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The impact of record low Great Lakes levels

This post originally appeared on Michigan in Pictures.

Low water levels, West Arm Grand Traverse BayOn Michigan in Pictures I usually blog beautiful things, but today I’m featuring an ugly thing that we in Michigan should all be concerned about. Traverse City based Circle of Blue has an in-depth feature on the record-low level of Lake Michigan-Huron:

The latest numbers released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on February 5 show that both lakes Michigan and Huron — which are two connected lakes — are experiencing their lowest point since records began in 1918. Water levels were an average of 175.57 meters (576.02 feet) for the month of January, approximately 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) lower than the previous record set in 1964.

“Not only have water levels on Michigan-Huron broken records the past two months, but they have been very near record lows for the last several months before then,” said John Allis, chief of the Great Lakes Hydraulics and Hydrology Office at the Corps, in a press release. “Lake Michigan-Huron’s water levels have also been below average for the past 14 years, which is the longest period of sustained below-average levels since 1918 for that lake.”

The low water levels, which the Corps attributes to: below-average snowfall during the winter of 2011-2012, last summer’s drought, and above-average evaporation during the summer and fall of 2012, have the potential to hurt the Great Lakes’ shipping industry.

…For the water levels on Lake Michigan-Huron to reach even near-average water levels again, the Corps said it will take many seasons with above average precipitation and below-average evaporation.

Read on at Circle of Blue for much more including the struggles that wildlife are having with the changing climate. You can also view the release from the Army Corps of Engineers and see historic Great Lakes levels back to 1918. From the Army Corps, I learned that at 1 1/2 ft below normal, ships are losing 8-10% of their carrying capacity.

Beyond harm to the multi-billion dollar shipping industry which feeds countless industrial endeavors, the low lake levels are making many of our recreational harbors inaccessible. These feed our multi-billion dollar sport fishing industry and  this has prompted Gov. Snyder to endorse a $21 million emergency dredging plan, $11 million of which would come from Michigan’s general fund. With over a half a million jobs in Michigan alone tied to the health of the Great Lakes, getting a handle on the threats that impact them are likely to be at the center of our policy and spending for a long time.

In a curious bit of synchronicity, you can see just how vital the Great Lakes are to Michigan in Michigan Sea Grant’s reports on Economic Vitality and the Great Lakes. View this photo bigger and see more in their Grand Traverse Bay Low Water slideshow.

Lots more Lake Huron and Lake Michigan on Michigan in Pictures.

Michigan’s Economy Hits 10 Year High

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) reports that Michigan’s economy has reached a 10-year high, according to Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index. The June index jumped 2.0 points in June, spiking to a level of 105.9 – its highest level since 2002. The index has averaged 102 points over the first half of 2012, 11 points above the index average for all of 2011.

“The Michigan economy pushed further ahead in June, with our Michigan Economic Activity Index up strongly for the second month,” said Robert Dye, Chief Economist at Comerica Bank. “The rate of job creation has slowed over the first two quarters of the year as U.S. auto sales have plateaued around a 14 million unit annual sales rate in 2012. But outside of durable goods manufacturing, we are seeing ongoing gains. Housing markets statewide are improving as sales and prices increase. New home construction remains low, but is expected to increase to meet pent up demand.”

The Michigan Economic Activity Index consists of seven variables: nonfarm payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, hotel occupancy rates, continuing claims for unemployment insurance, building permits, and motor vehicle production. All data are seasonally adjusted, as necessary, and indexed to a base year of 2004.

According to the Michigan Association of Realtors, the number of single family homes sold in Michigan rose 14 percent in July compared to one year earlier. The July 2012 average sales price was $116,116, a 6.55 percent increase over the 2011.

Overall, Michigan is leading the country in economic recovery, according to the Detroit News. The dropping unemployment rate, upswing in home sales and increase in consumer spending are all evidence of a positive outlook for the Great Lakes state.

Michigan punches its ticket for high-speed rail

Vanishing Point by e.rabior
Vanishing Point by e.rabior

Business Week reports that Michigan made some major moves toward high-speed rail yesterday:

A high-speed passenger train service between Chicago and Detroit took two big steps forward Wednesday with a $196.5 million federal grant to Michigan and the state’s acquisition of a 135-mile stretch of track.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced that it has awarded Michigan the funds for signal and track improvements on the rail line between Kalamazoo in western Michigan and Dearborn in suburban Detroit.

…”Investing in rail service will spark economic development in communities along a corridor linking Detroit and Chicago, two vital Midwest cities,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement. “A faster, reliable passenger rail system is a priority for younger generations and vital to Michigan’s ability to compete globally as businesses look to locate or expand.”

Snyder added that the rail upgrades will speed freight transportation for Ford and other companies. You can read the complete release from the Department of Transportation forecasting that this will create 800 new jobs in Michigan.

You can see the Wolverine in action right here. It’s the train that runs three Detroit-Chicago routes daily. That’s a neat video showing just how fast a 95 MPH train is, but this fantastic timelapse from 1988 shot with a Super-8 from trainluvr is too good to pass up! Here’s Amtrak’s Michigan schedule too.

Seeking Michigan: The Treaty of Detroit

Seeking MichiganBy William LeFevre of the Walter P. Reuther Library , courtesy Seeking Michigan and the Archives of Michigan. The goal of Seeking Michigan is simple: to connect you to the stories of this great state. Visit them regularly for a dynamic & evolving look at Michigan’s cultural heritage.
The UAW and GM bargaining teams negotiate the Treaty of Detroit, 1950 (Photo courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

The UAW and GM bargaining teams negotiate the Treaty of Detroit, 1950 (Photo courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

As the national debate over universal health care continues, it is instructive to look back to 1950. The “Treaty of Detroit,” signed that year, represents a pivotal moment in the offering of full medical benefits to the American worker.

Pattern Bargaining

Under Walter Reuther, the United Auto Workers (UAW) evolved the negotiating practice of pattern bargaining with the Big Three. In essence, the UAW would pick a strike target among Ford, Chrysler and General Motors (GM) during each negotiating year. The other two companies would match the concessions won by the UAW from the strike target and avert costly strikes at their own factories.

In 1950, the UAW pattern bargaining target was Ford, and among the major issues were pensions and full medical benefits. Ford quickly settled, and, after a 104 day strike, Chrysler agreed as well. GM followed suite. In what was hailed as the “Treaty of Detroit,” all autoworkers at the three carmakers would receive full pensions and full medical care. The trickle down effect was felt across the United States, as companies in the automotive and other industries followed the trend. For the first time, large segments of workers in the United States would have affordable health care, provided through their companies. Individuals and families who couldn’t afford to see a doctor, or for whom a medical emergency was an economic disaster of epic proportions, were now part and parcel of the growing health care system.

Personal Experience

Reuther himself had been forced to use the existing health care system in extreme fashion. He had been the victim of an assassination attempt in his house in northwest Detroit on April 20, 1948. After returning home after a late UAW meeting, Reuther was hit by a shotgun blast through the kitchen window as he was opening the family refrigerator. Wounded in the chest and right arm, Reuther suffered a long process of recovery and knew from first-hand experience the costs associated with the extremes of medical care. No doubt this played heavily on his mind as he negotiated the Treaty of Detroit.

Walter Reuther recuperates after the 1948 attempt on his life. His wife May watches over him. (Photo courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

Walter Reuther recuperates after the 1948 attempt on his life. His wife May watches over him. (Photo courtesy of Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)

For much more about Walter Reuther, visit the Walter P. Reuther Library. Of particular interest is No Greater Calling: The Life of Walter P. Reuther. It was developed to commemorate his 100th birthday and also has text and even audio of speeches, photos and more.

Water and Michigan’s Future

Golden Sunset on Lake Superior by unifiedphoto
Golden Sunset on Lake Superior by unifiedphoto

The Detroit Free Press has launched a summer-long feature on the Great Lakes, water and Michigan. It starts with an interesting read by John Gallagher entitled Water shaped Michigan’s past: Now it’s a key to state’s future that looks at the economic impact of the lakes and their potential as a source of new jobs and technology. It begins:

Michigan grew up on the Great Lakes. It can grow anew from their cool, abundant waters — if they are used wisely and protected.

The greatest natural resource in all of North America and perhaps on our planet, the sweet water seas brought people to Michigan’s peninsulas and moved Michigan ore, timber and manufactured goods to markets around the world.

The lake waters nourish our crops, slake our thirst, cool our machinery and change our weather — sometimes rather abruptly. They provide fun, fish and spectacular vistas for millions of people.

In a world where 1 in every 6 people lacks daily access to fresh water, the Great Lakes are a treasure of immeasurable value.

And yet they have been exploited, depleted and polluted. They are threatened by invaders, foreign and domestic, some already in the waters or on the way, others on dry lands.

Where (in my opinion) it gets interesting and requires a whole lot of thought is the point when you start to think about the Great Lakes as an exportable commodity. When I read things like “Michigan has more water than Saudi Arabia has oil,” I get scared. Thankfully there are some positive signs:

In the past year or two, all sorts of efforts have begun in Michigan to create a blue economy — purifying water, recycling it, measuring how clean or dirty it is and providing water-based expertise to the world. The market for water technology is estimated at $500 billion a year and growing.

“We’re sitting on liquid gold,” said Dave Egner, director of the New Economy Initiative, a coalition of nonprofit foundations hoping to steer Michigan toward a new economic future.

Read on at the Freep and have a look at the New Economy Initiative as well. If you have the time, check out the trailer for one of my all-time favorite films, Waterlife by Kevin McMahon. It’s a spell-binding look at the state of the lakes shot in beautiful HD. The official trailer is below and you can watch a longer version here.

Detroit 20/20: Mayor Dave Bing & Governor Rick Snyder

Detroit 20/20 on Facebook!Detroit 20/20 D-20-20from WXYZ TV seeks to address the challenges facing Detroit and the region with the goal of making Detroit a better place to live, work and raise families. In this four-part interview, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing discuss a wide range of the daunting challenges facing and the often controversial solutions that are being proposed.

Thanks Blogging for Michigan for the find!

Lansing is The Next American City

Lansing, Michigan, USA by Mario.Q
Lansing, Michigan, USA by Mario.Q

Next American City partnered with IBM and its SmarterCities initiative to encourage citizens across the nation to share how their cities are addressing the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. The prize for the city with the most posts to the SmarterCities Scan was a profile on their website, and Lansing, Michigan, blew the competition away. Their profile of Lansing by Ivy Hughes is a great read and shows why Lansing just might be Michigan’s most overlooked success story.

For years, various groups have been trying to change the Greater Lansing Region’s image as another Rustbelt city, but these efforts have really taken off in the last few years. Kiplinger recently ranked Lansing as one of the “10 Great Cities for Young Adults”; several Greater Lansing Region businesses have made Inc. magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing companies; Michigan State University (MSU) was chosen as the home base for a the $500 million Facility for Rare Isotope Beams (FRIB) and is ranked only second to MIT in nuclear physics; and, in 2009, MSU made Entrepreneur magazine’s list of “Top Colleges for Business.”

penthouse by TerryJohnston
penthouse by TerryJohnston

The author lists some of the factors that make Lansing worthy of this honor including Development, Culture, Ideas, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability, saying:

Changing a city best suited for cars into a walkable, bikeable community is, at the very least, a challenge but several organizations are working to increase the number of bike lanes, walkways and shared use paths. The region’s bus system, CATA, is one of most effective transportation systems among communities similar in size to the Greater Lansing Region and is a major player in the effort to shift the ratio of cars to people on the street. Discussions regarding the incorporation of a light rail system into the region’s long-term transportation plan have just begun.

Sustainability is the driving force behind these transportation efforts and is the catalyst for the region’s vast community garden network and the inspiration for the city’s first urban garden — Urbandale farm. Many neighborhood organizations are working to increase the visibility and viability of sustainable eating in the region.

They close with:

…a big thank you to the groups continuing to make the Greater Lansing Region a place we all want to be. They are: #lovelansing, Capital Area Michigan Works!, Accelerate Lansing, YSG Lansing, Capital Gains Media, Keep Learning, LEAP, Grand River Connection, Mid-Michigan Tweet Ups, Prima Civitas, Impression 5, City of East Lansing, NOISE, MSU Catalyst, Walk and Bike Lansing; Greater Lansing Business Monthly; Help Make Mid-Michigan Walk and Bike Friendly!; Lansing Walking & Bicycling Task Force; Arts Council; Lansing Happy Hour Club; and a plethora of hardworking neighborhood associations.

Read more at Next American City and also check out the Lansing tag at Smarter Cities for some of the Capital City’s many assets! There are videos there highlighting all kinds of things about the Greater Lansing area such as the many festivals which draw over 1/2 million people a year to the region and this one from Greater Lansing. While it’s definitely idealized, it shows the amazing range of offerings the region holds.

Greater Lansing from Leap, Inc. on Vimeo.

Lansing ranks among great cities for young adults

Skyline: Lansing, Michigan, USA by Mario.Q
Skyline: Lansing, Michigan, USA by Mario.Q

Spotted in the Lansing State Journal today, Kiplinger magazine Lansing has been identified as one of 10 great cities for young adults. Ranking right along side the notable locations of Austin, TX, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, New York, NY, Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, UT and Washington, D.C.. The criteria used to identify the cities were 6 key questions.

  1. Will I find good work there?
  2. Who lives there?
  3. What colleges and universities does the city offer?
  4. How much is rent?
  5. How is the commute?
  6. Will I have fun there?


The “Love Lansing” contingent is growing, with a well-known financial group touting the Michigan city as one of the best places for young people.

Lansing has been named one of “10 great cities for young adults” by financial news organization Kiplinger.

They promote their town on Twitter with the keyword “#LoveLansing,” talk about it during networking events and defend their decision to live here to their peers in other cities.

And now, they have something to back it up.

Kiplinger’s made note of Lansing’s cheap rent well below the national average, a respectable bar and club scene, high-paying job opportunities in bio and Internet technologies and an average commute of only 20 minutes.

Michigan’s capital is a little-known hotbed for young professionals,” Kiplinger said. “Granted, this Great Lakes community can’t quite compare to the larger cities on our list in terms of job prospects or things to do. But it has a relatively low cost of living. And its youthful population, downtown renewal projects, and emerging technology sector make Lansing a stand-out in mid-sized cities.

Read the entire article here.

The Grand Rapids Press at also has an article on the ranking: Is Lansing the coolest city for young people in Michigan? Kiplinger says so

Absolute Michigan Radio: David Eisler, President Ferris State University

“We provide degrees that students want in places where they can access them.”
~David Eisler, President Ferris State University

The other day Ferris State President David Eisler dropped by Absolute Michigan Radio the other day to talk about new programs the university is offering, in Big Rapids and at locations around the state of Michigan.

Ferris is the fastest growing public university in Michigan right now. Listen to learn about how they’re doing that through partnerships with community colleges, online education and specialized degrees like music industry management, cyber-security and alternative energy that are available through FSU and build upon needs and assets in communities around the state.

David Eisler, President Ferris State University

Absolute Michigan Radio: Doug Luciani of the Traverse City Chamber on Pure Michigan Funding

Pure Michigan funding is the topic of Michigan Senate Finance Committee today, and across the state, businesses and chambers of commerce are asking state lawmakers to permanently fund the popular campaign.

In our first Absolute Michigan Radio feature co-sponsored by Traverse Legal, we talk with Traverse City Chamber of Commerce director Doug Luciani about Pure Michigan and its impact on Business.

If you’re supportive of Pure Michigan, please call your lawmakers today! Here are links to the Michigan House of Representatives, Michigan Senate and Michigan Governor!