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!
- Kensington MetroPark. Photo: ellenm1
HRWC is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year!
Tell us your favorite watershed spot HERE.
Appreciate the River, Sunday July 12, by joining HRWC for some fun or heading to YOUR favorite spot with friends.
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 theExecutive 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
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.
DNR Guide to Backyard Wildlife Management
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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).”