This edition of News to Us will let you know how your legislators are doing on environmental issues, introduce a Catch-22 for water conservation, and share some research findings on the impacts of underwater pipeline failures. A recent tour of a preserve in Stockbridge got HRWC and watershed residents out to enjoy what makes our watershed special. Finally, Michigan Radio has done an excellent series on arsenic in groundwater that may be of particular interest to those of us who draw our drinking water from private wells.
Michigan League of Conservation Voters give local legislators high marks Several local legislators scored very well on the annual Environmental Scorecard completed by MLCV recently. In general, however, the report finds the State moving in the wrong direction on environmental issues that impact our land, water and air. This article shares local legislators opinions on where the State of Michigan is at on important issues such as fracking, alternative energy and biodiversity protection. A link to MLCV’s full Scorecard report is available at the end of the article. Check out how your legislators are doing.
Huron River Watershed Council naturalists visit the Beckwith Preserve Earlier this month, HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist, Kris Olsson, led a walk at the Beckwith Preserve near downtown Stockbridge. This 30 acre property was donated to Legacy Land Conservancy and has frontage on Portage Creek, a lovely tributary to the Huron River. Private land donations like this play an important role in preserving lands that keep our forests, air and water in good condition.
Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conserve Water and Make Money As infrastructure ages and water availability fluctuates, water utilities struggle with a catch-22. Utilities have operating expenses they need to recoup from consumers and demand they need to meet. During periods of lower water availability (peak use time, drought) encouraging water conservation is a strategy for prolonging supply and minimizing the burden on water resources. However, if they are successful and customers use less, less revenue is generated or rates may need to be raised. This article explores this issue in depth and discusses some innovative ways to promote water conservation while keeping the business of drinking water production viable.
Study: Pipeline break would devastate Great Lakes We have seen a lot of news lately about oil and gas development, pipelines, waste products from fuel production, and spills in our rivers and lakes. One issue getting a lot of attention is an aging pipeline that transports oil under water in the Straights of Mackinac. This article shares the outcomes of a recently released study on the impacts of a pipeline failure. HRWC is urging the US Department of Transportation to evaluate the risks of ruptures and leaks in pipelines crossing Michigan’s rivers, streams and lakes.
Arsenic in Michigan’s Groundwater. Michigan Radio has done a series of pieces over the past two weeks chronicling the issue of elevated arsenic in Michigan’s groundwater. The counties in the Huron River watershed do have occurrences of elevated arsenic. This only affects people on private wells as city water is required to remove arsenic from water during treatment. There are not elevated arsenic levels in all wells and there are treatment options for private wells. If you are in a county that has registered elevated levels in groundwater, consider having your well tested. Here are links to the series:
- This mom didn’t know why her family was sick until she checked their water
- Here’s how to test and treat your drinking water well for arsenic
- Michigan’s arsenic problem is among the worst in the nation. Here’s why that matters.
- There’s arsenic in Michigan’s well water, but not a lot of people are talking about it
- These places in Michigan are still working on getting arsenic out of their drinking water
- One congressman has kept us in the dark about the health risks of arsenic
Join HRWC as we end July with a variety of recreation events to get you out on the Huron River. Whether you enjoy swimming, fly fishing, or paddling; we’ve got an event for you!
Sunday, July 20, Baseline Lake, Michigan Sailing Club, Dexter, MI
Sunday, July 20, Schultz Outfitters, 4 E. Cross Street, Ypsilanti, MI
Thursday, July 24, Oakwoods Metropark, Huron Charter Township, MI
*Attention paddlers! We are looking for a few more volunteers to be safety paddlers during the Baseline Lake Swim. Safety Paddlers are an integral component of this event; you will ensure the safety of the swimmers. Contact Derek Schrader at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Have you ever found yourself in the shower or washing the dishes thinking to yourself, “Self, I wish I knew more about geomorphology.” Well, you are not alone! In fact, HRWC’s geomorphology support group meets in just a few weeks and it’s likely a good idea that you attend.
HRWC’s Measuring and Mapping project teams up all sorts of cool people (like you!) to quantify (really – we’re using this word per it’s definition, not it’s typical public use as of late) how the GEOMORPHOLOGY of our bug collection sites is changing over time.
Now, you’re going to have to trust us that this “data” is “useful” and simply attend the “
training” support group. Well, or you could read Tony, “the volunteer extraordinaire,” Pitts’ writeup on the matter, here.
Registration and details may be found by mousing over and left clicking the hyperlink found here:
Fine Print: HRWC staff will do our best to ensure your safety and preparedness. Be advised, this is not an assurance of our abilities to do so, nor our professionalism therein.
Today’s News to Us shares an article on how the winter impacted Emerald Ash Borer populations in the area. Also read two articles on the status of a couple of developments on Huron riverfront properties- Milford has a new brewery and Ypsilanti struggles to fill Water Street. Finally, Washtenaw County has a new reporting service for flood and drainage issues.
After the Trees Disappear: Ash Forests After Emerald Ash Borers Destroy Them The cold weather did nothing to deter the Emerald Ash Borer’s march through the northern Midwest and east coast. The insect is decimating ash tree populations with implication far exceeding the loss of landscape and street trees. This article shares the status of the invasion and potential consequences for forests in our area.
Water Street property falls short of initial expectations Debate about the fate of Ypsilanti’s Water Street property continues. There are high hopes for this riverfront property to provide river and open space recreation activities along with benefits for downtown businesses and residents. But interest in the property from investors has been sparse. Read about the latest discussions in this article.
New River’s Edge Brewery now open in downtown Milford A new brewery has opened in the watershed. River’s Edge in Milford will bring brews to the river front. Stop by and welcome our new neighbor, either in car or kayak!
Residents can now report flooding, drainage problems to county using online form Washtenaw County residents can now submit reports of flooding and drainage issues online. Photos can be uploaded too, to help identify the problem. This is a new feature. Residents can still report issues on email or by phone. Emergency issues should still be reported using 911.
A few weeks ago I promised to share an update on the status of the bills package being considered in Lansing to expand the definition of ‘trails’ to include water trails and provide funding to support trails across the state.
Today, Governor Rick Snyder signed the bills, now Public Acts 210-215 of 2014 that redefines the designation process of special trails in the state and supports the development of a statewide network of multiple use trails and water trails.
The bills give the director of the Department of Natural Resources the authority to name trailways as “Pure Michigan Trails,” water trails as “Pure Michigan Water Trails” and towns as “Pure Michigan Trail Towns,” pending approval from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. They also allow statewide volunteer activities to include trail enhancement programs in support of trail upkeep and maintenance.
More from the State’s press release here.
Our RiverUp! work includes establishing the Huron River Water Trail and developing Trail Towns in each of 5 largest towns on the river. We’ll all pretty excited here about this new investment that can benefit these efforts. Anita Twardesky, our Trail Towns Coordinator, shares, “What an exciting time for trails in our State! Southeast Michigan is home to many water trails, Trail Town programs and bike paths. Our trail systems are poised to become a great addition to the statewide system.”
We applaud this legislation and look forward to working with the Department of Natural Resources to ensure that Southeast Michigan is well-represented to help showcase our unlimited outdoor recreation activities.
On June 2, the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the United States. The proposal will protect public health, move the United States toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.
The proposal would
- cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year;
- Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit;
- Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits (in Michigan, our nine oldest power plants cost Michigan families $1.5 billion each year in healthcare costs); and
- Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system. Recent reports for Michigan show that renewable power is 26 percent cheaper than comparable coal-fired electricity, while Michigan customers save $3.83 for every dollar invested in energy efficiency programs.
States have until 2030 to reach the goal, and will be allowed to use a variety of strategies to reach the goal. This flexibility will allow states to reach the goal with a minimum of disruption to their economies. In fact, many studies predict that the rules will spur markets in alternative energy and energy consumption, creating jobs and resulting in cheaper electricity bills.
EPA published the proposed rule today (June 18) in the Federal Register and will take comments for the next 120 days (up until October 16). EPA will finalize the standards next June. Please add your voice and let EPA know you support the new rule. You can use the suggested text below (from the Natural Resources Defense Council) or write your own, and submit to the EPA.
“Comment on existing source pollution standard [Docket: EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602]
“Dear Environmental Protection Agency,
“Thank you for proposing this standard to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants. Without these standards in place, polluters will continue to dump an unlimited amount of carbon pollution into our air.
“This is a critical part of President Obama’s plan to cut carbon pollution coming from power plants each year. With these limits we can avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change.
“Carbon pollution fuels climate change, drives extreme weather, threatens communities and cuts too many lives short. I urge you to stand strong against their pressure and adopt this critical new standard (Docket EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602).”
In this edition of News to Us read about the impact of water resources on Michigan’s economy and how the State and energy providers are responding to the recent EPA rule on reducing carbon emissions associated with power production. The MichCon cleanup site and Nichols Arboretum’s School Girls Glen are also highlighted in the news recently. Finally, dive into Popular Science this month for a full read on water.
Michigan’s University Research Corridor plays major role in protecting and advancing Michigan’s ‘Blue Economy’ At the recent Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference a report was released quantifying the impact of local universities’ investments in water research, education and outreach. “Innovating for the Blue Economy” speaks to the importance of water resources to Michigan’s economy.
Michigan gets ready for EPA’s proposed carbon rules What is the response, in Michigan, to EPA’s plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants? This piece reveals, generally, the State’s major power companies are not surprised by the rules and have been decreasing the amount of energy derived from coal for some time now. However, coal is still the primary source of energy in DTE’s portfolio at around 50%. The State is left to determine how to reach the federal goal of 30% reduction in carbon pollution from power generation by 2030.
Redevelopment of riverfront MichCon site in Ann Arbor in the works A 14-acre riverfront environmental cleanup site in Ann Arbor may have a developer to lead the redevelopment as soon as this fall. Mixed-use development is proposed for the site including public access to the river and greenspace. HRWC has been an advocate for the cleanup and smart redevelopment of the property which could help connect downtown and the river.
The vanishing of Schoolgirls’ Glen Read a historical account of a special spot on the watershed map – Schoolgirls’ Glen. The Glen has a unique history. Now part of the UM Nichols Arboretum, it has been damaged by the encroachment of development and poor stormwater management. Efforts are currently underway to help restore this place which is home to a diversity of plant and bird species.
Popular Science – Water Issue 2014 And if you really like to get your feet wet in water issues and news, this month’s Popular Science magazine is designated entirely to the topic of water. The What’s in Your Drinking Water infographic is a particularly interesting look at the problem of pharmaceuticals in our water. There is also a good Q&A on the water/energy nexus, a concept we explore here at HRWC in our Saving Water Saves Energy project. There is also a compelling piece on water conservation and conflict, among others.
And that is the news to us.
There is still room available on our next paddle trip; don’t miss an opportunity to experience the quiet waters of the Huron River with expert paddlers Ron Sell, Barry Lonik, and the HRWC staff. Our summer solstice paddle includes discussion regarding the river’s water ecology, history, and unique features. Shuttle transportation is provided. Bring your own watercraft, gear, food, drinking water and appropriate clothing for the weather. Every paddler must wear a flotation device – bring your own!
For a Paddler’s Safety Checklist click HERE.
- Saturday, June 21
Summer Solstice Paddle
Island Park to Peninsular Dam*
*Exact location of each put-in will be sent to participants upon registration.
Registration is required and available HERE.
More information and how to register for all of our summer recreation events HERE.
The Thomas-Rupley family and the Benjamin Linder Co-op in Ann Arbor save water, energy and money, reduce their CO2 emissions and earn free water from HRWC.
Both entered the HRWC Saving Water Saves Energy Project’s “Pledge, Save, Win” Contest in March. Both will get their first quarter water bill paid (up to $250) for their efforts.
The Co-op’s savings, estimated at 100 gallons per day, were led by Emma Kelly, the group’s sustainability steward. Emma helped her housemates save water by installing 5-minute shower timers and providing grey water collection buckets in each shower. Residents re-use the grey water to flush toilets. Emma also focused housemates on saving at the washing machines — advising them to wash only full loads on cold water cycles.
The Thomas-Rupley family, estimated savings 31.5 gallons per day, has been living a water-saving lifestyle for some time. They made their own rain barrel for watering their garden, retrofitted their toilet to make it dual-flush and installed a low flow shower head. They also use left over drinking water for houseplants, and catch excess cold water from the kitchen faucet for use in their washing machine. The Thomas-Rupleys also wash only full loads in their clothes washer.
Entries were judged for the amount of water saved, the savings techniques and for creativity in showing and telling how savings were achieved. Extra points were awarded for saving energy-intense hot water and full participation of the entire household!
Congratulations to the Thomas-Rupleys and the residents of the Benjamin Linder Co-op! Save on!
The adventure comes to a close!
Are you interested in being a creekwalker? You can recruit your family and friends to join you on your team or ask HRWC to assign you to a team. The training is on June 10, 6:30- 8 pm. Check out this webpage and email Jason at email@example.com to volunteer.
Guest Author: Mark Schaller
It all comes down to this, the final visit. This time, I arrived early so I could set some crayfish and minnow traps. I had seen fish on earlier visits but could never get a good look at any of them. The deepest part of the stream was where I placed the thermometer so I figured that would be a good site for a trap. I also placed a crayfish trap further upstream in a rocky area hoping to catch some more crayfish and get a good positive ID. Everything was set!
As I walked back to my Jeep, Erin was heading down the trail. After our “Hello’s” we headed back to the parking lot to get the rest of the gear. We picked up the paperwork, meter, measuring stick and my camera and headed back to the stream. Our starting point was where I placed my crayfish trap and we had 6 crayfish already in the trap. As I started to pull them out for pictures I found that 3 of them were the invasive Rusty. The other 3 were northern crayfish. They were a lot bigger than the Rusty’s so I’m hoping they are holding their own against them. Too bad; after our last trip I thought that there weren’t any Rusty’s in here.
We then started by taking the water temperature and conductivity readings. When we reached the halfway point I handed the GPS and water conductivity meter over to Erin. She wanted to see how the meter worked and I needed to get some pictures of her as well. She took about 4 more readings and then next thing we knew we were at the end of our sample area. All that was left now was for Erin to compile all the data and for me to turn it in with all the equipment. Mission Accomplished!
I have to say the creekwalking experience was a lot of fun. Walking up and down Wood Creek brought back a lot of fond memories of myself as a kid exploring all the creeks and streams of my youth.
Our big thanks go to Mark and Erin, and all our other creekwalking volunteers, from this past summer!