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Where are the Mudpuppies?

mudpuppy2The University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, and the Herpetological Resource and Management are asking for help in collecting dead specimens of Mudpuppies. Due to the extreme weather conditions this year, herpetologists are anticipating a large winterkill, which provides a unique opportunity to assess population health.

What is a Mudpuppy?

• Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander

Why Are They Important?

• “Bioindicator” species: Due to their sensitivity to pollutants and poor water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems

• Are the only intermediate host to the Endangered Salamander Mussel

• Great Lakes populations are declining, and the true abundance is currently unknown

How Can I Help?

Place the whole Mudpuppy(s) in ziploc bag, seal, and freeze the bag. Tissue samples may be placed in storage tubes containing ethanol.

Include the following information on a 3×5 card placed within the bag (using pencil) and on the outside of the bag (using permanent marker). In the case of tissue samples, label outside of tube with permanent marker.

1.) Observer

2.) Date

3.) Precise Collection Location

Contact one of the following people:

1.) David Mifsud 517-522-3525 DMifsud@HerpRMan.com

2.) Maegan Stapleton 517-522-3525 Stapleton@HerpRMan.com

3.) Amber Stedman 815-761-8941  AStedman@EMich.edu

4.) Greg Schneider 734-647-1927, 734-763-0740 ES@UMich.edu

mudpuppy1



Study asks: Is there an easier way to locate at-risk septic systems?

Huron River Watershed Council failing septics MDEQ research

Collapse of a residential septic system tank

Septic systems are essential to rural living.

Communities have standards for their design, construction, and, increasingly, maintenance. Yet, even with those standards, septic systems can fail. When a septic system fails, the polluted water it releases can pose a human health risk, an expensive repair and a water quality problem for groundwater, streams and lakes.

Over the past three years, HRWC led a team of researchers and public health managers in pursuit of a new approach to detect failed septic systems that may reduce pollutants entering the Huron River in Michigan and yield a cost-effective approach for county health departments to monitor and rectify problem septic systems. Pollutants from failing septic systems — pathogens and phosphorus — play a role in the health of the Huron River and its tributary streams located in rural areas.

In fact, one of the more perplexing questions about water pollution in this river has been “how much of a problem are failing septics?”

The overall project goals were to 1) reduce the quantity of phosphorus and bacteria entering the middle Huron River, and 2) develop a cost‐effective approach for monitoring and rectifying problems with septic systems for County Health Departments.

Learn more about the study design and our findings.


Discount Rain Barrels

The Alliance of Downriver Watersheds Hosts Spring Sale

Save Water and Money and Protect Local Water Resources

Go to www.greatlakesrainbarrel.com now through Wednesday, April 23, 2014 and use the promo code ‘SAVEWATER’ to order your rain barrels in advance FOR PICK UP ADW-Rain-Barrel-SaleON Saturday, April 26, 9:30am-12:30pm at Brownstown Township Hall, 21313 Telegraph Road.

Rain barrels are priced at $79 for a 65-gallon 85% recycled content model in charcoal or $89 for a classic edition barrel in granite – these prices are $10 off regular retail rates.

Rain barrels collect rainwater from rooftops and save homeowners water, energy and money by reducing summer tap water needs. The stored water can be used by homeowners to irrigate gardens and lawns where the water will slowly infiltrate into the soil and plants. In addition, rain barrels also slow the rapid flow of water entering the stormwater system—storm drains, culverts, rivers and lakes—and help reduce soil erosion and flooding. MORE rain barrel resources HERE.

Questions?  Contact Great Lakes Rain Barrel (248) 477-3242, info@greatlakesrainbarrel.com.

Go to www.greatlakesrainbarrel.com to use the promotional code ‘SAVEWATER’ and order your rain barrel.



News to Us

White Oak

White Oak

This edition of News to Us has several articles focused on some lingering impacts of this winter’s high snowfall as we face some increased flood risk and consider the impacts of added salt to the environment. Learn about the mark green building is making on Michigan’s real estate market, and about an ecosystem once common in southeast Michigan – Oak Openings.

Hamburg Twp. prepares for worst as flood risk varies Hamburg Township is being commendably proactive in response to elevated flood risk this spring.  Oscillating warm and cold temperatures have helped slow the melt of a record snow pack but flood risk still ranges from 40-90% in Hamburg.  Because of major flooding experienced in the township in 2004, the community knows where the challenges are and has plans in place to manage what may come.

Flood insurance rates rising: Database shows impact on Michigan communities  Changes in federal policy is resulting in large rate increases in flood insurance.  Rates will increase steadily in the coming years to levels that more accurately reflect true flooding risk rather than the subsidized rates currently in place.  This will impact a significant number of properties in Michigan.  The article allows you to see data by county.

Issues of the Environment: The Impact of Road Salt in the Huron River Watershed  Listen to a piece on the fate of road salt during an interview with HRWC’s Ric Lawson.  With 50% more salt distributed this winter, it is worth considering the impacts of this practice, where it is essential and where alternatives may be sufficient.

Oak openings from Ohio to Highland Oaks  This is a nice natural history piece giving a nod to the mighty oak tree, the namesake for Oakland County and many of the parks and natural areas in Southeast Michigan.  Once expansive, oak openings are now an extremely rare oak dominated system in the area.  Some remaining oak openings can be found in the Toledo area.  In the Huron River watershed you can still find some examples of similar systems such as oak barrens and oak savannahs.

The ‘411’ on the ‘greening’ of the real estate industry  This is an interesting article on the current real estate market.  ‘Green’ upgrades to homes are seeing the highest return on investment of all home improvements.  More and more people are prioritizing energy efficiency when house hunting. Good for the environment and the pocket book it is great to see this gaining momentum among home buyers.

Mockingjay spotted in Pinckney Recreation Area  Previously unknown in this part of the world, this non native bird was said to be screaming “sspprriiiiiing is coming, sspprriiiiing is coming”. Researchers are currently searching for a breeding pair to see if this harbinger needs to be placed on the invasive species list.

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)



Frackers in the Watershed?

What do you do if someone wants to lease your oil/gas development rights?

Natural gas fracking drill

Do you really want this to be part of your view? Credit: Daniel Foster

That is a question we have been hearing recently. There may be new interest in potential natural gas reserves beneath the watershed that could be accessed via traditional drilling, directional drilling or hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”), which we have been hearing so much about nationally. The companies interested in leasing drilling rights and their representatives (colloquially referred to as “landmen”) often are quite aggressive in their pursuit of lease signatures. Oil or gas exploration and extraction can have a significant impact on the land and our water resources, so careful consideration should be given before signing away your rights.

 

Folks in the northern half of the lower peninsula have been dealing with this issue for a number of years now, so I called one of our sister organizations, the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, for some advice. Here is what they recommend if the landmen come knocking on your door with promises of riches:

1. Get a lawyer experienced in oil and gas leases to review any contract prior to signing. It’s just too easy to sign away your rights and once you do, it is hard to stop the drillers if they start mucking things up. Your county bar association can refer you to qualified attorneys or HRWC can suggest one (call or e-mail Ric).

2. Check out Michigan State University’s information for land owners. Consider going to a landowner meeting. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/program/info/oil_and_gas

3. If your neighbors do start signing leases and drillers start planning for exploration, get your surface and groundwater tested. You want this done professionally in case you need to prove damage later down the road. The Michigan DEQ maintains a list of certified labs at https://www.michigan.gov/deq/0,4561,7-135-3307_4131_4156-36940–,00.html. Tip of the Mitt has some great advice on deciding what to test and when at http://www.watershedcouncil.org/learn/hydraulic-fracturing/baseline-testing/.

 

Thanks to the staff at Tip of the Mitt for the helpful advice.

 

If you have been contacted about selling your oil/gas rights, let us know in the comments. We are interested in tracking this issue and it’s spread across the watershed.

Ric Lawson

Ric works on stormwater management and policy and sends volunteers out to measure the pulse of the river and help with watershed monitoring and studies. Officially, he is a Watershed Planner. Unofficially, he gets wet trying to catch fish and splashing around with his wife and kids at various undisclosed river locations.

Latest posts by Ric Lawson (see all)



News to Us

Maple tree sap being tapped for syrup.  Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

Sugar maple tapping. Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

This edition of News to Us shares news stories on how the Great Lakes fared in federal budget negotiations, the status of the debate over the proposed Lyndon Township mine and a couple articles that will hopefully help you “think spring”!

President’s budget cuts Great Lakes programs The federal budget for 2015 is proposing significant cuts for two programs supporting clean water work in the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative faces a $25 million budget cut.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund which supports wastewater treatment and sewer systems faces $150 million in cuts. Considering the rapidly declining condition of our state’s wastewater infrastructure, this is very bad news.

DEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring It is sugaring season in southeast Michigan.  For a short window of time, as we transition to warmer temperatures, maple syrup can be extracted from local sugar maples.  Many parks in the area provide tours and opportunities to tap trees in the coming weeks.

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea  More news on the proposed Lyndon Township sand and gravel mine and the growing opposition.

How are robins faring this winter?  Not all robins head south for the winter. The large fruit crop from last year has helped robins weather this hard winter.  Learn more about this bird, their life history and why we see them through the winter even though they are thought of as our local “sign of spring”.

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit  Take it easy on your local wastewater treatment plant, your septic tank and the Huron River by abstaining from flushing the now widely available “flushable wipes”.  These products are wreaking havoc on systems throughout the U.S, to such a degree that lawsuits are being filed against companies manufacturing the products.

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)



Ann Arbor Unveils Plan for its Urban Forest

A2ForestAfter three years of study and gathering input from residents, businesses, forestry experts and stakeholder groups (including HRWC), the City of Ann Arbor is taking final public comment on their draft Urban and Community Forest Management Plan.

The Plan describes the status of the city’s “urban forest,” which includes all trees within the city, from the forests in Bird Hills and other parks, to the trees lining its streets and in back yards.  One of the findings of the plan is that trees provide $4.6 million in benefits each year to the city.  These benefits include reducing stormwater runoff , improving water and air quality, moderating summer temperatures, lowering utility costs and contributing to property values.  HRWC was a member of the Advisory Committee that provided input on plan development and fully supports the goals of the plan.

The City is accepting public comment on the plan until March 28, 2014.  Comments may be submitted via:

email:  kgray@a2gov.org
fax:  734.994.1744- attn: Kerry Gray
mail:  301 E. Huron St., PO Box 8647, Ann
Arbor, MI 48107- attn: Kerry Gray

Paper copies of the draft plan are available upon request.  Please contact Kerry
Gray at kgray@a2gov.org or 734.794.6430 x
43703.

Kris Olsson

Kris directs the Bioreserve Project, which aims to identify and protect the watershed's most ecologically important remaining natural areas, and works with local communities in the Portage Creek watershed to keep the creek healthy. Kris enjoys being outdoors and cuddling on the couch with her three dogs (and her two daughters, oh yeah, and husband too!)

Latest posts by Kris Olsson (see all)



The Big Melt

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

Soon, your stormdrain could look like this!

The sun is brighter, the birds are more active, and the temperatures are warming. I even got showered by puddle water as I walked home yesterday on N. Main St.!

The record snow fall will turn in to stormwater with the potential for flooding and back-ups.  In the past 2 weeks there have been numerous news articles about flood warnings and predictions.  I won’t look in to my crystal ball but I will pass along some solid suggestions from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on steps you can take to minimize flooding impacts.

Basically, as the weather warms, make sure you take these precautions at home:

  1. Clear stormdrains, catchbasins, or any kind of detention or yard drains you have from debris, ice, and litter;
  2. Check that any sumps or back-up generators are working;
  3. Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves, debris, and ice to expedite drainage

Yeah, you might be sore on Monday, but you’ll be drier in the weeks to come!

For more information about flooding risks, please visit the State’s website.



Native Plants and Rain Garden Information

Ask the Expert! Get Design and Installation Advice!
Saturday, March 15, 10am-2pm
Sunday, March 16, Noon-4pm

1280px-Echinacea_purpurea_Punahattu_Arto_AlanenpääVisit our booth at the Washtenaw Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show. We have two fantastic experts on hand to answer questions and offer advice on all things native plants and rain gardens:  Susan Bryan, Rain Garden Coordinator for the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office and Drew Lathin, from Creating Sustainable Landscapes. Get a basic introduction or in-depth answers to your native plant and rain garden design and installation questions.

Throughout the three-day show, HRWC and WCWRC are teaming up to share outdoor water saving tips and native plant and rain garden design and installation materials and information with the public.

Free copies of Landscaping for Water Quality, Garden Designs for Homeowners, 3rd Edition will be available.

Susan will be at the booth on Saturday and Drew will be there Sunday for limited hours (see below).

Booth: E169
Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 14-16
Friday 2-8pm
Saturday 10am-7pm (expert available 10am-2pm)
Sunday 11am-5pm (expert available noon-4pm)
Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd
Admission $5, 12 and under free

For info, contact Pam, plabadie@hrwc.org, (734) 769-5123 x 602.



News to Us

Sign of Spring? Credit: John Lloyd

Sign of Spring? Credit: John Lloyd

There has been a wealth of relevant news we have run across here at HRWC over the past couple of weeks.  So much so, that for this edition of News to Us, I couldn’t pick just five.  So, in addition to the five article summaries I usually post, I have a list of headlines that may be of interest to you as well. Read about the loss of several key stream gages in the watershed, the proposed Lyndon Township sand mine, Ann Arbor’s new Green Streets policy and several articles on the implications of the severe winter weather we are experiencing.

Deal sought to keep flood predictor intact The Huron Clinton Metropark Authority recently pulled funding for several stream gages in the Huron River and its tributaries. These gages provide river flow measurements used by municipalities and other groups to monitor water levels in the river. Hamburg Township is one community looking into how to keep these gages in operation. They provide critical early warning during flood conditions.

The Crushing Cost of Climate Change: Why We Must Rethink America’s Infrastructure Investments Our nation’s aging infrastructure crisis coupled with more extreme weather events are adding up to burdensome level of expenses shouldered by states and local municipalities. This article discusses action at the national level to support critical infrastructure improvements and rebuilding after disasters.

Ann Arbor adopts ‘green streets’ policy to address stormwater runoff, pollution Ann Arbor’s City Council voted to adopt a policy that requires road projects to address stormwater. Road projects will use engineering and vegetation to infiltrate at least the first inch of rain from storms improving water quality and stream flows, reducing the risk of flooding and minimizing wear and tear on the stormwater system.

CHELSEA: Public sounds off about Lyndon Township sand mine proposal The public hearing pertaining to a proposed sand mine in Lyndon Township between the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas drew hundreds voicing opposition to the project including State Representative Gretchen Driskell. Concerns about water quality, groundwater wells, wildlife, traffic and noise were among those voiced at the public hearing.  A second hearing is scheduled for March 13th and a petition is circulating for those who oppose the development.

Convicted sewage dumper loses another court challenge  The conviction of a man charged with violating Michigan’s Natural Resources Protection Act, stands after a recent court challenge. Charges came from an incident where raw sewage was dumped into the Huron River for three days from a property owned by the defendant.

Also:

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)




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