Shipping

The Great Lakes are often referred to as the "fourth seacoast."  U.S. and Canadian lake fleets annually haul upwards of 125 million tons of cargo, including iron ore, limestone and coal.

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The Great Lakes shipping season officially kicks off Monday with the opening of the Welland Canal, the shipping channel that connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie.

This is the earliest the Canal has opened – matching the March 20th opening in 2007. But since the winter has been so mild, shipping locally has continued throughout the region.  

Mark Urycki/ideastream

Aging infrastructure in the Great Lakes region affects the availability of safe drinking water and the ability of ships to navigate the lakes.   President Trump campaigned on improving the country’s infrastructure, and one organization wants the needs of the Great Lakes at the top of the administration’s list.

A new book by Michigan poet Cindy Hunter Morgan breathes life into shipwrecks that dot the floor of the Great Lakes.

"Harborless" is her re-imagining of tragic moments when the Philadelphia, Chicora and other ships were lost. 

As February -- and winter -- come to a close, the Great Lakes are virtually ice-free.

Less than 5 percent of the lakes' surface is covered by ice, according to the latest data from the NOAA -- Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. By comparison, 8 percent was covered at this time last year. And in 2015, 87 percent was covered.

Elizabeth Miller/ideastream

On WCPN's public affairs program The Sound of Ideas last week, panelists from the U.S. Coast Guard Great Lakes, the Cleveland Metroparks, and the University of Minnesota Duluth's Large Lakes Observatory discussed this year's low ice cover on the Great Lakes. 

Listen to the segment here.

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