Death and Life

The interviews and stories make for an interesting read.

The Great Lakes are the largest body of fresh water in the world. This is a review of the award-winning book, Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan.

The pristine Great Lakes had always been isolated from other bodies of water, but all this changed with the building of canals in the 1800s. Then in 1959 the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened. This is a riveting account of what has happened to the Great Lakes and other lakes in the United States and Canada since the Great Lakes became an avenue of world commerce and transportation.

Death and Life is a must read for individuals that care about the quality of our water, fishermen and women, and every environmental decision maker. I was thrilled my local book club picked it to read, and excited when the New York Times/PBS Book Club chose it as well.

Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario make up the Great Lakes on the border of the United States and Canada. Photo: National Weather Service, Buffalo

The author, Dan Eagan, a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has thoroughly researched and interviewed many of the decision makers and citizens involved. Why did they make the decisions they did?   I was surprised how many of them were still living to tell their stories and defend their decisions. He has put their stories together to tell an interesting narrative.

Why would species from the Black Sea and Caspian Sea thrive in Lake Michigan? We have learned so much during the past thirty to fifty years about invasive species. I remember how surprised I was when I first learned about invasives. A new world opened!  The learning curve has been steep for us, and even if you don’t read this book I encourage you to read about invasive species to learn the harm they do. Eagan delves into the sea lamprey, alewives, zebra mussels, coho salmon, Asian carp, and others that have thrived in this new environment, the Great Lakes, without any predators to control their numbers. Then there are the native lake trout that are native to the lakes, but they are too boring??

Fascinating was the Great Black Swamp that filtered run-off and helped keep Lake Erie clean. Like so many of the wetlands and swamps of the past, our ignorance couldn’t understand their purpose, so drainage began and we have new fertile farmland. Today the farm run-off creates the perfect conditions for toxic algae blooms threatening the drinking water taken from Lake Erie. Interesting stories continue as Egan interviews farmers, and those working to mitigate the effects of farm run-off.

The summer of 2017, a very rainy summer on Lake Superior, I was surprised by reports that for the first time Lake Michigan had better water quality than Lake Superior. The high water level of Lake Superior and the run off from the streams had caused a rusty-brown lake. You will have to read Dan Eagan’s book to discover why Lake Michigan now has cleaner water, and if this is a good thing?

Dan Egan leaves me hopeful. I think he believes, as do I, the earth is capable of healing itself to some extent if left alone to find its ecological balance. It is hopeful that Lake Huron has begun to heal, and that the white fish are adapting to eat zebra mussels. I hope a 10 year sequel is on the writing-table soon.

And finally a quote from the book, “A thing is right when it tends to promote the integrity, beauty and stability of the biotic community.” Aldo Leopold

A link to Dan Egan’s appearance on the PBS NewsHour:

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/great-lakes-author-dan-egan-answers-your-questions

 

 

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Surprise of the Year/Lake Superior

Lake Superior in winter, Is this a thing of the past?
Lake Superior in winter, Is ice a thing of the past?

Lake Superior a Climate Change Antenna

Over 90% of global warming is in the oceans.  A decades long research on 235 lakes shows that, “Lake Superior is one of the more rapidly warming lakes” The big lake is warming even faster than the oceans!  My unscientific observation is that it seems like the days the wind off the lake are fewer.  But that happens when warmer winds from the west and south dominate! Also part of our warming climate.

So why is it important?

1. Toxic clouds of algae can bloom.  And run-off from the land makes this worse!

2. Fish populations are altered, which has been going on for a while!

3. The worst: Invasive species can find a new home!

More reasons to reduce you carbon footprint.

See the story below:

http://www.startribune.com/world-s-lakes-are-warming-up/362719881/

Sunset on Lake Superior
Sunset on Lake Superior

Sick, Unhealthy Lakes

Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.
Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.

Minnesota is home to over 10,000 lakes. We love our lakes. Unfortunately, we don’t take personal responsibility for protecting the beauty and health of our precious lakes. One of the most popular lakes is covered with trash, and it has become impossible to educate anglers (Are they listening?) of the invasive species their boats carry from lake to lake.
In late June, I was biking through southern Minnesota and was appalled to see algae and milfoil covered lakes. Sometimes they look weedy in August, but this was June?

The largest Minnesota newspaper published an opinion piece about what is happening to our lakes. The authors think the lakes of southern Minnesota are a lost cause, but they think more should be done to keep northern lakes clean.  I think with tougher rules and strict enforcement all lakes can be kept healthy and usable. It is a matter of political will and setting priorities. With tougher rules and strict enforcement all lakes can be kept healthy and usable. At the bottom of this post there is a list of things I do on my lake property to protect water quality.

Unfortunately, agriculture was given a pass on the Clean Water Act and they should be better regulated.  Agricultural run off is a real problem, but everyone needs to do better.  This is the only water we will ever have and we should respect and value every water body.

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Brian Peterson • Star Tribune If 75 percent of lakeshore remains mainly forested, the chance of maintaining lake quality is good, said Peter Jacobson of the state’s Department of Natural Resources. But when natural cover falls below 60 percent, lakes begin to deteriorate.

The opinion article:  “There is no mystery about what is needed: a built environment that harmonize with nature rather than defying it”  http://www.startribune.com/from-runoff-to-ruin-the-undoing-of-minnesota-s-lakes/321099071/

Is this how lakes should look?
Is this how lakes should look?

Requirements all lake shore/stream property owners should follow:

*Buffer strips of plants and trees along the shoreline. Absolutely no mowing down to the water.

*If there is no sewer available, lake shore properties should be required to maintain a sewage holding tank.

*Wash boats and equipment with hot water before entering a new lake with your boat.

*Reduce or eliminate the chemicals you use in your home, yard and water.

*Recycle, pick up trash and never litter.

*Never never burn garbage.

Two letters from the editor on the same topic: http://www.startribune.com/readers-write-aug-16-minnesota-s-lakes-planned-parenthood-payday-lending/321926671/