erie’s algae becoming clearer

Lake Erie is one of the Great Lakes that is most affected by toxic algal blooms, and finding the cause for them is the first step in reducing or preventing them. Scientists may be closer to understanding just what causes these harmful blooms. 

"Algal blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie were severe during the 1960s, caused primarily by large releases of phosphorus from sewage and industrial plants. The 1972 federal Clean Water Act and the 1978 bi-national Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement led to dramatic reductions in phosphorus from these sources and a rapid improvement in water quality.

Lake Erie, however, saw a reemergence of the algal blooms and the growth of the dead zone in the mid-1990s, and the problems are worsening. In 2011, for example, Lake Erie experienced its most severe bloom of toxic algae on record. Last fall a toxic algal bloom in the lake forced officials to shut off a public water supply system in Ohio.

The new studies, part of the Ecological Forecasting (EcoFore) Lake Erie project led by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that the current targets to reduce phosphorus to alleviate algal blooms in Lake Erie may not be low enough to revive the dead zone. That conclusion informed the International Joint Commission’s recommendations in February for improving Lake Erie’s water quality.

The findings, and those of other studies from across the Great Lakes region, are delivering an ever clearer picture of the specific causes of nonpoint phosphorus runoff, algal blooms, and dead zones. The basic drivers of these problems are no longer unknown. The new research fills a critical void in information that has been often cited as a reason that strict regulations on nonpoint pollution sources, including agriculture, were not regulated under the 1972 federal Clean Water Act."
Read the complete article and findings at the link above.


Illinois Water Conference 2014 now accepting paper proposals

The 2014 Illinois Water Conference is coming up later this year, October 14-15 at the University of Illinois, and abstracts are now being accepting for presentations.

From the event website:
"To submit an abstract for an oral presentation or student poster, complete the appropriate online form by Monday, May 5. You will be notified regarding the status of your abstract by June 2.
The majority of accepted abstracts will fit within one of the session topics listed below. However, you may submit under the Open Topic category, from which we will develop one or two additional sessions. Student posters are requested as general submissions.
  • Application of statistical and machine learning methods in hydrology
  • Biomass crops to enhance water quality
  • Critical zone observatory research
  • Effects of climate and land use changes on Illinois water resources
  • Floodplains: recent developments in science, management and restoration
  • Global challenges and opportunities at the boundaries of water and sanitation research
  • Illinois regional water supply planning
  • Monitoring to modeling (TMDLs)
  • Protecting water quality and addressing flooding on multiple fronts in Cook County
  • Resolving chronic problems with landfills and waste fills
  • State of Lake Michigan
  • Stream restoration
  • The energy implications of resource recovery in wastewater treatment
  • Water for energy: power generation, fracking, and more"
Follow the link above for additional information about the conference and the submission process, and contact Lisa Merrifield for questions.


In the news: Illinois looks to keep microplastics out of waterways

Illinois lawmakers are looking at legislation that would ban microbeads (very small plastics used in several personal care products like exfoliators and cleansers) from production and use in cosmetics. 

"The proposal, introduced March 14 by Sen. Heather Steans (D–Chicago), would outlaw the production and sale of microbeads used in cosmetic products, which are toxic and pollute the Great Lakes in addition to harming the marine wildlife that inadvertently consume them, according to Steans.

Major metropolitan cities contribute greatly to the high concentration of cosmetic microbeads in the Great Lakes, said Olga Lyandres, research manager at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

The beads’ size makes it impossible for filters to eliminate them before water reaches lakes, according to Jennifer Caddick, engagement director at the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Though Chicago doesn’t discharge sewage into the lake, many cities do and the pollution from these other sources makes Chicago’s main water source a public health threat."
Read the complete article at the link above.


In the news: Great Lakes lawmakers lobby for further funding

Members of the House of Representatives from Great Lakes states are lobbying their colleagues in Congress to continue funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. 

From CBS Minnesota
"Forty-six House members from both parties recently sent a letter to leaders of a subcommittee that recommends spending on the environment.

It requests $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program usually gets about that much for projects dealing with threats such as toxic pollution and invasive species. President Barack Obama’s 2015 budget would cut it to $275 million.

Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan says the program has done much to improve the lakes’ health and now isn’t the time to cut back."
Read more at the link above.


Illini Bass Fishing Club helps IISG spread invasive species info

The IISG aquatic invasive species team (AIS) kicked off their fishing tournament season with a bang earlier this week. Several members were onsite April 6 for a high school bass fishing tournament to talk with young anglers about the threat of AIS and what they can do to prevent their spread. Hosted by the Illini Bass Fishing Club, the third annual High School Open drew a record number of teams and anglers to central Illinois’ Clinton Lake. 

IISG science writer Anjanette Riley joined the AIS team for the tournament and recalls the day’s events:  

“If every fishing tournament this year was like the High School Open, this will be a great year for AIS outreach. During the couple hours we were onsite, Sarah Zack and Alice Denny  talked with hundreds of anglers, coachers, and on-lookers from Illinois and Wisconsin. 

But more than the numbers, what really made Sunday a success was people’s enthusiasm. Groups huddled around the IISG table to talk about Sea Grant, invasive species, and three easy steps to ensure invaders can’t hitch a ride to new waterbodies: remove, drain, dry. Many of these coaches said they would take the message—and the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers giveaways—back to team members not competing that day. And frequent announcements from Luke Stoner, the Illini club president, reminded the crowd of the risks AIS pose to their sport and the importance of “leaving the lakes better than we found them.” 

The day also proved successful for many of the anglers fighting to catch the most and biggest bass. The fish were hesitant to bite, but more than half of the 79 competing teams weighed in at least one. Several teams brought in bags of fish weighing more than 6 lbs. The winning duo, though, sealed their victory with two fish weighing in at 8.3lbs, and the Big Bass award went to an Edinburg-South Fork student who caught a 6.46lb largemouth bass—a true “Clinton Lake slaunch.”  

These hard-working high school anglers have a full season of fishing in front of them. In fact, for many of the teams, Sunday was their first day on the water this year. And their successes at the tournament will help them qualify to compete in sectional and state competitions.  

Sunday was the first of many tournaments for IISG’s AIS outreach team as well. Sarah, Alice, and others will take their message of prevention to professional and amateur tournaments across Illinois and Indiana this spring. But the annual High School Open marked a rare and important opportunity to talk with young anglers about the importance of curbing the spread of AIS.” 

To learn more about AIS, visit the IISG website. And watch for our "Be a Hero - Transport Zero" campaign this summer with how-to information on basic steps to take before leaving a marina or boat ramp.     


In the news: Michigan’s White Lake inches closer to getting removed from Areas of Concern list

White Lake, located in Michigan just north of Muskegon, has long been listed as an Area of Concern in the Great Lakes region. Federal officials are currently moving forward on one of the last efforts to remove the lake from the AOC list. 

"The lake is one of 14 major sites in Michigan on a list of toxic hot spots in the Great Lakes region. The cleanup work is difficult and expensive, but it’s expected to improve conditions for people and wildlife throughout the region.

Most of the work left at this point in the process for White Lake is paperwork. If everything goes as planned, White Lake will be taken off the toxic hot spot list in October, making it the very first in Michigan to complete the cleanup process."
Read the complete story at the link above.