Stateside’s conversation with Rachel Clark of the Michigan History Center
Michigan has a long list of water problems: raw sewage overflowing into the Great Lakes, PFAS chemicals in groundwater and, of course, the countless lead pipes that contributed to the Flint water disaster.
The state's first-known water crisis, though, happened more than 180 years ago.
Border Patrol Inspectors Franklin Wood and Earl Roberts were killed by bootleggers near Detroit in the late 1920’s. Inspector Charles Inch was killed by a train as he pursued two people trying to enter illegally from Canada in 1932.
The Detroit RiverFront Conservancy hopes to raise $3 million to fund a new transportation system in Detroit. They envision a system of water taxis and trolley buses working in and along the Detroit River.
A program to remove invasive plants is coming to Detroit's Belle Isle this summer.
A federal grant from the EPA of almost half a million dollars will go to Friends of the Detroit River. Sam Lovall is the project manager. He says removing the invasive plants is really important for the health of the island's ecosystem.
"Although some of them are quite attractive, they tend to overpopulate the area," said Lovall.
"They are very aggressive and they can compete very well with some of our native plants."
Now that the Detroit Red Wings are going to get a new home in 2016, Joe Louis Arena seems destined for the wrecking ball.
And that is focusing fresh attention on Detroit's riverfront, as the city searches for a new use for that riverfront site.
There could be some valuable lessons Detroit could learn from Buffalo, which is doing more than just about any Great Lakes City to reconnect with its waterfront after generations of industrial abuse and neglect.
Writer Edward McClelland spelled out the story of the ongoing process of reclaiming Buffalo's waterfront in a story for Belt Magazine. He joined us to discuss what Buffalo is doing, and what Detroit could do.
DETROIT (AP) — About 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Detroit River while a U.S. Coast Guard ship was taking on fuel, officials said.
The discharge from the Cutter Mackinaw happened Tuesday afternoon near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
The Coast Guard said the ship's crew secured the source of fuel and conducted initial cleanup operations onboard. Crewmembers also deployed a boom around the fuel to prevent further spread. A contractor is expected to finish cleanup efforts.
"We take our role as environmental stewards seriously, and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable," Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Incident Management Branch, said in a statement. "We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts."
The cause of the discharge is under investigation, Johnson said, and the Coast Guard wants to ensure that another spill doesn't happen.
Ice breaking work is keeping Coast Guard crews busy on the Great Lakes, and the Mackinaw was cleared Tuesday to leave for an ice breaking operation.
“Banks, bond insurers, employee pension systems and others who believe they are owed money by Detroit are up against the clock to legally voice opposition to the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. A federal judge set today as the eligibility objection deadline in the bankruptcy petition by Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager Kevin Orr,” the Associated Press reports.
Drunken boating still a problem on the Great Lakes
“The U.S. Coast Guard says boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a serious problem on the Great Lakes. Personnel stationed on the lakes had issued 89 citations for drunken boating this year through Aug. 13. That's up from 84 during the same period in 2012. Alcohol is a leading cause of fatal boating accidents. Penalties for piloting a boat while drunk can reach $5,000,” the Associated Press reports.
Feds to survey the Detroit River for sea lamprey
“A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed. Lampreys attach to fish and use their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids. The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish. Crews have kept lamprey numbers under control by applying a specially designed poison to streams where they lay eggs,” according to the Associated Press.
DETROIT (AP) - A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed.
The eel-like lamprey invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s and has remained ever since. Lampreys attach to fish with a mouth resembling a suction cup. Their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids.
The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish.
That huge pile of petroleum coke lying alongside the Detroit River is triggering a growing sense of alarm.
You may recall, we spoke with New York Times journalist Ian Austen about the origins of this mountain of "pet coke" that's growing in Southwest Detroit. It's a byproduct of tar sands oil refining used in energy production. When mixed with coal, it can be used as a low-cost fuel.
The piles are being brought in by trucks from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit, and the pet coke is being stored by a company called Detroit Bulk Storage for the owner of the pet coke: Koch Carbon.
U.S. Congressmen John Conyers and Gary Peters and others have been voicing concern about the health and environmental risks of storing these piles of pet coke. We wanted to take a closer look at these concerns.
Nick Schroeck is a professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit and the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.
DETROIT (AP) - Tests by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have found that hulking black mounds along the banks of the Detroit River in southwest Detroit don't pose a threat to human health.
The petroleum coke, or pet coke, mounds are a byproduct of oil refining used in energy production. The material has been brought by trucks from the nearby Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery, and the mounds drew attention starting earlier this year.
Area residents, the Canadian government and U.S. lawmakers are among those concerned about potential pollution and health effects.
Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum says the pet coke stored along the Detroit River is no longer owned by the company. If stored properly, however, Marathon says pet coke poses no environmental concerns.
This piece featured on Stateside is part of an ongoing series called The Living Room, curated by Allison Downey.
"There are those for whom fishing is not only a family tradition, but a creative act: Michigan-based writer and fisherman, Pete Markus is in that category. The river and fishing inspire his work. And his writing is a hybrid of fiction and poetry. He's got this tendency to say volumes with just a few words that he repeats over and over again. Words like fish, river and Bob," Downey reported.
Pete Markus is a 2012 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, who teaches writing in Detroit Public Schools. Producer Zak Rosen spent time fishing and talking with Markus on the Detroit River. You can listen to the audio above.
After years of rumors, it’s official - beavers are back on Belle Isle.
It’s been about 100 years since the animals left the 985-acre island on the Detroit River, driven away by trappings and human development. In recent years, any time someone thought they spotted a beaver in the area, park officials always deemed the animal a muskrat or raccoon caught in a case of mistaken identity.
That is, until last week when a park visitor snapped a cell phone photo of a beaver swimming in the Blue Heron Lagoon.
John Hartig of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge told The Detroit News that the Belle Isle beavers may have come from a family of beavers spotted at the nearby Conners Creek Power Plant four years ago.
DETROIT (AP) - A police dive team has found a cannon in the Detroit River near the city's downtown. The cannon was discovered about 200 feet from Cobo Center in July. The police department says the cannon could be more than two centuries old.
You might expect that the Legislature, our well-paid, elected representatives, would be most keenly concerned with the economy and trying to figure out how to make things better.
Well, once in a while they do show signs of being interested in that, but yesterday … not so much. The governor was forced to postpone efforts to get approval for a new bridge over the Detroit River, a project that would cost Michigan nothing and create at least 10,000 jobs. He doesn’t yet have the votes.
Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Wednesday that a TV ad campaign attacking plans for a second bridge to Canada reminds him of misleading campaign attacks on him in last year's race for governor.
"It's inaccurate," he said of the ad's claim that the public project connecting Michigan and Canada would cost state taxpayers $100 million a year.
The ad is paid for by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who said in a front-page Free Press report Wednesday that Snyder's advocacy for the public bridge would kill Michigan jobs, notably at his companies.
Moroun wants to build his own second Detroit-Windsor span, but the Canadian government won't let him build the span because of traffic, legal and environmental concerns. Snyder said two bridges would be viable…
Snyder said a new bridge, built by a private builder, would stimulate commerce. But, he said in a wide-ranging interview, his top priority is balancing the state budget and enacting tax changes he said will lead to more jobs.
Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes to introduce legislation next week that would move forward with construction on a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. A similar proposal has met stiff opposition for several years among Republicans in the Legislature. Snyder says it is time for another international crossing:
“Doing the new international trade crossing is the right thing to do. At the same time, when I did my analysis I believe there’s viable opportunity to have the Ambassador Bridge continue, the Windsor Tunnel, the Blue Water Bridge, and clear up at the Soo. We’ve got great crossings, we just need another crossing.”
Democrats in the Legislature say Snyder will need their votes to approve the bridge project. They say if the governor wants their support he will also need to work with them more during budget negotiations.
Lawmakers return next week from their spring break.