Want to Get Outdoors and Help the Huron River?
Another in an irregular blog series about climate change
Don’t let our chilly winter and (so far) spring this year fool you — this was the warmest yet year on record globally, with 14 of the 15 warmest years on record occurring since 1900. In Alaska, organizers had to move the Iditarod sled race 300 miles north to find snow.
But despite concerted effort to deny the problem away by many of our politicians and decision makers, we are seeing a positive trend in climate awareness and alternative energy markets and technology that are turning even former vice president (and climate change icon) Al Gore into somewhat of an optimist, according to a recent New York Times article. The article lists the soaring investment in wind and solar power, the steep reduction in prices for installing alternative energies for homes, and a recent agreement with China on reducing greenhouse gas emissions as reasons to hope that we can indeed curb the worst effects of climate change.
In addition, recent polls have shown overwhelming support for changing national policies to address climate change.
So, take heart, there is still time to Save the Planet!
Ever wonder how best to protect the river and its watershed?
We think about this everyday here at HRWC.
One of the best ways to is to encourage location and design of neighborhoods and businesses to keep excess runoff and pollution out of the river. Each local government (cities, villages, and townships) in the watershed is responsible for reviewing land use development and designs within their own boundaries. That means one of the best ways to help the Huron is to ensure each local government has policies in place that allow residential and commercial development in a way that allows the river and its ecosystems to continue to function.
HRWC has two tools that can help citizens in any of the 63 different local governments in the watershed get involved in their city, village or township planning commission, board, or council.
- The Citizen’s Guide to Land Use Planning (click on link. the Citizens Guide is halfway down the page), takes readers step-by-step through the land use planning process and its importance to water quality.
- As part of a new project, Green Infrastructure Services for Local Governments, funded by the Americana Foundation, HRWC has created two checklists; one for elements recommended in a local government’s Zoning Ordinance, and another for elements recommended for their Master Plan. See how many recommended elements are in your local government’s ordinance and master plan.
HRWC is currently using the checklist in partnership with Webster Township as part of their master plan revision process. HRWC plans to be working with at least two more local governments in the next year as part of this project.
The Michigan DNR is looking for public input on their Nongame Wildlife Fund. The fund is used to fund the DNR’s efforts to identify, protect, manage and restore Michigan’s biological diversity. It is an important way the DNR can fund projects that help wildlife that do not benefit directly from management of game populations such as deer, trout, or pheasant; management for these species receives direct funding from hunting and fishing licenses.
Participate in the survey and let the DNR know that nongame wildlife are important to your enjoyment of Pure Michigan.
First of all, PLEASE VOTE! So many issues in Lansing and Washington, D.C. affect our watershed. Every person who can vote and who has any concern for the environment and the Huron River should take the time on November 4th to go to your precinct and vote.
Michigan House, Senate, and Governor
Half of the State House and Senate districts in our watershed are in play this election season. These representatives and senators will make important decisions about water quality and the environment in the coming years. The Governor plays a pivotal role in not only producing and signing legislation, but in implementing state laws. Here are some issues you will want your candidates to address:
- Energy – climate change is one of the biggest threats to watershed health, and we need legislation that supports renewable energy and encourages energy conservation. Vote for candidates who support energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
- Biodiversity – the state legislature has been acting to limit the Department of Natural Resources’s ability to manage for and promote biodiversity in State parks. Find out which of your candidates supports Michigan ecosystems.
- Hydraulic fracturing – commonly referred to as “fracking,” this practice is increasingly utilized to obtain natural gas from deep beneath Michigan lands. No statute exists that requires the contents and volume of potentially hazardous chemicals used in fracking to be publicly disclosed. Additionally, no statute exists that requires oil and gas drilling to use Michigan’s water withdrawal reporting requirements. Find out how your candidate stands on requiring full disclosure of fracking chemicals and measures to ensure fracking will not result in depletion of Michigan’s most precious resource – our water.
- The Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality have suffered severe budget cuts in the past, leaving them both understaffed and underfunded, thus compromising the departments’ abilities to adequately protect our natural resources, communities, Great Lakes, and recreation areas. Vote for candidates who strongly supports funding these agencies.
U.S. House and Senate
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads (yuk) for the race to replace Senator Carl Levin, who is retiring. In addition to that race, all 6 House seats in the watershed are in play this year.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two major measures this year that will require legislative support for successful implementation:
- Waters of the U.S. As HRWC’s blog from last week details, the EPA is proposing rules to clarify which tributaries and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The rules would restore protections to 60% of the nation’s waterways.
- Climate Change. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan proposal would cut carbon emissions by power plants 30% by 2030. This proposal is the United States’s biggest effort so far to limit greenhouse gases.
Ask your House and Senate candidates if they support these two initiatives.
Some environmental groups do endorse candidates and provide more guidance on elections, such as Michigan League of Conservation Voters and The Sierra Club. Also, this issue of Earth Island Journal provides a roundup of electoral races nationally.
More information about U.S. and State Districts and Candidates
Your congressional districts (including a map) and current representatives
To find your state house district
Last week, nearly 500,000 people lost access to clean water for drinking and bathing due to a toxic algae bloom that occurred around the City of Toledo’s drinking water intake. The bloom was likely caused by excessive amounts of phosphorus (and perhaps other nutrients) in the Western Lake Erie Basin.
Although the immediate crisis in the city of Toledo has passed, the threat to drinking water supplies in Toledo and other Lake Erie communities has not. Lake Erie supplies water for 11 million people who live near the lake.
Watershed councils and environmental groups, including HRWC, have been working for years to reduce nutrients, like phosphorus, in our watersheds. It is these nutrients – from agricultural practices, lawn fertilizers, wastewater treatment plants, and polluted runoff from pavement – that are a chief cause of the algae blooms. The changing climate and alterations in invasive mussel populations also contribute to the algae blooms. On top of it all, our lakes also suffer from the cycling of nutrients deposited in the lake from years past.
Here in the Huron River watershed, HRWC and municipalities along the river have made major investments to reduce our nutrient inputs such as stronger soil erosion controls, phosphorus and buffer ordinances, streambank restoration, and wetlands and natural area protection and construction to hold and infiltrate water. As a result phosphorus levels in the middle section of the watershed entering Ford Lake have been reduced substantially. While the lakes still have occasional algae blooms, the length and size has been reduced.
Overall, the phosphorus load contributed by the Huron River watershed to Lake Erie pales in comparison to the massive load from the heavily agricultural Maumee River watershed. In response to this heavy agricultural input, the International Joint Commission has called for better nutrient management and soil erosion controls by agriculture including a ban on winter manure application. They also recommend continued reduction of urban sources and wetland restoration. Last week, a New York Times editorial called for similar action.
Nutrient pollution is a clear danger not only to drinking water, but to efforts to develop a “blue economy” for the Great Lakes, including HRWC’s RiverUp program to promote the river as a recreational, economic, and cultural resource. This new economic future cannot stand with national headlines declaring Great Lakes water unsafe to drink.
Until we stop polluting our lakes and rivers, our economy, drinking water and way of life are in jeopardy. To learn more about what you can do to reduce your impact on the Huron River Watershed and Lake Erie downstream, take a look at our tips on how to become an H2O Hero and how to be a responsible shoreline property owner.
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).”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the third of four reports that make up it’s Fifth Assessment Report on climate change, and the news is predictably dire, but includes a surprising ray of hope.
As the New York Times reported on March 31, the first two reports address the science and impacts of climate change. Their conclusions include that the ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct.
These impacts will likely cause starvation, increases in poverty, and violent conflicts over water and food resources throughout the world. HRWC’s special issue on Climate Change describes probable impacts on our own Huron River watershed. These impacts include shifts in fish and other species that live in the watershed, increased intensity of storms, and snowfall decreases.
The third report (as reported in the New York Times) gives the world 15 years to significantly reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases and switch to alternative sources of energy. If reductions do not occur by then, it will be nearly impossible to stabilize the climate.
The reports do provide a ray of hope. The world is becoming more aware of the problem, and many governments and businesses are beginning to devise plans to adapt to coming changes. HRWC is working with communities, utilities, and scientists here in the watershed to develop strategies to increase our resilience to climate change.
But adapting to the changing climate will become nearly impossible if we don’t act to stem the continuing tide of greenhouse gas emissions.
What can you do?
Check out HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy page to find tips for your own energy and water use.
Encourage your state and federal Representatives and Senators to support climate change legislation, be it by requiring emission limits on power plants and cars, setting a price on carbon and other emissions to allow the free market to reduce climate change, or providing incentives for alternative energies.
And be sure to vote whenever you can, for candidates who acknowledge climate change and pledge to for climate change reduction policies!
The 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.
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
After 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:
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 email@example.com or 734.794.6430 x