Lake Michigan is the world’s third largest lake by surface area. It is the world’s sixth largest lake. Though we consider Lake Michigan and Lake Huron separate lakes, because they are connected by the straights of Mackinaw, by definition they are considered one lake (great-lakes. net). Michigan is more than four million years ago, glaciers covered and moved across what is now the United States Mid-West. Michigan experienced the last great ice sheet. This glacier was a mile thick and four million miles square (michigan. gov). The glacier went as far north as the Hudson Bay and as far south as the Ohio Valley.
As it moved, millions of tons of earth moved with it. Fourteen thousand years ago, the earth was ground into glacier dust from the soil, rocks and, boulders as it moved. When the glaciers started melting, the water carried the soil and rocks away and deposited it throughout the state. As expected, the heaviest debris fell first and created rock cliffs and ridges helped to direct the streams and rivers in the state. Smaller debris was carried farther from the glacier and measure over a thousand feet deep while other areas have none.
This process created Michigan’s low hills and moraines. When the waters from the glaciers dried, they did so in sheets and formed large areas of sand, silt, clay, and mixtures of all of them. Michigan’s Beaches stretch along the shores of the Upper Peninsula, and from the top of the Lower Peninsula to the sand dunes along the southwest of the state are visible remnants of this glacial past. Michigan is called the great lakes state because of its abundant water assets. Water has been used to shape Michigan’s identity. Michigan’s economic and cultural history came because of water.
Man used the water to gain access to Michigan’s lands and ship its resources to markets throughout the United States and the world. From animal pelts to the virgin timber and various ores and grains taken to market. All of these resources were used to build Michigan’s economy. Animal pelts were transported to market and turned into fine leathers that were used to make clothing. Ores like copper and iron were mined on land and transported over the water on barges and ships to Michigan’s manufacturing plants like the automakers and steel mills.
From there they were shipped all over the country and used worldwide. Rivers were used to bring timbers to market. The wood from the timbers were and are used in paper mills and lumberyards across the country. Water has been critical in agriculture. It helps grow crops throughout the state. The crops produced here help feed the people of America. People buy property and homes that are “water front” so they can relax while listening to the soft lapping of the waves in the evening (issuu. com). This lapping of the waves is one of the causes of erosion of the landscape of Michigan.
Erosion caused by waves can be as subtle as the gentle wave constantly hitting the shoreline, or it can be a violent interaction between lake Michigan or inland lakes and the earth around them during ever during severe storms. In Michigan, there are primarily two types of material found on the shoreline. Bedrock, which is the harder of the two, known a consolidated substance and the effects of the water cause less erosion. Then there are the items like sand and clay, which are move and deposited elsewhere on a regular basis. These substances are known as unconsolidated material.
Erosion of the landscape can be caused by three distinct processes. Each process is unique in the way it works. Terrestrial erosion has to do with the land. Slumping is the downward movement of those unconsolidated materials. It is usually caused by groundwater putting pressure on soil particles. An example of this is a mudslide. Another form of terrestrial erosion is known as “Soil creep”. It is the gradual slide downward from and elevated area. If you think of this as rocks falling away a piece at a time. Marquette Mountain is a good example of this.
Each year the mountain is open to skiing, but as the snow melts and turns to water that pressure moves soil downward in small amounts at a time to the base of the mountain. You can see the results as you drive by on highway 553. Large rocks and boulders have peeled away from the mountain and are lying next to the road. Frost also causes erosion. In areas that drain poorly the freeze, thaw and refreeze creates divots or heaves (Lutgens& Tarbuck pg. 57). Evidence of this can be seen as you drive along the Rock cut across to highway 41 during the winter freeze and spring thaw.
There are dips and bumps throughout. Finally, wind erosion causes the disposition of fine, loose material especially along our lake shores. The sand and small gravel are carried away from the shore (Lutgens& Tarbuck pg. 135). In Southwest Michigan this type of erosion has created large sand dunes. Water in the form of rills (small channels) carried soil throughout the state (Lutgens&Tarbuck pg. 83). As they merged the streams and rivers of Michigan were formed (shoreline. msu. edu) Flooding has also helped to form the landscape of Michigan. Even though they are rare, floods do occur.
They usually occur during the late winter, early spring when temperatures rise quickly and spring rains come. The rains cause flooding because of the frozen of saturated ground. Floods have been known to cause substantial damage in Michigan. According to the USGS National Water Summary from 1988 and 89, the most severe flooding occurred in 1986 and caused more than five hundred million dollars in damage in Southeast Michigan. One hundred and twenty million of that was in crop damage (Bill Deedler, Weather Historian, WFO Detroit/Pontiac MI). Rivers in that areas set records for cresting at new highs.
A report from Bill Deedler showed the following chart. River Flood Stage Crest (date) (old) Record (date) Tittabawassee (Midland) 24 33. 94 (9/13/1986) 29. 70 (3/28/1916) Saginaw (Saginaw) 19 *24. 16 (9/15/1986) *24. 90 (3/30/1904) Pine (Alma) 812. 82 (9/12/1986) 10. 81 (3/13/1948) Cass (Vassar) 14 24. 82 (9/12/1986) 20. 80 (3/30/1948) Cass (Frankenmuth) 17 27. 52 (9/12/1986) 23. 30 (5/22/1996) 22. 83 (376/1976) * Saginaw River at Saginaw did not establish a new record height Aqua farming in Michigan is currently estimated to less than a five million dollar industry.
However, a recent strategic assessment feels that there is the potential for this sector to reach one billion dollars. This is the process of raising fish and plants in a controlled environment to make a marketable good. Fish farms are currently privately and state owned fish farms. They have several functions. Some hatcheries raise fingerlings and then release them in to the wild to grow. Others raise baitfish for sale to recreational use. There are also fish farms that raise fish for the aquarium trade (miseagrant. umich. edu). In 2011, anglers participated in Michigan’s economy to the tune of more than two billion dollars.
Michigan ranked fifth in the United States in recreational fishing. There were more than 1 million licensed people participating in fishing. Michigan also received more than 11 million dollars in federal funds to help manage fish habitat (michigan. gov). Hydroelectric power was pioneered in Michigan using the rivers located around the state. Hydroelectric power generators were built between 1906 and 1935 and serve roughly seventy thousand people around the state. These plants, which usually have dams creating calm waters up river, are located by campgrounds and bird sanctuaries.
Because of the water conditions, people use the areas for canoeing, camping, and fishing. Hydroelectric is a renewable energy source that has been around for more than a century and remains a viable source of electricity (consumersenergy. com). Water has also affected how people make a living in Michigan. Our economy is dependent on good clean water. Unfortunately, we have not always been the best stewards of our resources. The water is no exception. Recently Flint, Michigan has been in the news. The inhabitants of that city were forced to drink bottled water when the city’s water was found to contain large quantities of lead in it.
As part of an effort to reduce, spending the city started using water from the Flint River. The Flint River was contaminated long before the switch came. In an article dated 02/26/2016 by theverge. com, Tim Carmody stated “Before processing, the water itself is polluted from four sources: natural biological waste; treated industrial and human waste; untreated waste intentionally or accidentally dumped into the river; and contaminates washed into the river by rain or snow”. Three years later the residents of Flint are still drinking bottled water and are dealing with the consequences of decisions made in the past. According to mich. ov, women and small children should be careful when they eat fish. They have published booklets in several languages to explain the hazards of eating too much. Water is and has always been an important part of Michigan’s economy. Companies like Nestle are bottling millions of gallons of water from Michigan each year.
Nestle bottles water under a few different names including Ice Mountain Spring Water. Though this use of water and how it helps the economy of Michigan, it is expected the water levels in lake Michigan and Lake Huron could fall by as much as 25 percent by the year 2030. A drop in the water level that is this significant would efinitely have an impact on Michigan’s economy. Ore boats and barges would have a difficult time transporting goods throughout the great lakes. This is currently a three billion dollar business. The farmers that depend on this water to irrigate their crops would see a loss of revenue due to warmer temperature and dryer soils. The drop in water level could also be the cause of a significant drought that would have an impact on the agriculture industry.
The drop would surely be a detriment to the hydroelectric plants because the Lake would not be providing needed waters within the rivers (www. earemichigan. com). Water has literally and figuratively shaped Michigan in the past as the frozen water passed over and carved our great peninsulas. Water has shaped Michigan’s present as it provides jobs and recreation and adds strife to our already volatile political climate when polluted water is provided in place of clean drinking water. Water will shape Michigan’s future providing temperate weather, aqua farming, economic development and many more recreational opportunities that have yet to be invented.