Port directors are trying to gather steam to have a new large lock built at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. They say without the improvement, ports on Lakes Michigan and Superior will lose the ability to be major players in shipping. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson reports:
Port directors are trying to gather steam to have a new large lock built at Sault Saint Marie,
Michigan. They say without the improvement, ports on Lakes Michigan and Superior will lose
the ability to be major players in shipping. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson
The Soo Locks have been around since 1855… with the largest of the locks built around 1970.
That’s the “Poe Lock,” the only one that super-carriers, so-called “thousand footers,” can use to
get from the lower Great Lakes to Lake Superior.
Duluth Port Authority’s Captain Ray Skelton says the Poe Lock isn’t enough.
“Should something happen to, bear in mind the lock opened in 1970, 65% of our carrying
capacity would be held up. So the concept of that second, larger lock does two things: Number
one, gives us the capacity to get away from these traffic jams that occur at the Poe, and in
addition to that if they had to de-water the Poe sometime during the season, we’d still have access
for our wide beam ships.”
Skelton says 65% of the lock would be built with federal money. The rest will come from the
eight Great Lakes states. The total is expected to be $225 million. Michigan, New York and
Pennsylvania have committed money to the new lock.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mike Simonson.
States have tried for years to limit the number of out-of-state trash haulers heading to their landfills. They’ve tried to ban shipment from crossing their borders. They’ve tried to make other states jump through bureaucratic hoops. But courts have repeatedly struck down those attempts. Now, a state is trying to stop trash from being imported from outside the country. But neighbors living close to a massive dump near Detroit say they’re not hopeful the effort will make their lives any better. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
States have tried for years to limit the number of out-of-state trash haulers heading to their landfills. They’ve tried to ban shipments from crossing their borders. They’ve tried to make other states jump through bureaucratic hoops. But courts have repeatedly struck down those attempts. Now, a state is trying to stop trash from being imported from outside the country. But neighbors living close to a massive dump near Detroit say they’re not hopeful the effort will
make their lives any better. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sarah Hulett reports:
The road to Dave Swisher’s home leads to a towering brown mound that grows taller every year. Trucks queue up well before sunrise. They wait their turn to inch up the side of the mound. They’ll each
contribute their few inches – of garbage, and human waste in the form of a grayish sludge. Swisher says he’s not sure which is worse: the stench drifting down from the dump, the dust that coats his car and home, or the constant stream of truck traffic.
“I’ve had times where I go to get out of my driveway, and I sit for trucks…I can’t even get out! They shouldn’t even be running that early. I leave at 5:30, 20 of six in the morning. Sometimes I can’t even get out of my own driveway for the trucks.”
Since the beginning of this year, many more trucks are barrelling past his home toward the landfill. Many of them are from Canada. The city of Toronto is now sending all its garbage – in 140 trucks a day – to this dump in southeast Michigan. And Swisher says a look at the license plates on other
trucks tells him where the rest of the trash is coming from.
“You’ve got some from Ohio, I think some from Illinois, an outside of that, I’m not sure how many states there are. But I know those three. And it just seems to be getting worse.”
Many people in the region share Swisher’s frustration. A report from the Congressional Research Service shows that the nation’s top ten trash importers include six Great Lakes states. Brooke Beal oversees solid waste issues for Chicago’s northern suburbs. He says there’s a reason
so much trash is coming to the Midwest.
“Here, most of the waste comes from the east coast. I mean, the east coast saw landfill capacity that we saw in the 80’s and 90’s shrinking back in the 70’s. They’ve been shipping their waste farther and farther west. I mean they started going to New Jersey, now they’ve moved to Virginia and Ohio, and they’re starting to move into Indiana. Because that’s where the landfills are – the
country, we’ll call it, because land costs are cheaper.
Chicago’s northern suburbs generate about 300-thousand tons of trash each year. Beale says all that trash is shipped across the border to Wisconsin. He says that’s because it’s closer and cheaper to export it than to ship it to downstate Illinois. Wisconsin tried years ago to block the trash coming from Chicago. But like similar attempts by
other states, the courts blocked the effort.
Trash, the courts say, is an item of commerce – just like steel
and cars and grain. And only Congress can regulate commerce.
Now, Michigan is hoping to succeed where other states have failed. Legislation would prohibit certain items from state landfills – including beer and soda bottles, and yard waste. States that want to
send their trash to Michigan would have to prove that they filter out those items.
Christopher Peters is a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University. He says the
legislation might not stand up to a legal challenge by the waste industry.
“I think a court is going to say that that is discriminatory legislation. Because it makes it more
expensive, essentially, artificially more expensive for someone to bring waste in from out of state
than for someone to dispose of waste that comes from inside the state.”
It’s not clear how Michigan’s plan would affect the steady traffic of Toronto’s trash coming into
the state. The city already diverts from its waste stream most of the items Michigan wants to prohibit.
And lawyers for the waste industry are already promising a court fight.
Meanwhile, in Dave Swisher’s neighborhood, the trucks are still rumbling past his house. He says
even if Michigan passes a new set of laws, he doesn’t have much hope that the legislation would help him
or his neighbors.
“It’s a dead issue. Nothing’s going to make it any better, nothing’s going to stop it, nothing’s going to ease it up. It’s just
going to get worse.”
Swisher says legislation isn’t going to make the landfill go away. And he says unless he’s willing
to sell his house for far less than he thinks it’s worth, he’s likely to be stuck here, too.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Sarah Hulett.
Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray has this story:
Almost forty years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a dam in northwestern
Pennsylvania. Hundreds of Seneca Indians lost their land, homes and traditions to the dam’s
reservoir. Now a new generation of Senecas is trying to preserve a way of life that many believe
was nearly inundated by this federal project. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann Murray
has this story:
(students playing outside school)
It’s a sunny day in Salamanca, New York. Young Seneca students lurch and lunge in a game of
(students playing game: “Let go! Let go!”)
Although they look like any group of kids
at recess, they share a big responsibility.
(kids playing ball outside)
“My Indian name is Gayanose. My English name is Brooke Crouse- Kennedy. I’m here because
I’m trying to be one of the ones to preserve our culture and just learn.”
Brooke and 12 other students are here at the Faithkeepers School to learn the Seneca language
and the teachings of the Longhouse religion. The health of these cultural benchmarks declined
after the Kinzua Reservoir flooded one-third of the Alleghany Reservation and scattered tribal
families. The cedar wood school now rests on the upper reaches of the reservation – a narrow strip
of land that follows the Allegheny River from Pennsylvania to New York.
(Dowdy and kids in classroom)
“What kinds of things do you need that’s growing on earth?”
This morning, longtime teacher Sandy Dowdy, works with very young students. In 1998, she and
her husband Dar rallied the community and started the school. They’re two of only 200 Senecas
who can still speak their language.
“Now do you see why Yoedzade is so important? Everything we need is on Yoedzade.”
Thanking Yoedzade, the earth, and its creator for the bounty of nature is the building block for
learning the Seneca language and ceremonies. Today, this handful of students learns a shorter
version of the thanksgiving speech. The speech stresses the interconnection between the natural
world and the well being of individual people.
(Dowdy and kids recite thanksgiving speech in Seneca)
“We cover just the ceremonial part and the giving thanks part in the morning and then in the
afternoon, we study things. We look into erosion and pollution and all of those things
that we can do to protect those things we just gave thanks for.”
These lessons have a real life application in the school’s small gardens. The early Senecas
depended on gardens to survive. Fruits and vegetables were so important to the tribe’s existence
that they appear in many of their stories and ceremonies. Senecas continued to farm until their
fertile bottom land was flooded by the Kinzua reservoir.
Following the traditional cycles of their
ancestors, Landon Sequoyah and the other kids now help with planting and harvesting.
“The corn’s right there. A long time ago they used to have big things of corn and beans and squash. That’s the Three
Sisters. That’s the Three Sisters. Guindioth and the Three Sisters. He was going back
up to the Skyworld and they grabbed onto his legs and they told him not to go or
they could go with them but he was like,’No, you have to stay down
here to feed our people.'”
Murray: “If you hadn’t been in school would you ever had a garden?”
“I don’t think so cause I was going to a public school and I didn’t know hardly anything about our
Many Senecas on the Alleghany Reservation believe their culture was nearly lost when the
Kinzua Dam was built. The Senecas and others strongly protested this project. But their
arguments were turned down in the courts and the U.S. Congress. Tyler Heron is an elder and
Seneca historian. He says that the Canandaigua Treaty of 1794 guaranteed that Seneca land
would remain untouched by the United States government.
“But the politics change over 200 years. We weren’t the threat. We weren’t the political power
any more. The threat, I guess, was the river itself to Pittsburgh …the flooding. It was the
threat to the economy.”
Major floods along the lower Allegheny prompted the federal government to act. To make way
for the dam, 600 Senecas were moved from their homes along the riverbanks. In 1964,
contractors burned and bulldozed Seneca houses, trees and public buildings. Churches and
cemeteries were moved. Heron, who was 17 at the time, says life as he knew it has changed.
“Even the ecology of the river itself has changed. My wife, for instance, used to make her extra
money as a teenager by catching soft-shelled crabs and selling them to the bait companies
but I don’t think there’s a soft-shelled crab in the river anymore.”
Aquatic plants were lost as well. The reservoir also inundated hardwoods used for carving
ceremonial masks and many medicinal plants. Heron, whose grandchildren attend the
Faithkeepers School, says these children are learning to identify the remaining plants. They’re
learning to speak the language and lead the ceremonies and carry on for a community that lost its
ancestral home along the Allegheny.
“Our existence is dependent on us …dependent on us only. And we have to keep our identifiers.
How do we keep our identity? Well,language. It starts right here.”
(Kids playing in front of Faithkeepers school. One child speaks in seneca. Fades into traditional
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Ann Murray.
The Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary in southeast Michigan is home to thousands of migrating Sandhill Cranes each fall. (Photo by Mark Brush)
Ron Hoffman is chairman of the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Sanctuary Committee. He started studying the cranes in the mid 1960's. (Photo by Mark Brush)
Every Monday in autumn, volunteers count the birds and write the numbers up on a nearby board. (Photo by Mark Brush)
The colder weather and shorter days are keeping most of us inside. But for a group of volunteers it’s the perfect time to head outdoors. They’re putting on their gloves and setting up their spotting scopes to go out and watch one of their favorite birds get ready for the long trip south. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports these birds gather by the thousands before migrating:
The colder weather and shorter days are keeping most of us inside. But
for a group of volunteers it’s the perfect time to head outdoors. They’re
putting on their gloves and setting up their spotting scopes to go out and
watch one of their favorite birds get ready for the long trip south. The
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports these birds gather by
the thousands before migrating:
(Sound of cranes)
It’s a dreary and damp evening next to this marsh in rural southeast
The dampness has that edge of cold to it that’s hard to escape.
And while most people are heading to their warm homes for the day –
things here at the Haehnle Bird Sanctuary are just getting started as
volunteers count cranes:
(sound of cranes flying overhead and volunteers)
“I got a whole line of coming in over the flats out there – oh, man – It’s
startin’… how many?”
“Thirty-four.” (sound of clicks)
With the help of a clicker, three volunteers from the Audubon Society
count the birds.
Fortunately for them, the birds they’re counting are… really big.
The Greater Sandhill Crane is one of the biggest birds in the region.
They glide into the sanctuary by the thousands with their gangly legs
dangling behind them.
They’re counting the birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
This is part of a wider effort in the region to get an overall count of the
They have one night to count – and tonight’s the night.
Gary Siegrist is one of the volunteers. He says the birds come into this
wetland after a day feasting in the farm fields:
“They’ve been out feeding all day… and they stage… this is one of two
places in southern Michigan where they stage. And when they get to a
point where they have enough fuel in their bodies enough fat built up, and
their food supplies are gone, and maybe the mud lake is frozen over, then
they’ll find a favorable wind and head south.”
The gathering is an instinct for these birds. During the summer months
they spread out across the region in pairs. But when it’s time to migrate
they get together in big flocks before they head to Florida. And when they
gather in large numbers – it can get noisy.
Gary Siegrist says the bird’s call is one of the things that draws him here
to count the birds year after year:
“People don’t realize that it’s the oldest living bird species. They’ve got a
relative that goes back 35 or 65 million years – it’s the time of the
dinosaurs…the bird is fantastic and if you can hear the call, you
can hear it in the background, it kind of sends shivers down your back. It
reminds you of a different time.”
(sound of cranes flying by)
The volunteers also spend their time chatting with people who visit the
Sanctuary. And even on a cold night like tonight – people have come out
to see the birds.
Phil DeLang drove with his wife and grandson two and a half hours just to
watch the gathering… and they do it every year:
“I think all of nature is precious, I me an it’s really precious when you
think of things becoming extinct, like the passenger pigeon, what a
tragedy, it never should have happened. I’m just glad there’s places like
this. People have taken the effort to give these birds a home.”
(sound of counting)
The birds continue to arrive by the hundreds as the sun begins to set. As
darkness falls – the volunteers tally up their final number:
“Twenty nine seventy five. Tweny-nine seventy five? Yeah. O.k.”
The count for the evening is over. And by their calculation nearly 3000
birds are settling down for the night.
(3 seconds of sound at night)
The volunteers head home to double check their math – and send in their
(bring up morning birds)
The next morning at the sanctuary the birds are waking up and heading
into the farm fields.
We caught up with Ron Hoffman here. He’s the guy who coordinates the
official crane count for this region. And between all the volunteers that
counted last night – they spotted 4,600 cranes.
Ron has been studying these birds since the 1960’s when they were just
coming off the threatened species list. And he’s seen the bird’s population
grow steadily over the years.
But Ron Hoffman and the other volunteers see a pattern developing in this
area – a pattern that could threaten the number of cranes that use this
sanctuary. The Haehnle sanctuary is surrounded by spreading housing
developments. They fear these developments would use up farmland,
which is important to the birds:
“I’m sure we’ll always have cranes, but at the same time if this area within
ten fifteen miles of hear is so built up that there’s not the food reserves
here for the cranes to feed, then the number of cranes using this would be
But no matter how many cranes are out here, you can bet Ron Hoffman
and the other volunteers will be counting them year after year.
They care about these birds.
While we were talking, he interrupted to watch a young bird fly by:
“This guy is really lost – look he’s coming back over.” (sound of little
bird) Did you see him craning his neck and looking? He’s trying to find
Hoffman says his biggest hope for the Greater Sandhill Crane is that the
population will remain stable, so that he and others can continue to
experience what he calls one of the wildlife spectaculars in this region.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.