A brief prehistory of Lake Michigan

July 30, 2010

By Patricia Coorough Burke, Karen Morgan, Joshua Pierce, and Michael Timm

The story of Lake Michigan starts over a billion years ago—before the first dinosaurs were even a twinkle in their parents’ eyes. During this primordial period in our planet’s history, the precursor to the North American continent was literally being pulled apart.

A rift had developed in the middle of the North American plate, with magma pushing up from Earth’s mantle and threatening to split the plate in two.

Called the Midcontinent or Keweenawan Rift, it was similar to the modern-day East African Rift where the African Plate is being split into two new plates by upwelling magma—the plates are stretched and broken by faults that allow the magma to reach the surface, forming volcanoes like Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Some 1.1 billion years ago, lava seeped out of the Keweenawan Rift and forced the continent itself apart like a forceps. Although the spreading ultimately halted and the plate remained intact, the rift remained. A weak spot, a sort of planetary hernia, had developed. The sheer weight of the volcanic layers that had oozed out and solidified into rock above began to depress the crust, creating a preliminary basin. This natural low spot started to collect water.

Silurian reef

The Silurian reef, as represented at the Milwaukee Public Museum in its popular Third Planet exhibit. Sea creatures like the cephalopods and trilobites shown inhabited the area that is now the Midwest approximately 400 to 440 million years before the present. When they died, their shells settled to the bottom of the shallow sea and over time were compressed into the dolomite that underlies Lake Michigan today. ~courtesy Milwaukee Public Museum

The Shallow Seas

Over the next several hundred million years North America was repeatedly flooded as the prevailing climate fluctuated. The shallow, salty seas over what is today the Great Lakes region hosted a variety of life including coral and mollusks but also forms alien to us today—like the squidlike cephalopod and what’s become Wisconsin’s state fossil, the trilobite.

When these hard-shelled creatures died and settled to the then-seafloor, the calcium in their hard parts formed rocks—mainly limestone, composed of calcium carbonate (calcite), and dolostone, composed of calcium/magnesium carbonate (dolomite). Over time, layers and layers of dead creatures and sediment were compressed into sedimentary rocks. The base of Lake Michigan today is actually a layer of dolomite formed between 440 and 417 million years ago, during the Silurian Period.

Prehistorically, water drained from the preliminary basin at the continent’s interior along much the same routes as it does today—north toward present-day Hudson Bay and east toward the present-day Gulf of St. Lawrence. Millions of years before the glaciers, river systems excavated valleys and canyons through layers of sandstone, limestone, and shale on their way. Like varicose veins soon to become swollen beyond their fractal channels, the course of these prehistoric rivers would determine the future footprint of the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Atlas Page

Glacial Transformation

Compared to the time it took the sagging basin of rock beneath them to develop, the Great Lakes themselves formed in just the blink of an eye of geologic time.

Just more than one million years ago, during a planetary ice age when ice covered an estimated 30 percent of the Earth’s land area, a glacial ice sheet descended on the region from the north. The glacier’s scouring power deepened and enlarged river valleys in the basin, scraping the softer surface rocks from the harder bedrock below.

Glaciers “advanced” when their leading edges accumulated more ice and “retreated” when existing ice melted. When enough ice accumulated, the massive bodies actually flowed like slow rivers of molasses, exerting tremendous amounts of force onto and across the land like a giant plow—powered by the weight of sometimes more than a mile-high mountain of ice. Like rivers, the glaciers slogged through lowlands, scouring them lower, depositing huge rock debris piles, or moraines, that marked their farthest advances.

This melt-and-freeze cycle of glaciation repeated for thousands of years. Interestingly, the size of glaciers in the pre-Great Lakes region may have been enhanced from prehistoric “lake effect” snows, which piled up dozens of feet of new snow directly in the area, too fast for it to melt.

Not only did glaciers sculpt the actual shapes of the Great Lakes’ basins, but their massive presence also altered where water collected and how it drained throughout the region by damming previous drainage ways.

The glaciers melted and retreated from the area during a natural global warming phase, and by approximately 10,000 years ago they had retreated permanently to the north. Once the ice was gone, all that weight was no longer pressing down on the earth—the underlying bedrock began to rebound like a trampoline bouncing back after you jump on it. This “isostatic rebounding” continues today, with areas of Lake Michigan rebounding between 30 and 50 centimeters per century, as estimated using Global Positioning System satellite data.

For the last few thousand years, the shape and depth of the newly carved lake basins changed, even as melted glacial ice slowly filled them.

It’s thought that what’s now Lake Michigan, for example, went through many iterations—as Lake Chicago (a blobby lake smaller in surface area near Chicago and cut off to the north by glaciers), Lake Algonquin (when Lakes Michigan and Huron were deeper and connected due to glacial damming), Lake Chippewa (an emaciated-seeming narrower version of Michigan), Lake Nipissing (a superlake connecting Michigan even more to Superior and Huron), and finally the familiar drooping shape we instantly recognize as Lake Michigan today.

And even that’s not a constant. From a geological perspective, Lake Michigan is but a transitory form—a two-bit actor in the ongoing drama of the planet’s much larger rock and water cycles.

Patricia Coorough Burke, Karen Morgan, Joshua Pierce, and Michael Timm contributed to this report.

Explore More
— about the Great Lakes’ formation: www.on.ec.gc.ca/greatlakeskids/greatlakesmovie5.html.
— about Wisconsin geology: uwex.edu/wgnhs

MMSD July 24 update, 12:05pm: nearing capacity in Northwest Side tunnel, over capacity at treatment plants

July 23, 2010


Last updated: 7/24/2010 12:05 PM CENTRAL (Updated every 5 minutes)
Deep Tunnel
Currently Storing: 352 million gallons
Capacity: 432 million gallons
Northwest Side Deep Tunnel
Currently Storing: 88 million gallons
Capacity: 89 million gallons
Jones Island
Currently Treating: 322 million gallons / day
Capacity: 300 million gallons / day
South Shore
Currently Treating: 319 million gallons / day
Capacity: 300 million gallons / day

July 23: The heavy rains are filling up the sewer system as the deep tunnels near capacity, even as flooding from torrential rains affected areas of Milwaukee County the evening of July 22.

According to the MMSD website, updated at midnight, July 23:

Deep Tunnel: storing 406 million gallons (432 million gallon capacity)

Northwest Side Deep Tunnel: storing 73 million gallons (89 million gallon capacity)

Jones Island treatment rate: 341 million gallons/day (capacity 300 million gallons/day)

South Shore treatment rate: 331 million gallons/day (capacity 300 million gallons/day)

Diversions:  MMSD started blending at the Jones Island Water Reclamation Facility at 6:15 p.m. on 7/22/10 to reduce the volume of sewer overflows.

Overflows:  To reduce the risk of basement backups, MMSD started a combined sewer overflow at 6:10 p.m. on 7/22/10. A separate sewer overflow started at approximately 8:30 p.m. on 7/22/10.

For real time estimated data and updates:


Mitchell Interchange closed due to flooding

July 22, 2010

From WisDOT, 11:30pm, July 22:

Flooding from tonight’s heavy rains have closed the system ramp from I-43/94 SB to I-94 EAST (SB) at the Mitchell Interchange on Thursday, July 22, at 11pm  The roadway will remain closed until the water has subsided and it is safe to reopen.

Follow the signed detour routes to access I-94 EAST (SB) during this closure.

– – – – – – – –
Detour Route: To access I-94 EAST (SB), traffic should exit I-94/43 SB at Howard Ave. Turn right at the end of the ramp onto Howard Ave to Howell Ave (WIS 38). Turn right on to Howell Ave (WIS 38) to Rawson Ave. Turn right on Rawson Ave. to the I-94 EAST (SB) entrance ramp.

Update on deep tunnels, 9:20pm

July 22, 2010

At 9:15pm, July 22, MMSD reports on its website that the Deep Tunnel contains 345 million gallons (432 million gallon capacity), the Northwest Side Deep Tunnel contains 30 million gallons (89 million gallon capacity); Jones Island is treating sewage at a rate of 359 million gallons per day and South Shore is treating none.

MMSD reported sewage overflows at Russell and Lincoln Memorial Drive, Russell and Lincoln Memorial Drive, and at Kinnickinnic Avenue and St. Francis Avenue.

At 9:20, MMSD reported the Deep Tunnel contained 348 million gallons, the Northwest Side Deep Tunnel 32 million gallons; Jones Island treating sewage at a rate of 360 million gallons per day (beyond its 300 million gallon per day capacity); South Shore was showing a rate of 0.

MMSD begins overflows, blending

July 22, 2010

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District announced on its website that it began blending sewage at 6:15pm, July 22.

MMSD indicated on its website it initiated a sewage overflow at 6:10pm, July 22.

The Jones Island Treatment plant, as of 6:45pm, was treating 350 million gallons of sewage; its capacity is only 300 million gallons.

The Deep Tunnel, as of 6:45pm, contained only 209 million gallons; its capacity is 432 million gallons.

The Northwest Side Deep Tunnel, as of 6:45pm, contained no sewage; its capacity is 89 million gallons.

South Shore Treatment Plant is treating 217 million gallons; capacity is 300 million gallons.

Blending was initiated to reduce overflow volumes; overflows were initiated to reduce risk of basement backups.

All information from MMSD’s website.

For more info or updates: http://v3.mmsd.com/StormUpdate.aspx

High speed rail is focus of brown bag lunch meeting July 22 at Public Market

July 16, 2010

July 16, 2010 Ald. Robert Bauman

Economic benefits of high speed line will be focus of Midwest High Speed Rail Association’s informal session at Public Market

The significant economic benefits of the proposed Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail line will be the focus of an informal public meeting next Thursday (July 22) hosted by the Midwest High Speed Rail Association, according to Alderman Robert J. Bauman.

The noon hour “brown bag lunch” session starts at 12 p.m. July 22 and will be held at the Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St. in the Historic Third Ward. The public and media are invited to attend.

In January the federal government awarded $823 million to Wisconsin to develop the Milwaukee-to-Madison high speed rail system, with $810 million earmarked for upgrading existing rail lines and constructing stations. The state Department of Transportation is already moving forward with contracts for upgrading the existing rail lines between Milwaukee and Madison to accommodate high speed passenger trains, Alderman Bauman said.

“The high speed rail infrastructure is becoming a reality, and with that will come economic development that could create thousands of good-paying jobs in Milwaukee and communities stretching from Waukesha to Madison,” said Alderman Bauman.

Although the next governor could block the appropriation of state funds for high speed rail operating costs, Alderman Bauman said that would set up “the rather ridiculous situation of having a new and upgraded rail line with no trains running on it.”

“It would be like spending $823 million on a new highway and then refusing to fund the cost of policing, snow plowing, routine maintenance, or even street lights, thereby effectively preventing motor vehicles from using that new road,” Alderman Bauman said.

“I believe it is highly unlikely that any reasonable elected official, even a conservative elected official, will allow this to happen especially in light of the fact that, unlike local transit, intercity rail passengers tend to be middle- and upper-middle class persons who vote, including campaign contributing business persons,” he said.

The state Department of Transportation is expected to let contracts for all or most of the $823 million prior to January 2011. Alderman Bauman said a significant number of jobs will be attached to these contracts and “politically powerful and well connected engineering firms and road builders will likely be the contractors.”

“Because the necessary funding agreements for the work have been entered into between the state DOT and the Federal Railroad Administration, they are immovable and set in stone,” he said.

In addition, if these contracts are cancelled down the road, some portion of the federal money would have to be refunded or the federal government will simply deduct the money from Wisconsin’s federal highway appropriation, meaning fewer dollars for the Zoo Interchange and countless other highway projects, the alderman said. “In short the next governor will face the choice of either allowing the work to proceed or asking the legislature to write a check for the federal funds expended to date, and I cannot envision the latter scenario happening,” he said.

“This high speed rail line will become reality no matter what talk radio says, so even opponents would be well advised to make the best of this infrastructure investment,” Alderman Bauman said.

Alderman Bauman has said advocates of transportation choice and sustainable transportation infrastructure have been waiting decades for a high speed rail connection between Wisconsin’s two largest cities, and “it is exciting that this connection will now be built.”

Source: Ald. Bauman’s Office

City posts online form for residents to report rainfall-induced basement backups

July 15, 2010

Volume of Basement Calls Prompt Online Option

Ald. Joe Davis, Sr. and Ald. Michael J. Murphy this afternoon activated an online form for property owners and tenants to use to report basement backups connected to the overnight torrential rainfall in Milwaukee. Several of their Common Council colleagues are following suit, and have also asked that the form be posted on their web pages.

The direct link to the online form is here.

“The online form will allow residents to submit their information when it’s convenient for them, and it allows us to track and, where appropriate, respond to requests for services and information,” Alderman Davis said.

Help build a universally-accessible children’s baseball league in Milwaukee

July 15, 2010

Council Member Says Miracle League Bid Worthy of Support

The effort to construct a facility and create a universally-accessible baseball league for children with physical or mental disabilities would be a home run for the children and the city, and Milwaukee Alderman Robert W. Puente is asking residents to take a moment to vote for it.

As part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, 15 Major League Baseball teams – including the Milwaukee Brewers – presented a proposed community project for fans to vote for in hopes of snagging a $200,000 grant. Last year a group was formed in Milwaukee to help establish an organized, non-competitive Miracle League for children between the ages of 4 and 19 with physical or mental disabilities. The Milwaukee Brewers have chosen the Milwaukee Miracle League as their community project.

Alderman Robert W. Puente urges citizens to cast votes for children’s baseball project

If the effort is successful, a Miracle League baseball field would be built at the John C. Cudahy YMCA, located at 9050 N. Swan Rd. in Alderman Puente’s 9th Aldermanic District.

“All of our children in the community deserve a chance to be a part of America’s favorite pastime, and to play on the diamond as part of a team,” Alderman Puente said.

“Please, voting for the Miracle League in Milwaukee just takes a few seconds, and your vote can help a kid store a lifetime of fun memories and good times,” he said.

People looking to vote for the Miracle League of Milwaukee have until August 17 at 10:59 p.m. central time to cast their votes. Voters should go to http://mlb.mlb.com/sponsors/pepsi/refresh/y2010/?team=mil to cast their votes.

Fans can also text by typing “Brewers” to 76462.

The Brewers said in a statement issued earlier this week that the Miracle League would fill an important role in the area “by providing a recreational opportunity for youth with special needs and their families.”

County pool hours extended July 16 & 17

July 15, 2010

Night Swim this Friday & Saturday
New Road-Construction-Special At Schulz Aquatic

County Executive Scott Walker announced extended hours at the county outdoor deep-well pools into the evening from 5:30pm to 7:30pm on Friday, July 16 and Saturday, July 17.  (The deep-well pools regular hours are daily from 1pm to 5pm.)

Hours at “Cool Waters” in Greenfield Park and the new David F. Schulz Family Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park will be extended to 7:30pm (normally closing at 6pm).

The outdoor county pools’ daily admission rates for ages 12 and over is $2.00, and the daily rate for ages 11 and under is $1.00.
The Milwaukee County Parks deep-well pools with extended hours are listed below:

Jackson Pool………………………….. …3500 W. Forest Home Ave.
Holler Pool………………………………..5151 S. 6th Street

*McCarty Pool…………………………….2567 S.  79th  Street *extended Friday only
Sheridan Pool…………………………….4800 S. Lake Dr.
Washington Pool………………………….1859 N. 40th St.
Wilson Pool……………………………….4001 S. 20th St.
Hales Corners……………………………5765 S. New Berlin Rd.

Pelican Cove Family Aquatic Center…….2201 S. 7th St.

Rates at Cool Waters are $6.75 for adults, $5.00 for children age 3 to 11.  The David F. Schulz Aquatic Center in Lincoln Park, 1301 W. Hampton Ave., is now offering an “under road construction” reduced rate of only $4 for the rest of the swimming season.  Access to the pool via Hampton Avenue is from N. Green Bay Rd.  For additional information related to access call (414) 967-1388.

To learn more about Milwaukee County Park pools go to countyparks.com or call the Aquatics Office at (414) 257-8098.

Source: Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

State announces plans to inspect, repair Hoan Bridge

July 13, 2010

Source: Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors

Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic, Chris Larson and Patricia Jursik released the following joint statement regarding the Department of Transportation’s decision to begin repairs on the Hoan Bridge:

“Although somewhat overdue, the State of Wisconsin today announced that it will begin work on some repairs to the deck and structure of the Hoan Bridge. While this action is not a full replacement of the bridge deck, we welcome this move and thank Transportation Secretary Frank Busalacchi for taking a positive first step to preserve this vital link for our communities.

“It’s our understanding that an in-depth engineering inspection of the bridge will be completed this year and the deck repairs will be finished in 2011. This engineering study will provide the missing link. Many have stated different costs, but this study will provide the most accurate cost estimates for preserving this bridge over the long-term.

“The Coalition to Save the Hoan, of which we are founding members, developed the grassroots effort to preserve this bridge for future generations. We worked hard to keep this issue at the forefront. It’s clear that these efforts allowed more than 8,000 individuals to sign petitions asking Governor Jim Doyle to preserve the Hoan Bridge. These petitions were effective, and we will remain vigilant for the long-term future of this bridge.

“The Hoan Bridge is extremely important to the residents that we represent, as well as the greater south shore area and all of southeastern Wisconsin. The Hoan Bridge is the gateway that connects the Port of Milwaukee and General Mitchell International Airport with downtown and the entire interstate freeway system.

“We still support the pursuit of federal funds, including applying for funds from the TIGER II program, for a long-term solution. We thank Congresswoman Gwen Moore for identifying this federal funding source. We are pleased that the DOT recognizes that this bridge needs to be maintained over the long-term, and we look forward to seeing a full deck replacement in the years to come.”

Never, never on a Sunday

July 13, 2010

By Katherine Keller

Milwaukee’s 5th of July celebration arouses ire

When the fourth day of July falls on a Sunday, Milwaukee schedules its community celebrations on Monday, the fifth of July. That’s what happened this year and it aroused the ire of at least one Compass reader.

The reader commented that he was offended the holiday was celebrated on the fifth and finds “the whole matter creepy and unpatriotic.” He asked, “What is next, Thanksgiving on a Monday?”

Since his post, various opinions and pronouncements have come my way, which speculate about why the holiday was celebrated on Monday, including those from former Bay View resident John Manke. He speculated that there were old “blue laws” in Milwaukee that prohibited the sale of beer on the Sunday. Manke also stated in a post to the Compass website that, “the city of Milwaukee, by law, does not celebrate Independence Day on Sunday. That is why all the celebrations were held on Monday, July 5th.”

I was not aware of that ordinance so I decided to find out why Monday, and not Sunday, was selected for the city’s Independence Day celebrations this year.

I contacted Gary Petersen at Milwaukee’s Department of City Development. His duties include providing staff support to the city’s Fourth of July Commission, which sets the date of the city’s community Independence Day celebrations.

Petersen explained that celebrating Independence Day on Monday, the fifth of July, in years when the holiday falls on a Sunday, is a long-standing tradition in Milwaukee.

In some neighborhoods, Petersen said, community parades are staged in or near church parking lots. And “back in the day [when the city had to decide when to schedule its celebrations],” he said, “some of those schools were parochial schools.” That set up a conflict: Should the parishioners attend church services or ditch church and participate in the parades? The city played it safe and decided to celebrate the holiday on Monday, not Sunday.

When Fourth of July Commission considered the date this year, they decided to leave things as they were and scheduled the community celebrations for Monday, July 5th. Petersen said that’s because there are still parochial schools with parking lots where the parade starts, or very close to where the parade starts.

Petersen also said he doubted that there was an ordinance that prohibited the celebrations being held on Sunday.

Eileen Lipinski of the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau confirmed that there is no such ordinance. However, she said that Independence Day is a paid holiday for state and city employees, and that is likely so because these governmental entities follow federal policy.

Independence Day has been a legal federal holiday since June 28, 1870 when Congress passed a law to that effect, according to Amy E. Hefter, a legislative fiscal analyst employed by the city. In an email to 14th District Alderman Tony Zielinski that was forwarded to me by John Manke, Hefter wrote, “Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes public holidays for federal employees. Most federal employees work on a Monday through Friday schedule. For these employees, when a holiday falls on a non-workday—Saturday or Sunday—the holiday usually is observed on Monday (if the holiday falls on Sunday) or Friday (if the holiday falls on Saturday).”

The Fourth of July Commission doesn’t avoid Saturdays, just Sundays.

The heat will be off the commission for 11 years. The next time the fourth of July lands on Sunday is 2021.

Canfora Bakery

July 7, 2010

Q10 May 2010 Canfora

Rosa and Carl Canfora have operated their bakery in Bay View since moving from their 25th and Burnham location 16 years ago. ~photo Michael Timm

Canfora Bakery and Deli
1100 E. Oklahoma Ave.
Carl & Rosa Canfora
(414) 486-7747

1. How long has your family been in the baking business? How did you come to be in the baking business? What’s your family’s history in the baking business?

We have been in business 29 years. I started working in a bakery when I was 10 years old washing cookie trays. That’s when I came from Italy.

2. Who are some of your major customers and what do you specialize in?

We have various caterers, area restaurants. We also deliver to some Sentry and Sendik’s stores.

3. Have you noticed an increased demand for gluten-free baked goods? Do you offer gluten-free, vegan, or other specialty items?

Not many people ask for gluten-free products. Most of our customers are pretty familiar with our products. But most of our pastry products are gluten-free.

4. Do you work and live in Bay View? What brought the bakery to this location?

I don’t live in Bay View. When I started looking for a new location I drove on Oklahoma Avenue and noticed the old Lakeside Bakery was temporarily closed and that’s what brought us to Bay View.

5. How could Bay View be better for your business?

We are pleased with our current business. Actually we wish we had a larger location.

6. Do you have plans to expand or change your business? How has it changed over time?

Not at the present time. We have some older people moving away.

7. Describe an average day at
Canfora bakery.

Most of our crew comes in at 4am. The bakers come at 9pm. We have a night crew that bakes all bread and rolls at night. Donuts and cakes are made during day hours.

8. What do you particularly enjoy making from scratch?

All of our breads and other [products].

9. What is the most challenging aspect of your business? What brings you the greatest joy?

The most challenging is to have a good working environment and then bake all products in a consistent form.

10. What percentage of your business is walk-in/called-in vs. wholesale?


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