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News to Us

It has bAnn Arbor floodingeen a busy news month. Many exciting things happening at the global, national and state level that affects us right here in the Huron.  The environment took front seat in international news this month with Pope Francis’ encyclical. Our federal government finally provided clarity on the Clean Water Act by better defining “waters of the US”.  The State of Michigan has released a draft vision for water that includes a dramatic reduction in phosphorus to our waterways.  And not to leave out local action, the Ann Arbor Observer provides a look at how the University of Michigan handles stormwater.

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change. The recent papal encyclical has been making waves among Catholics and far beyond. The document is a call to action bringing a moral argument to environmental protection and climate change.  A fascinating and welcome contribution to the environmental movement, if you haven’t read much about this, the article is a nice summary of the report and the implications.

Issues of The Environment: The Clean Water Rule. HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs is interviewed about EPA’s ruling on Waters of the US, or the waters protected under the Clean Water Act.  She discusses how this ruling will impact our state and watershed and why this ruling is so important.

DEQ announces 30-year vision for water. The State’s draft water strategy addresses nutrient pollution, invasive species, boating and harbors and water trails.  The strategy also calls for investment in technologies that support clean water and the establishment of a fund to finance implementation of water strategy.  The vision is out in draft and the DEQ is accepting comments until August 28th.

More information on Michigan’s Water Strategy and how to comment can be viewed here

Calming the waters.  This editorial provides a deeper dive into the issue of phosphorus pollution, reduction goals, and how Michigan needs to do more to make meaningful progress toward those goals and make appropriate contributions to a region-wide effort to reduce problems in the Great Lakes resulting from excess phosphorus in our lakes and waterways.

Storm Over the U-M: The city and county have strict new stormwater requirements. But the university isn’t on board.  Water knows no political boundaries which can create tension over responsibility for and management of this resource. When it rains on our cities and towns, it needs to be managed to avoid flooding, erosion and other stormwater related issues. This article chronicles ongoing tension around stormwater management by the University of Michigan.



What the Clean Water Rule could mean for the Huron

Sometimes just maintaining the status quo is the goal. Such is the case with federal protections for waterways through the Clean Water Act that are clarified with the Clean Water Rule developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers. The rule provides definition to “Waters of the United States” and will become effective on August 28, 2015. The rule only protects waters that have historically been covered by the Clean Water Act.

credit: John Lloyd

credit: John Lloyd

The administration wrote the rule in an attempt to clarify its jurisdiction after two U.S. Supreme Court decisions made it murky beginning in the early 2000s. While about three percent  more area is covered by the Clean Water Act than before, the protections are still less than they were during President Bill Clinton’s administration. The Clean Water Act protects the nation’s waters. A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if these waters are going to be polluted or destroyed.

In my interview this week with David Fair on WEMU’s Issues of the Environment radio show, we talked about what the Rule does:

  • Provides greater clarity and certainty regarding the waters protected under the Clean Water Act
  • Makes the jurisdictional determination process more straight-forward for businesses and industry
  • Reflects the best current science (more than 1,200 peer-reviewed studies were consulted)
  • Aligns with the Supreme Court decisions
  • Reflects public input and comments (400 meetings around the country)
  • Protects public health, the economy, and the environment

and doesn’t do:

  • Regulate new types of waters, land use, most ditches, groundwater, farm ponds
  • Change policy on stormwater or water transfers or irrigation
  • Limit agricultural exemptions
  • Regulate water in tile drains
  • And my favorite, regulate puddles
How might the Clean Water Rule impact Michigan and, more specifically, Huron River waters?

The Department of Environmental Quality, the state’s permitting authority, expects little impact to Michigan water protection programs. Michigan is one of only two states (New Jersey is the other state) that administers its own wetlands permit program instead of the Army Corps of Engineers, and the state-run program is more protective than the federal program. On the Huron River, the collective effort to improve water quality is yielding gains in quality of life after decades of effort focused on education, new technologies to reduce pollution and water consumption, and water quality monitoring.

The Huron River Watershed Council formed seven years before the enactment of the Clean Water Act in 1972. As we celebrate 50 years of protecting and restoring the river for healthy and vibrant communities, we have the perspective to recognize this Rule as a watershed moment for the country to rededicate itself to clean water. Find out more about the Clean Water Rule from the EPA’s Clean Water Rule web page. A Michigan fact sheet is available about the value of clean water in the state for the economy, the environment, and public health.



My Huron River (Arms Creek)

One of the perks of my job as a co-director of the Adopt-a-Stream program at HRWC is that I get to see places that many others miss out on.  And so while I love the main branch of the Huron River and spend many hours at our metroparks, I decided to focus on a small creek in Webster township– Arms Creek.

An HRWC volunteer explores Arms Creek.

An HRWC volunteer explores Arms Creek.

Arms Creek at the intersection of Walsh Road is known internally here at HRWC as “Adopt-a-Stream Site Number 1″, meaning that it was the first site to be picked as a part of the program way back in 1992.  The watershed council and our many volunteers have been visiting this location and collecting information on this creek for 23 years! The creek contains many insect families that are sensitive to pollution and their presence tells us that the creek has good water quality.  In fact, the insect population has been getting better over time, so conditions here have improved over the past 20 years.  A thick riparian zone of trees and shrubs provides ample shade for the creek and plentiful groundwater inputs keep the water quite cold.  Many decades ago, the DNR actually stocked Arms Creek with trout, which is very rare for the Huron Watershed, but not enough fisherman utilized the creek to make this worth the cost. Last year HRWC staff wrote a creekshed report for Arms Creek, which can be found here along with a clickable and zoomable map.

 

independence150

The shores of Independence Lake

The Arms creekshed also contains Independence Lake, a beautiful county park located only a few miles from my
house and a spot that my family visits many times during the year. In the summer it is our go-to spot for swimming and waterslides, and in the other seasons we play on the playground and take walks through wetlands and fields. Winter is a great time to visit as the park is all but deserted.  Last winter we spent a long time throwing rocks onto the lake and listening to the musical “plunk-plink-plunk-pppppppp” of the rocks echoing and reverberating against the ice.

independence151

“More rocks, Daddy. More rocks!”



My Huron River (Hudson Mills to Barton Pond)

Dad and daughter enjoying a paddle.

Dad and daughter enjoying a paddle.

I fell in love with the Huron on this beautiful stretch of river. River mile 67 to mile 56 is one of the longest undammed strands of rolling water in SE Michigan. The banks along the river are thick with large, old willows, maples and a good diversity of hardwoods and a smattering of cedars, thanks to a wide riparian corridor protected by the Natural River Zone. My family and I like to take a nice, slow paddle along this piece of river to forget our worries and reconnect with the living planet as we flow through it. I find my mind wandering as I scout for trophy bass in deep pools, and sometimes forget I am only a few miles from home.

This Father’s Day my wife Kathy, son Foster and daughter Ally took me out for a beautiful trip. The water was high and fast from recent rains and a bit tawny, but clear at the start of the trip. Song birds called out across the river to potential mates or rivals on the other bank. We crossed a sad run where a tornado ripped across the river three years ago and tree damage is still evident. When we reached the confluence with Mill Creek the mixing zone is stark. The clear waters of the upper Huron get colored by the roiling, sediment-filled outwash from Mill Creek. The water volume almost doubles here and the river picks up pace, quickly taking the boat along its course to the rapids at Delhi, where we took the canoes out. Along the way, the kids jumped out and enjoyed a free-form float to cool off in the river’s embrace.

Fly fish the Huron River.

Fly fishing downstream of Delhi Rapids.

I also like to spend a few hours fly fishing on the upper parts of this river stretch. The river varies nicely from wide, shallow riffles, through quick narrow runs, to long stretches of slow, deeper water and pools — great for hiding big fish (though I never seem to be able to find them). I cherish the moments of quiet reflection as a gentle breeze rustles the leaves and I attempt to flick my fly into that hole where I just know a big one is waiting for a meal to swim by. To be honest, though, I find that any time spent on or in the Huron is time well spent.

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on FacebookTwitter and InstagramUse #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.



My Huron River (Kensington MetroPark)

HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.

Growing up in Farmington, Michigan, the Big Beach trip in our family was to take a cooler and some lawn chairs up to Kensington MetroPark, where I had a great time digging in the sand, picnicking, and swimming at Maple Beach.  But the highlight of the trip was always the visit to the Kensington Nature Center.  Here is where I could actually touch Things From Nature!  Like furs, and skulls, and the mystery boxes you put your hand in to guess what was inside.  Here is where I could watch the bees for hours (well, I’m sure now it was really minutes) toiling away in the glass-walled hive.  It was here, I believe, (along with weekly episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” on Channel 7), where I also discovered the importance of wildlife, natural areas, and water to our quality of life, and thus was planted the seed of my future career as an advocate for the environment.  Little did I know at the time that I was recreating on the Huron River and enjoying its surrounding natural beauty, and that it would be my future workplace.

So, thank you Kensington, MetroPark, for helping to make me who I am!

IslandDriveKensingtonbyEllenm1Kensington MetroPark.  Photo: ellenm1

 

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on FacebookTwitter and InstagramUse #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.

 



My Huron River (upstream of Hudson Mills)

At Dusk

At Dusk
credit: J. Lloyd

One of my favorite spots to visit on the Huron is just downstream of the Flook (Portage Lake) dam and upstream of the old Bell Road bridge on the main stem of the river.  The Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA) opened a fishing access site on Dexter-Pinckney Road about 10 years ago.  This section of the river is noted for it’s exceptional smallmouth bass fishery, but I love it for the gravel and cobble bottom, the shallow depth, and the clear, cool water.

Rocks and Riffles

Rocks and Riffles
credit: J. Lloyd

It’s an perfect place to visit on a warm summer day for some wading and swimming.  You must wear some footwear to protect the soles of your feet (the zebra mussel shells are pretty sharp!).  But my family simply wades in and walks upstream and downstream exploring the rocks and riffles and the occasional plunge pool.  It’s a popular spot for anglers but when I’ve visited it is relatively quiet and you feel like no one is around.

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.



Oakland County: Learn About Invasive Plants

Phragmites is an invasive grass forming dense stands in wet areas of the Huron River watershed

Phragmites is an invasive grass forming dense stands in wet areas of the Huron River watershed

Wednesday, July 8, 7pm in Waterford

Join the Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area group to learn about invasive plants, how they can harm property values, safety, and water quality.

The FREE presentation will also explain how invasive plants can be controlled, who can do it, and how property owners can all work together to reap the benefits of having a proactive plan to control invasives.

Wednesday, July 8, at 7pm at the

Executive Office Building 
Conference Center
2100 Pontiac Lake Rd.
Building 41West
Waterford, MI 48328

For more information about what you can do to control invasive plants, see HRWC’s Invasive Plants Web Page

 



Green Infrastructure for Bees

BeeOnConeflowerByMisko

Photo: Misko

A recent HRWC Green Infrastructure Workshop has spurred a Northfield Township resident to promote native landscapes to help our struggling bee populations. Cecilia Infante has begun a campaign to increase backyard habitat for honey bees and other pollinators. “Anyone can participate by planting pollinator friendly plants in gardens or just window boxes (you don’t even need a yard). We also want to educate residents and business owners about this environmental emergency, and encourage them to make small changes that have a big impact on the environment, such as considering alternatives to pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) and to the manicured lawns that are “food deserts” for honey bees and monarchs. Landscapes of native flowers and grasses would provide forage for pollinators while requiring far less maintenance and cost than a green lawn.”

On May 19, the White House announced its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators (Pollinator Health Strategy 2015 (pdf)). Michigan is one of the five states slated to receive a portion of the $11 million designated to support this national cause (USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population). While the deadline to apply for the initial $3 million has passed, there are myriad other opportunities available for those interested in participating in the recovery of the honey bee and monarch populations through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the DNR’s Wildlife Habitat Development Efforts.

In addition to forming a network of residents creating habitats, green infrastructure and applying for conservation support, Cecilia’s group hopes Northfield Township residents will consider promoting Whitmore Lake as one of the first “Bee Cities” in Michigan (Ypsilanti is currently exploring this certification–see http://www.beecityusa.org/ ).

HRWC has long advocated for native landscapes, including installation of rain gardens as stormwater-control green infrastructure – rain gardens provide great habitat and refuge for pollinators of all kinds, including honey bees and they help protect water quality by infiltrating stormwater runoff.

Other resources:

The Xerces Society

DNR Guide to Backyard Wildlife Management 

Michigan State University Extension

If you would like to learn more about enhancing habitat for pollinators, or want to connect with the newly-formed “MI Pollinator Project,”  email Cecilia at writing4all@aol.com.



My Huron River (Hudson Mills Metropark)

HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.

Hudson Mills Metropark is literally in my backyard.  It is arguably the reason we bought our home.  My husband and I are both river scientists and enthusiasts so when it came time to raise a family we knew we wanted our children on the river. A lot. hudsonmills

The park is such a great setting to access the river. You can bike (or take a wagon ride) along the border-to-border trail.  In this section, that trail is lined by beautiful forest and offers many river views. My favorite time on the trail is during the spring bloom. Trout lily, trillium, spring beauty and marsh marigold are just a few of the gems that carpet the forest floor in early spring.

IMG_4472Paddling this stretch is a treat too. The river is wide, meandering, forested and full of wildlife.  The clear water makes fish and turtle sighting easy and there is no shortage of birds. The water is clean, often shallow and slow moving with a welcoming bottom so we let our kids wade around, swim, throw sticks and rocks to their heart’s content.

And then there are days where we are looking for the company of others.  We head to the visitors center for one of their many events like the Easter egg hunt or maple sugaring demonstrations. Or we picnic and let the kids burn some energy on the play ground.

We are incredibly fortunate in the Huron River watershed, to have the Metroparks system. They own the land along an incredible 40 miles of the river protecting it from development and maintaining the natural setting that people and animals alike enjoy.

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.



My Huron River (Milford Trail)

HRWC staff picks of favorite watershed spots, celebrating 50 years of river protection and restoration work.

A swan poses for a photo in front of Hubbell Pond on the Milford Trail.

A swan poses for a photo in front of Hubbell Pond on the Milford Trail.

Being from Milford, I have several options within walking or biking distance where I can enjoy the natural beauty that is a part of the Huron River watershed. However, my personal favorite place to go is the Milford Trail. The Milford Trail is a paved hike/bike trail which opened in 2009. I did not discover it until 2012, when I decided to start bicycling again.

The trail starts near the YMCA on Commerce Rd, then continues across the dam and along G.M. Road, then south near Martindale Road, and ends at the Kensington Metropark entrance at Milford Road, running about 3.6 miles. The trail connects with the Kensington trail loop, if you want to continue on from there.

The Milford Trail route.  Numbers indicate mileage. Credit: http://www.milfordtrail.com/

The Milford Trail route. Numbers indicate mileage. Credit: http://www.milfordtrail.com/

The Milford Trail winds through beautiful wooded areas and meadows around Hubbell Pond, challenging the bicyclist with hills, but also welcoming a rest on one of several benches along the way where you can take a break to regenerate and enjoy the picturesque view. The people on the trail are often pleasant, nodding or saying hello to each other as you pass, a reflection of the friendly spirit of the people in the area, making the trail a comfortable place to be.

A turtle greets me on the Milford Trail.

A turtle greets me on the Milford Trail.

While visiting the Milford Trail I have had encounters with all sorts of wildlife, such as turtles, snakes, deer, frogs, and swans who have stopped long enough to pose and allow me to take their picture.

I want to add that if you are in to mountain biking, there is also a mountain bike trail within the Milford Trail area that is quite challenging from what I understand. It crosses over the paved path several times, so it would be easy to connect to it if you decide you are up for the challenge.

HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!

Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.

Connect and share river ruminations or captured moments with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Use #huronriver50 to mark your posts!

Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.




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