Biggest Great Lakes stories of 2016

Dec 22, 2016

Across the Great Lakes, 2016 brought a lot of conflict, with battles over water diversion, petroleum pipelines and other issues.  

Lake Michigan
Credit National Park Service

The year also brought a first for the Great Lakes – and it came from a town in Wisconsin. Waukesha became the first town outside the Great Lakes Basin to be allowed to divert water from Lake Michigan. Opponents included over 100 mayors of American and Canadian cities. They say this will set a precedent and open the floodgates to other diversion requests. 

A lot of environmental groups applauded the state of Michigan for designating its portion of Lake Erie as an “impaired” watershed. That’s an important move because it identifies pollution sources and sets limits for them.  But Ohio went the other way; it didn’t list western Lake Erie as impaired. Now everyone’s waiting for the EPA to weigh in.

On Lake Erie , it was a mild summer for algae blooms – they were less toxic and less common than in years past.  But over in Lake Superior, warm water temperatures and rain storms contributed to the area’s second harmful algae bloom in the past 4 years.

“We happened upon this kind of unusual surface scum on the lake, on that same stretch of mainland shoreline that had seen the blooms in 2012,” said Brenda Moraska Lafrancois of the National Park Service.

There was more conflict over a northern Michigan oil pipeline and over a plan to adjust Lake Ontario’s water levels. 

But some good news came out of Washington. Congress gave new life to the restoration of the Great Lakes: $300 million a year through 2021.