The Best of 2013, Day 3: John Flesher, IJNR alumnus extraordinaire

Happy Holidays from IJNR! During the month of December, we'll be bringing you a sampler from the "Best of 2013" - a recap of some of the best stories and series of the year from our alumni. Some of them have already been featured here on the Nooze, but many of them haven't! We hope you enjoy reading, hearing and exploring these top-notch stories as much as we have.

john flesherOn Day 3 of our "Best Of" series, we'd like to bring you a few stories from our most-determined IJNR recidivist, John Flesher. John has been on more Institutes than any other alumnus, and we wouldn't want it any other way! Writing for the Associated Press, John is based in Traverse City, Michigan, and covers everything environment-related in the Lower Peninsula, the Upper Peninsula, and the Great Lakes Basin in general. The scope of his coverage expanded in 2009 when he was named one of seven reporters on AP's national environment-beat team. His coverage of environmental disasters has lead him all over the country recently: He reported on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; post-tornado dangers in Joplin; flooding in Minot; and the plight of wolves on Isle Royale. This year John joined us on our Kalamazoo River Institute as a "Mentor Fellow," providing guidance to younger and less-experienced journalists as we learned about oil spills, Superfund sites, sustainable agriculture, dune ecosystems, and development. Please enjoy a few of John's stories from 2013!

Nuclear waste burial debate produces odd alliances


KINCARDINE, Ontario (AP) — Ordinarily, a proposal to bury radioactive waste in a scenic area that relies on tourism would inspire "not in my backyard" protests from local residents — and relief in places that were spared.

But conventional wisdom has been turned on its head in the Canadian province of Ontario, where a publicly owned power company wants to entomb waste from its nuclear plants 2,230 feet below the surface and less than a mile from Lake Huron.... Read more.

Not far from Lake Michigan, city yearns for water


WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Lake Michigan is just 15 miles from this city of 70,000 in the Milwaukee suburbs. But these days it seems like a gigantic, shimmering mirage, tantalizingly out of reach.

The aquifer that has provided most of Waukesha's drinking water for the last century has dropped so far that what's left has unhealthy levels of radium and salt. The city would like to draw from the Great Lakes, just as more than 40 million people in eight states — from Minnesota to New York — and two Canadian provinces do every day.

If only it were that simple....Read more.

Asian carp reproduce in Great Lakes Watershed

Flesher_Grass Carp

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Scientists said Monday they have documented for the first time that an Asian carp species has successfully reproduced within the Great Lakes watershed, an ominous development in the struggle to slam the door on the hungry invaders that could threaten native fish.
An analysis of four grass carp captured last year in Ohio's Sandusky River, a tributary of Lake Erie, found they had spent their entire lives there and were not introduced through means such as stocking, according to researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey and Bowling Green State University...Read more.

Masses of plastic particles found in Great Lakes

In this 2012 photo provided by is a sample collected in eastern Lake Erie showing tiny bits of plastic on a penny. Scientists discovered masses of floating plastic particles in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they’re widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario. They are trying to determine whether fish are eating the particles, which may come from city wastewater, and passing them up the food chain to humans. (AP Photo/Courtesy, Carolyn Box)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Already ravaged by toxic algae, invasive mussels and industrial pollution, the Great Lakes now confront another potential threat that few had even imagined until recently: untold millions of plastic litter bits, some visible only through a microscope.

Scientists who have studied gigantic masses of floating plastic in the world's oceans are now reporting similar discoveries in the lakes that make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh water. They retrieved the particles from Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they're widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario, skimming the surface with finely meshed netting dragged behind sailing vessels.

"If you're out boating in the Great Lakes, you're not going to see large islands of plastic," said Sherri Mason, a chemist with State University of New York at Fredonia and one of the project leaders. "But all these bits of plastic are out there."... Read more.