On the chopping block: clean water

***  UPDATE: On August 16, 2017, the EPA and the Army extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in. *** The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. ***

While we are working to clean up the Huron River system for a good quality of life, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working to roll back the Clean Water Act. The current administration is rushing through a repeal of the Clean Water Rule and we have only until September 27th during public comment to try and stop it. It’s critical for your voice to be heard in D.C.

The proposal has been published in the federal register.

You can help by submitting a request to stop the repeal of this important rule on or before Wednesday, Sept. 27, 11:59pm EST.hrwc-clean-water-rule-wetlands

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

Background:

What is the Clean Water Rule? In 2015, the previous administration clarified and finalized protections for streams and wetlands across the country. These safeguards protected the small streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 1 in 3 Americans. They protected wetlands throughout the nation that filter pollutants from water, absorb floodwaters, and provide habitat for countless wildlife. In fact, industry and other permittees asked for this clarification as an end to regulatory confusion about which of the country’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. The rule was supported by millions of Americans.

The Clean Water Rule followed a robust public process. Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, EPA held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and published a synthesis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which showed that the small streams and wetlands the Rule safeguards are vital to larger downstream waters.

What is this administration proposing? Administrator Pruitt does not want to implement the Clean Water Rule. Instead, he plans to rush through the repeal of the Clean Water Rule this year, then propose and finalize a less protective rule in less than a year. President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing the EPA to propose a new rule based on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s opinion of which waterways the Clean Water Act protects. A rule following Scalia’s interpretation would result in drastic exclusions of wetlands and streams from protection; fewer than half of wetlands and fewer than 40 percent of streams would receive federal protection. If that scenario comes to pass, then the nation’s waters will be less protected than they were in 1975!

Who is opposing the Clean Water Rule? Lobbyists for oil and gas producers, homebuilders, and farm bureaus.

What’s at stake? Our right to clean drinking water is in jeopardy. Rolling back hrwc-clean-water-rule-at-riskthe rule will result in the same regulatory confusion that resulted in broad-based calls for clarity about which of our nation’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Rolling back the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.

Michigan’s rivers play a key role in economic and community building. Here in the Huron River watershed, we know the value of a healthy river system that includes healthy wetlands and smaller feeder streams. The river and water trail are conservatively estimated to have the following economic impact:

  • $53.5 million in annual economic output (direct, indirect, and induced spending)
  • $628 million in added property value
  • $150 million in annual environmental value (such as clean drinking water, wetlands and floodplains that prevent flooding, and forested riverbanks that foster rich fisheries and healthy streams)

Please speak up – send a message to the EPA today. Tell Administrator Pruitt: Hands off our water. We’ve provided a sample public comment letter. We encourage you to add your own description of the value of clean water.

Postscript: Republicans, meanwhile, are targeting the rule on a second front. A section of the Defense Department spending bill (page 277, line 12) allows the administration to revoke the rule with no strings attached — strings being requirements for public consultation.

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

 



An Inconvenient Sequel

Join HRWC at the Michigan Theater, August 3rd or 5th

FOR An Inconvenient Sequel, part two to the Academy Award-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that opened our nation’s eyes to the climate change problem a decade ago.

Thursday, August 3, 7pm
Saturday, August 5, 4:30 and 7pm
Michigan Theater, 603 East Liberty Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ticket prices:  $10 for general public and $7.50 for Michigan Theater members, $8 for students/seniors/veterans

Get TICKETS from the Michigan Theater.

Come for a post screening talk There’s Still Time: Climate Change Solutions, August 7th

Monday, August 7
6pm – 8pmClimate Reality Project
NEW Center, 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Free and open to the public
Please REGISTER for the talk by emailing kolsson@hrwc.org.

Join HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist Kris Olsson and Watershed Planner Rebecca Esselman for a presentation on potential climate change impacts and threats as well as hopeful and exciting trends in clean energy and community activism. Learn how a changing climate will affect the Huron River and how HRWC is working to help our watershed communities become more climate resilient.

This past March Kris traveled to Denver Colorado for “Climate Reality Leader Training” and joined the thousands of volunteers in 135 countries who have been personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore to educate the public about climate change. “I learned that while the scale of the problem is monumental, the opportunities to fix the problem are tremendous, with renewable energy costs plummeting and capacity skyrocketing. U.S. states and cities and many countries are already turning to solar, wind, and energy conservation at record rates.”



News to Us

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Children learning about aquatic insects at Huron River Day, 2017.

Updates on local efforts by HRWC are highlighted in this News to Us with articles on the Gelman dioxane contamination, Putnam Township green infrastructure planning and Huron River Day. Also learn how the EPA is changing under Chief Pruitt and a forecast for Lake Erie as algal bloom season draws near.

Court of Appeals rejects polluter’s request in Gelman plume case  The Huron River Watershed Council will continue to have a seat at the table for negotiations around the dioxane contamination of groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township. An appeal by Gelman Sciences, Inc. was rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals allowing HRWC, the City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township and Washtenaw County to be involved in clean up negotiations with the State and Gelman.

Putnam Township Looks To Establish “Green Infrastructure”  Putnam Township is the latest community to be working with HRWC to plan for development and the protection of valuable natural resources at the same time.  Learn more about HRWC’s Green Infrastructure Planning program here.

37th annual Huron River Day brings thousands to the water  Enjoy a fun gallery of photographs of people enjoying the river on Huron River Day earlier this month.  This annual event brings many to the river, providing an opportunity to teach people about the Huron and how to care for it.

Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start  So much of what HRWC is able to accomplish is supported by the work of the EPA.  The Clean Water Act and associated funding streams help determine standards for water quality and provide money for projects to clean up impaired waters. This article summarizes the ways that EPA Chief Pruitt is undermining all this country has worked for to provide clean and safe air, water and land. The implications are far reaching and potentially devastating.

Forecasters: Lake Erie algae bloom shaping up as big and possibly harmful  Algal bloom season is upon us and predictions don’t look good for Lake Erie. The Huron River’s receiving waters, are expected to experience an algal bloom that rivals those that occurred in 2011 and 2015 which were the two largest blooms since the 1990’s.



2017 Water Quality Monitoring Season Marks Halfway Point

Volunteers Jacinda Bowman, Daniel Tanner, Ron Fadoir, and Charlotte Weinstein at Silver Creek having fun and taking flow measurements.

Volunteers Jacinda Bowman, Daniel Tanner, Ron Fadoir, and Charlotte Weinstein at Silver Creek in Wayne County having fun and taking flow measurements.

In March, HRWC’s Water Quality Monitoring Program began the season with a volunteer orientation where we introduced what we do and gave an overview of the goals we hope to achieve. 50 enthusiastic individuals had field training just a few weeks later, and have been going out every two weeks to our 39 monitoring sites throughout Livingston, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties. At these site visits, volunteers grab water samples for chemistry analysis by a laboratory, gather field data such as dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and temperature, and also take flow measurements.

Another 18 volunteers attended our mid-season orientation in June. These new volunteers are joining the current team to help finish out the remainder of the monitoring season, which ends on September 28.

Pat Rodgers and Peg White gather field data at Woodruff Creek in Livingston County.

Volunteers Pat Rodgers and Peg White gather field data at Woodruff Creek in Livingston County.

Thanks to all of our Water Quality Monitoring Program volunteers for their help in gathering important watershed data, and to the leaders in the program who assist in training and overseeing the data collection in the field. We could not do it without you! We are at the halfway point!

For more information about the Water Quality Monitoring Program, click here.



Warning! “Oak wilt” is striking Michigan Forests!

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MUS Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Bark infected with oak wilt. Photo: Bill Cook, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

In your travels throughout Michigan this summer, you may see a disturbing sight – areas clear cut of trees. These areas have been hit with oak wilt, a fungus that can kill oak trees in under 4 weeks. To prevent it from spreading, property owners and managers must cut down and remove the tree, in addition to digging out at least 5 feet into the ground to destroy the fungus. It starves the tree to death by preventing it from absorbing water. Sap-feeding beetles spread the fungus by feeding on infected trees. Once one oak is infected, all other oak trees in the area are in danger. If oak wilt isn’t stopped, it could possibly kill almost all the red oaks in the state.

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

Oak wilt-infected leaves. Photo: Rebecca Finneran, MSU Extension. Source Legacy Land Conservancy

As oaks are a dominant tree species in most of Michigan forests, this would be devastating to our forests as well as our watersheds, as our rivers will lose the forest buffers that keep them healthy.

Already, locally, trees in Legacy Land Conservancy’s Reichert Nature Preserve in Hamburg Township have contracted the fungus.

What you can do:

  • Do not cut any kind of oak trees from April 15th to July 15th.
  • There is a ban on cutting oak trees for firewood during this time
  • Use and buy firewood locally – get it from the vicinity where you will be using it.
  • For more information, see Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Now Newsletter and Legacy Land Conservancy’s Winter 2017 Newsletter
  • Report suspect infestations to DNR-FRD-Forest-Health@michigan.gov; 517-284-5895


Fishing with a Little Help from our Friends AC/DC

A smallmouth bass with bright markings.

A smallmouth bass with bright markings.

When scientists want to sample a fish population, they don’t rely on a rod and bait. Under certain circumstances they will use nets, and often in streams and rivers they will use electrofishing. HRWC got the chance to do a little electrofishing this past week.

To electrofish in a shallow river, a gasoline generator is put into a light boat. The generator is hooked to two long poles, called booms, that are placed into the water and create an electric field between themselves and the bottom of the boat.  The electric field does not kill fish but temporarily stuns those that get within a few feet of the booms.  While stunned, workers with nets scoop up the fish and put them in tubs filled with water. The fish are then identified and sorted, and eventually released back to the river safe and sound.

Last Wednesday, several HRWC staff went out with our partners from Environmental Consulting Technology (ECT) to sample the Huron River along Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.  We saw plenty of fish in this stretch, including several big smallmouth bass and one big walleye.  While we still need to officially work up the results, our initial observations were that the fish are indeed using the cover and deep water habitat that HRWC  installed two years ago, and the fish were bigger and more numerous than when we electrofished the same reach before the habitat was installed.

We will report back when the final results are in. Until then, enjoy some fish pictures!

pulling a eletrofishing barge at River side Park, Ypsi

ECT staff pull an eletrofishing barge at Riverside Park, Ypsilanti

watch for those teeth!

We caught a walleye at Riverside Park. Watch out for those teeth!

The fish are measured before we let them go.

The fish are measured before we let them go.



News to Us

img_3227The power of local zoning for river protection, how a changing climate affects Huron River flows, Earth Overshoot Day, 2017 and updates on two Michigan pipelines in this edition of News to Us.

Does zoning matter? It does to Michigan’s natural rivers. Like the Huron River, the Flat River is another designated Natural River in Michigan. Learn about the importance of local zoning and ordinances to river protection. Many of the approaches highlighted in this article are those we encourage in Huron River communities. We have lot of power at the local level to protect natural resources.

High Water: Climate change hits home. This article discusses how patterns in rainfall are changing in the Huron River watershed and how that can impact the river system. Learn more in HRWC’s short film.

We Will Soon Be Using More Than The Earth Can Provide.  Every year the Global Footprint Network computes Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day each year that people have used as much of the planet’s resources (water, fertile soils, forest, fish, etc.) that it can regenerate in a year. After that we are borrowing from the future. August 2nd will mark Earth Overshoot day for 2017.  The article innumerates four critical priorities that if acted upon would bring us very close to being in balance with what our planet can provide.

There are two pipelines in different phases of development that are set to run through the Huron River watershed. The Rover Pipeline runs through western Washtenaw County crossing the Huron at Portage Creek and runs near many of that areas lakes. The Nexus pipeline affects Wayne County residents and is currently slated to cross the Huron at Belleville Lake. Here are a couple of the latest news headlines on these pipelines.

Silver Lake Residents File Motion
Opponents of NEXUS Pipeline set town hall meeting

 



New Way to Stash Your Boat on the Huron River

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (2017)

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (June 2017)

A unique amenity for users of the Huron River National Water Trail (HRWT) has arrived! Canoe and kayak lockers that secure personal boats, paddles, and life jackets at Bandemer Park.

This prototype, designed and manufactured in Ann Arbor, can accommodate a majority of canoe and kayak sizes as well as stand-up paddleboards. The lockers have six compartments that can fit up to two boats each depending on boat sizes. Each locker is modular so more lockers can be added as demand grows.

By giving paddlers a chance to secure their boats, the lockers offer recreationists entré to the shops and restaurants in the HRWT’s Trail Towns. Ann Arbor, which is one of the Trail Towns, was called a “(Next) Best Paddling Town” by Canoe & Kayak Magazine so it seems fitting that it is the first one to offer this key amenity.

The City of Ann Arbor accepted the lockers as a donation from the Huron River Watershed Council, and its Parks & Recreation Department will manage the lockers beginning this season. The lockers provide a convenient option for residents looking to enjoy paddlesports on the Huron River.

Creating the Lockers
Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, paddleboards, or canoes

Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards.

In 2014, I approached Jen Maigret of the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to see if her studio would design canoe and kayak lockers. We had to charter new territory in the field of paddlesport recreation to offer the Trail Towns functional lockers with a design aesthetic appropriate to prized waterfront public spaces.

Jen and her design partner Maria Arquero de Alarcon were a perfect fit for this project because they had already shaped their design studio –MAde Studio – to explore new ways of connecting people with water through design. They enthusiastically took up the challenge. Then followed many months (years, really) of meeting with local parks and recreation professionals, paddlesport aficionados, and fabricators to find a practical, yet appealing design worthy of a riverfront view.

Jen describes their process: “We approached the design of the lockers with two goals in mind. First, the lockers should contribute to a “regional” identity for the Huron River watershed and the significant designation as a National Water Trail. Second, the lockers should also allow for a unique expression of each of the 5 water trail towns to enhance the sense of place in each location.”

Hosford & Co. fabricated the lockers at its location just a few steps away from the Huron River. In May, their crew delivered the first lockers to Ann Arbor’s Bandemer Park.boat-locker-signage

As a Trail Town on the 104-mile Huron River National Water Trail, the City of Ann Arbor offers scenic riverside parks, exciting cascades and placid stillwater trips for trail users. The new lockers are a key amenity that offer safe and sturdy storage for residents with their own boats looking for on-the-water access. HRWC, through the private-public partnership called RiverUp!, is pleased to donate the prototype storage solution for the HRWT Trail Towns with a vision of more lockers from Milford to Dexter, and Ypsilanti to Flat Rock. These other lockers may operate with a different rental option by providing hourly and daily storage options. Plans are currently underway with the other Trail Towns to host and maintain the lockers.bandameer

Would you like to see lockers in more places on the Huron River? Contributions to HRWC’s RiverUp! initiative are needed to provide day-use lockers in other riverfront communities.



Standing Strong for Clean Water

In the last 5 months HRWC has been regularly expressing our concern on changes to federal policy, legislation, and the budget.  I want to share with you a few of these letters and comments and assure you that HRWC is there to face new challenges coming while continuing our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

hrwc20The Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) composed a letter defending the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which, under the President’s budget, would be cut completely.  HRWC signed on to this letter that stated, “The potential wide-ranging budget cuts impact many agencies that are critical to the success of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as those that ensure people throughout the country have access to safe air and clean drinking water. Millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country—including many communities which have borne the brunt of racial, environmental and economic injustice—will pay a steep price if Congress does not reject the proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and agencies like U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.”

HOW Coalition’s letter pushing back against the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts and in support of funding Great Lakes programs attracted a record 152 groups that signed on to the letter that sent a strong message to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund these important programs.

In response to President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts, HRWC signed on to 3 letters and participated in a national video.

One letter outlined HRWC’s objections to this proposed regulatory reform.  “We object to the false premise that public safeguards are holding back our nation.  In reality, environmental protections have saved lives, improved health, conserved resources and spurred innovation, all while allowing for economic growth and providing far more in benefits that they cost”.  In addition, HRWC signed on to a regional Great Lakes letter that outlined environmental and economic reasons for environmental protections in the Great Lakes region and highlights the importance of policies like the Clean Water Act in protecting vulnerable communities.

I was also interviewed for a video compiled by the Clean Water Network and the River Network that includes leading river protection groups talking about the importance of federal legislation on regional clean water efforts.  This video was compiled at National River Rally in May in Grand Rapids,  a conference for over 600 river and water champions.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency led the charge on another very important program facing budget cuts.  EPA’s highly successful WaterSense® program is a voluntary public-private partnership that has saved American consumers more than $33 billion (in 2015 dollars) on their water and energy bills over the past decade. WaterSense is a voluntary program, not a regulatory one, and it costs less than $2 million dollars a year to administer. It is universally supported by consumers, manufacturers and the public and private agencies charged with supplying water to American households and businesses. Since its inception in 2006, it has been immensely successful at achieving its goal of reducing water consumption. An estimated 1.5 trillion gallons have been saved using WaterSense-labeled products.

While of lesser significance to HRWC, we also signed on to letter opposing efforts to repeal or undermine protections for national parks and monuments spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Finally, HRWC has been providing stories of our success with federal funding, legislation, and policies to national groups, policy makers, and legislators.  These on the ground examples are being used to illustrate the importance of federal grants and programs and to provide concrete water quality improvement stories.

HRWC is lending its voice and success stories to the national dialogue on federal environmental policies, budgets, and legislation.  We believe this is an example of how to Stand Strong for Clean Water.



Moving the needle on climate adaptation

naf-mississippiriver-panelAfter four days with climate change adaptation professionals from throughout the U.S. it was clear that efforts to prepare both people and ecosystems for the impacts of increasingly altered climate systems have only amplified as the Federal Administration tries to cast doubt and roll back progress. This is heartening at a time in our society where good news is harder to come by.

Over 1000 people convened in May at the third National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minnesota on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Over the 6 years this biennial conference has occurred, I have watched the field of climate adaptation advance at a lightning pace. Cities are upgrading stormwater systems to handle more rain. Coastal towns are utilizing natural shorelines to protect people from rising sea levels. Natural resource managers are considering a new paradigm—transforming ecosystems rather than restoring them. Front line communities are demanding environmental and climate justice and bringing innovative community-based solutions to the task at hand.

I wanafpresentations proud to represent HRWC and the progress we have made to prepare both the river and our towns for a changing climate. I presented our Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change work (that you can learn about in this short film) along with a stellar group of organizations finding climate solutions that benefit both nature and people. Our work was featured in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released during the conference.  And we were honored as a finalist for our Climate Resilient Communities work by the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.

HRWC has the history, relationships, knowledge and trust necessary to help Huron River communities become more prepared. Organizations like HRWC all over the planet are moving the needle on adaptation.  But we need your help. Preparation will only help to a degree. What we need is to rapidly and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for our warming planet.

Here are two immediate opportunities. If you live in Washtenaw County, come to our Solar Power Hour June 6th to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar and get access to discounts. And, no matter where you reside, consider joining HRWC and the Michigan Climate Action Network to help elevate this important issue in our state. It will take all of us.

 




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