The latest edition of our biweekly news round up provides an update on Great Lakes water levels, highlights a major road construction project in the watershed and shares how Ann Arbor is planning to implement its Climate Action Plan. Read about potential riverside developments in two of the Huron River Water Trail Trail Towns. Also, how often do you play tourist in your own state? Take a fun survey to see how many sites you have seen in the Mighty Mitt.
Issues of the Environment: Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan A recent broadcast of WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interviews Ann Arbor’s, Environment Coordinator, Matt Naud. The interview discusses the City’s Climate Action Plan and the push to implement strategies identified in the plan that will help reduce carbon emissions and prepare the city and its residents for anticipated changes to the local climate.
Great Lakes water levels recover from near-record lows Water levels in the Great Lakes is an issue many Michiganders are paying attention to. Much has been debated about the cause(s) of record low levels in the Great Lakes and what can be expected over time pertaining to lake levels. Here is the latest update that brings some welcome news on the issue.
Environmental group raises concerns about US-23 project north of Ann Arbor A newly proposed highway project in our watershed is getting some attention from environmental groups wanting to make sure improvements appropriately address potential impacts. A public meeting is scheduled for December 12, 2013 for those interested in learning more or providing input.
Milford’s AMP in Central Park Nears Fundraising Goal Community members in Milford have joined forces to raise funds for improvements to its Central Park along the Huron River. The group is nearing its fundraising goals that will bring an outdoor amphitheater and barrier-free public restroom facilities to the park. Milford is a Trail Town on the Huron River Water Trail. Read more about the value of riverside amenities and municipal spaces at RiverUp!
Waterfront development with restaurants, a boardwalk and upscale apartments proposed for Ford Lake Ford Lake, a reservoir of the Huron River, is the location of another proposed riverside development. The concept plans shows potential amenities such as dining and retail along the water, as well as housing, recreation trails, and a disc golf course. Improving walkability and access to the lake on the north shore of the lake could be assets to Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti, a Trail Town of the Huron River Water Trail.
Michigan Tourist Attractions And for a little fun, how good of a local tourist are you? Take a look at these Michigan attractions. How many have you visited? Tell us! What tops your list of must-sees?
Lots of activity in the policy sphere in this edition of News to Us. EPA threatens to reclaim control over wetland regulations in Michigan, Hamburg Township considers a watercraft-control ordinance and a lovely little butterfly seeks endangered status to protect remaining populations. Also read about a new aquatic plant invading lakes and how several Great Lakes cities are adapting to climate change.
EPA hearing will give public a voice in whether Michigan should retain regulation of wetlands On December 11th, Michigan residents will be able to provide comment during a public hearing on whether or not the EPA should revoke Michigan’s authority to administer wetland regulations under the Clean Water Act. Michigan’s administration of the regulations have been under scrutiny as inconsistent with Section 404 of the Act and less protective of wetlands.
Officials take aim at lake revelry Conflict over public uses of Baseline Lake have Hamburg Township officials considering options. Residents around the lake are complaining of loud and inappropriate behavior on the public lake. On November 19th there will be a public hearing on the issue and the potential for a local watercraft-control ordinance.
Cities adapting to changing climate, but more changes coming The work of HRWC partner, the Graham Sustainability Institute, was highlighted in a story on how cities are adapting to a changing climate. Ann Arbor is one of several cities in the Great Lakes that are part of the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities program helping support cities considering how to adapt to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.
Michigan cracks down on frogbit crowding out state lakes A new non-native aquatic plant is invading lakes and other slow moving waters in southeast Michigan. Several confirmed reports have the species taking hold in areas of the lower Huron River watershed near the outlet to Lake Erie. The Michigan DNR is looking for citizen help to identify new locations of this nuisance weed. The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network has information on the species and how to report sightings.
STATE: U.S. considers endangered classification for butterfly found prominently in Michigan One of our watershed residents the Poweshiek skipperling, has seen dramatic population declines in recent years. This little butterfly lives in the remaining prairie fens in the watershed with known occurrences in Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties. If classified as endangered a recovery plan for the species will be developed.
This edition of News to Us provides updates on a couple of emerging threats to Michigan’s water – Asian carp and fracking. Also, learn where Osprey go to escape the winter and how water can be the basis of a strong and growing economy.
Osprey from Michigan refuge arrives in Cuba You may recall, back in September, we shared some news about our local Osprey getting a new accessory (Osprey to wear backpacks in Southeast Michigan). Well, it seems our friends have traveled long and far. Read this article to find out where for local Osprey are wintering this year.
Michigan DEQ proposes new fracking regulations in light of environmental, health concerns In response to growing public concern, MDEQ has updated regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. The new regulations require more reporting and closer monitoring of high volume fracking operations. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still room for improvement to ensure our waters are protected from depletion or contamination from fracking.
Water, water everywhere in Michigan – but is it enough? While water in Michigan hardly seems scare, this article highlights why we should not take this for granted and how even in a state with abundant water resources, we can experience scarcity.
Asian carp reproduce in Great Lakes watershed Scientists have found evidence that the non-native Asian Carp has reproduced in the Sandusky River in Ohio. While individual carp have been found in the Great Lakes watershed in the past, this is the first time it can be confirmed that they are here and reproducing.
Great Lakes state playing catch-up in effort to build water-based economy You may have, by now, heard the term “Blue economy”. It is the idea that water and all of its uses can form the basis of a burgeoning economy. While there are many examples in Michigan of communities making strides toward a robust blue economy, one study shows Michigan is lagging behind other Great Lakes states in this area. RiverUp! is an example here in the Huron River watershed of building a water-based economy.
Recently, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their Fifth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis; the first since 2007. The report chronicles the state of the science on climate change. The impressive work is the collaborative product of hundreds of scientists from nearly 200 countries drawing on thousands of research studies. It is the authoritative source on the subject. And unfortunately much has changed since the 2007 report and not for the better.
Overall, the report shows increased certainty pertaining to those trends you hear the most about. Surface and ocean temperatures are warming, sea level is rising, ice sheets are melting, weather is becoming more extreme and scientists are more confident than ever that humans are the cause of this warming and the resultant impacts (95% certainty, up from 90% in the 2007 report). This is primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels. Weighing in at 166 MB of facts, figures, probabilities and citations, the full report is not for everyone. However, if you are interested in the main messages, there is a Summary for Policymakers, that at 36 pages with highlighted key points, is much more digestible.
The hardest hitting statement for me as I was reviewing the report is that “Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped”. With no meaningful effort to curb the release of CO2 into our atmosphere on the global table, it is certain that at the local level, we will need to respond to changes. It drove home the importance of the work of HRWC and the communities of the Huron River watershed toward achieving climate resiliency. Climate resiliency is the ability of communities, both built and natural, to (pun intended) weather the storm. When rain events dump more water in shorter periods of time, when summer droughts and heat waves become more common, when shifts in seasonal patterns challenge the balance of nature (e.g. flowering of fruit trees ahead of potential for frost events or arrival of pollinators), will we have the systems in place to minimize the impact?
The river can be our friend or our enemy as climate changes. The river and our watershed have an amazing capacity to absorb and slow the energy of flowing water. Given natural areas to allow water to reach the soil and undeveloped floodplains to contain high water, the river can protect us from flooding. On the other hand, adding more pavement and building in the floodplain can exacerbate the damage a storm can cause. By making smart choices now, we build in protections for what may come. We can’t say exactly where, when or how the impacts of climate change will make its mark on our place but we can take action that prepares us for an uncertain future. Sounds good, right?
Learn more about local climate resiliency efforts on our website.
News to Us has been coming to you via a guest editor (one of HRWC’s summer interns Jhena Vigrass — Thanks Jhena!) for the past couple of months while I was out on maternity leave. After many weeks of very minimal exposure to news and current events, I have resurfaced to mixed news on the state of our river and the waters of Southeast Michigan. There have been an alarming number of reports of sewage overflows and other hazardous spills recently. This may be due to better reporting, coincidence, aging infrastructure or negligence. Likely it is a combination of several of these reasons. What it means for certain is our river has taken some hits and diligence on the part of HRWC, local governments, the State and watershed residents is as important as ever. Read about some of these setbacks and the steps several of our neighbors including Oakland County, the City of Ann Arbor and the communities of the Raisin River watershed, are doing to improve the situation.
COLUMN: Crucial issues need to be addressed regarding Great Lakes health Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, Jim Nash shares his opinion on some of the most pressing local issues that affect our waterways and the health of the Great Lakes. He discusses stormwater management and what he hopes the recent summit hosted by the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will do to raise awareness about stormwater issues and solutions.
Ann Arbor’s increasing sewage overflows and aging sewer system a concern of officials This article discusses recent sewage spills in Ann Arbor, possible reasons for more frequent infrastructure failures and what the City is doing in response. These spills often reach the Huron River or its tributaries directly, impacting water quality. Rapid response and prevention are key to protecting our water from sewage contamination.
Popular Bathroom Wipes Blamed for Sewer Clogs. In related news, this national piece was recently released. There are things, we as residents of this watershed, can do to help our cities and villages keep sewer systems clean, functioning and less susceptible to failure. Avoid flushing anything that does not breakdown readily such as the bathroom wipes mentioned in this article but also diapers, disposable toilet bowl cleaners, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, oil and grease all of which contribute to clogged sewage pipes.
Unknown fluid draining into Huron River near EMU campus Washtenaw County HAZMAT and EPA are investigating the spill of an unknown substance to the Huron River last week. The spill occurred near the Eastern Michigan University campus by the bridge on Forest Avenue, near Frog Island.
River Raisin Less Polluted, Officials Say Good news coming from our neighbors to the south. The Raisin River watershed, draining areas of Washtenaw, Jackson, Lenawee, Hillsdale and Monroe counties, has realized enough improvement in the river that several “beneficial use impairments” (BIUs), set by USEPA, have been removed. Two of fourteen BIUs were removed because of marked gains on E. coli and nutrient levels in the river. This is great progress made through the efforts of the communities and residents of the Raisin River watershed.
This edition of News to Us highlights some shifting sands in the State and watershed that could have negative implications for water resources in the Huron. At the same time, local action is leading to protections for our natural areas and communities in Dexter Township and Ann Arbor. Finally, learn about an interesting new application of crowdsourcing to monitor water levels.
Michigan in danger of losing wetlands permitting program: Just signed by the Governor!
New legislation (SB 163) is being put in front of Governor Snyder that would weaken protections on Michigan wetlands. HRWC has signed on to a letter opposing the bill. Wetlands are extremely important in maintaining the water quality of the Huron River and Great Lakes and provide valuable services to communities across the state. We think the bill fails to comply with the federal Clean Water Act in a number of important ways. In addition, many of the changes unnecessarily increase program costs and reduce revenue being raised from those parties that utilize and benefit from the program. Our 3 main concerns are the creation of exemptions that will jeopardize the program assumption, mitigation issues, and the contiguous language.
Highland to host ‘fracking’ meeting
We have been keeping our eye on the issue of the use of new fracking methods to extract natural gas in the State of Michigan. The deeper horizontal wells require a large volume of water and has the potential to contaminate ground water sources with the chemicals used in the process. To date, fracking has been a bigger threat in other parts of the state. This articles shares that new state-issued oil and gas drilling leases in Oakland County are opening up thousands of acres to exploration, extraction and possibly fracking. The County is hosting a series of public meetings on the issue. Many residents and the County itself are concerned about the threat. Some areas cited for exploration are in the headwaters of the Huron River.
DEXTER: Township adopts green infrastructure map
Last week Dexter Township was presented with a Green Infrastructure map developed by HRWC and Township officials and residents earlier this year. The map captures the natural areas in the township that provide many benefits to the community, wildlife and water resources. The map was adopted by the township planning commission and can be used to inform master planning and ordinance development. This is part of a larger effort at HRWC to protect the quality of the Portage Creekshed. Learn more about the program here.
Transforming adversity into opportunity: Bringing resiliency to every community in America
Ann Arbor is one of 50 inaugural signatories on the Resilient Communities for America Agreement in which leaders pledge to take actions that create cities and towns more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Congratulations on being a leader in climate resiliency by making a local commitment to minimize the risk and impacts of extreme weather events and energy challenges.
There are 7 places in Michigan where you can text data to scientists
HRWC collects water level data at many locations throughout the watershed but we could always use more. Here is a fun, citizen-driven solution to getting more data about the status of our streams and rivers. CrowdHydrology allows citizen to text water level measurements to a central database for further analysis. What do you think? Would you participate?
In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.
Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment. A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements. Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!
A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress. He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.
Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’ Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades. Notice anything interesting, fun or sad? Let us know in the comments.
There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area. Don’t be alarmed. Just be aware. And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.
Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river. Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements. The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron. A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.
In the past couple of weeks we have seen some good radio coverage of watershed issues. A few are highlighted here. Read also about the idea of a “blue economy” for the Great Lakes and one community’s response to last year’s drought.
DEXTER: Village Council discusses mandatory outdoor watering restrictions which are now in effect
In response to last year’s dry conditions, Dexter has made a proactive decision to instate water restrictions for the Village. Conservation efforts like these can help reduce losses to the aquifers we draw water from, the burden on infrastructure needed to pump the water, and the costs associated with pumping or establishing new wells if existing wells should run dry, while still allowing residents to maintain lawns and landscapes.
Great Lakes region pins economic hopes on water
You may have seen the term ‘blue economy’ emerging in the local lexicon. If you haven’t yet, you soon will. More and more, communities are seeing the value of harnessing the economic value of living in a water-rich region like the Great Lakes. Learn more about this idea and what it means in our region in this article.
Hidden dangers of underground oil pipelines, and the potential impact on the Huron River
WEMU interviewed HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin for a recent ‘Issues of the Environment’ piece on the risks to the river from underground oil pipelines in the Huron River watershed.
Spring floods bring bumper crop of mosquitoes
I’ve noticed a lot of mosquitos this year while trying to get my garden in the ground. Have you? Here is a quick report on why we are seeing a few more of our biting friends this spring.
By law, the state can only own so much land, but that might change
HRWC recently provided comments on a new land acquisition plan for the DNR. Aspects of the plan may have very positive implications for our region. The plan proposed more land acquisition in SE Michigan giving more of the State’s urban residents access to public lands. On the other hand, elements of the plan may open more public land to natural resource extraction. While HRWC does not oppose natural resource extraction across the board, how that extraction is accomplished and to what degree has a wide range of implications for public lands.
For this edition of News to Us, learn about water pollution issues related to septic systems in Michigan and how you can help prevent pollution. It is burn season as new vegetation emerges after a long winter. Prescribed fire is used to help control some of our most aggressive non-native plants such as Phragmites. Finally, a few success stories on how anyone from individuals to corporations can take actions to protect water resources.
Michigan has nation’s weakest regulations on septic systems Michigan lacks the regulatory means to ensure septic systems are operating properly. Failing septic systems release wastewater and sewage into soils which can end up in our ground and surface waters causing issues associated with excess nutrients and bacterial contamination. Many of the homes in the Huron River watershed are on septic systems. A few local counties have inspection and repair requirements at the time of home sale, which helps. Regular pumping and inspection of your system is the best way to ensure your system is not contributing to water pollution issues. Here is a useful guide for homeowners on septic systems.
Thousands of failed septic tanks threaten Michigan’s waters In a related article, learn more generally about Michigan’s issues with failing septic systems and the Huron River’s ranking in a recent study out of Michigan State University examining fecal contamination in water from septic tanks. Learn more about HRWC’s Failing Septics project, which takes a different approach to identify and correct problems.
Phragmites all fired up Phragmites is a tall grass that invades wet areas crowding out native plants and drying up wetlands. Prescribed fire (an intentional, controlled burn) is a management tool to help control the invasion of this nuisance plant. Prescribed fires are common this time of year and provide many benefits to our natural areas.
Green City Diaries: Conserving water, improving neighborhood life Read an inspiring story about how two local residents are taking simple steps toward water conservation in their neighborhood and home.
Scotts drops phosphorus from lawn fertilizer Waterways across the country breathe a sigh of relief as one of the major lawn fertilizer companies drops phosphorus from its formula. Most soils have sufficient phosphorus to maintain healthy lawns. Excess phosphorus in water results in algal and plant growth that can quickly reach harmful levels. Michigan has been pro-active on this issue already banning phosphorous in lawn fertilizers. It is nice to see nationwide action to reduce the impacts of this pollutant.
Just in time for spring renewal, this edition of News to Us highlights several stories that have positive implications for our river and rivers throughout Michigan. Greenways, volunteer opportunities, and a growing demand for dam removal are chronicled. Also read about some of the implications of the high waters and flooding of our extremely wet April.
FLAT ROCK: Groundbreaking scheduled for final stretch of Flat Rock-Oakwoods connector trail We are blessed with extensive trail systems along the Huron River. With the addition of this final mile of trail in Flat Rock, there will now be 24 miles of contiguous trail from Belleville Lake to Lake Erie. It is amenities like this that help get people to the river and enjoying the outdoors which is one of the goals of HRWC’s RiverUP! project.
Let the river run: Dam removal accelerates across Michigan Read a nice summary of dams and dam removal efforts in Michigan. There is growing interest and funding to support the removal of aging dams that have outlived their original purpose. Dam removal is one of the tools of river restoration which helps support healthy populations of species that thrive in running waters like salmon, trout and walleye.
DNR reminds anglers of high water safety on rivers It is a popular time on the river for anglers. Fish are on the move which is an exciting time to fish. At the same time, with the recent rains, the river is running high and fast. Take caution when recreating in the river while waters remain high.
It’s good to get your hands dirty Volunteers are the life blood of many environmental non-profits. The Huron River Watershed Council is no exception. The beauty of volunteering is that both the organization and the volunteer experience benefits. This article highlights several local non-profits discussing the value of volunteering. Visit our Volunteer page to learn about volunteering with HRWC.
ANN ARBOR: City gets river clean-up grants worth more than $39,000 Several river clean up events will be happening in Ann Arbor this summer thanks to a grant from the DEQ. If you are interested in volunteering to help remove trash from the river, this article lets you know how.
Grand Rapids officials looking ahead to next big storm Throughout Michigan, we have had a very wet April. We watched the Huron rise and fall but we were spared much of the flooding experienced on the west side of the state. This article discusses Grand Rapid’s response to this years’ flooding. They are thinking now about ways to protect against future events which are predicted to become more common. Learn more about how we are working with communities in the Huron to build resilience to severe weather events affecting the river and residents here.