In News to Us this edition, HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations. Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.
Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.
To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists. They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area. Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone. MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species. With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.
Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention. Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes. If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series. The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.
We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region. Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.
What is news to us this week? Browse the most recent newsletter from MiCorp for articles on water quality and monitoring. Enjoy the change in season through a fall color tour. An official disaster declaration will bring more support to parts of southeast Michigan still recovering from major flooding last month. In national news, emerging contaminates pose unknown threats to our rivers. And a global index ranks the United States among the lowest when it comes to willingness of individuals to engage in behaviors delicate on the environment. Not good.
The MiCorps Monitor: Fall 2014 The Fall newsletter produced by the Michigan Clean Water Corps is chock full of good articles on water quality, monitoring and invasive species that may be of interest to you. HRWC administers the statewide MiCorps program which uses volunteers to collect data to monitor the condition of rivers and lakes throughout the state.
Fall colors changing fast in Michigan: Here are the peak color areas right now Autumn is upon us bringing with it the beauty of our state’s fall color change. See where fall color is peaking now and when to expect peak color in southeast Michigan. Leaf drop is an important event for aquatic ecosystems bringing high quality nutrients and organic matter to our rivers and streams.
Obama OKs flood disaster aid for metro Detroit Michigan has now received an official disaster declaration from the Obama administration after severe rainfall led to extensive flood damage in the Detroit area on August 11th. This declaration makes additional financial assistance to households affected by the rains and to help municipalities rebuild affected infrastructure such as road and stormwater pipes. Damages from this annual 0.1% chance (or often referred to as the 100 year storm) rain event is estimated at more than $1.1 billion.
A Rising Tide of Contaminants New chemicals and compounds are being developed and produced at a break neck pace, leaving regulators way behind on the evaluation of the human and environmental impacts of these substances. The federal regulation governing these substances, the Toxic Substances Control Act, has not been updated since going into effect in 1976. Contaminants are making their way into our waterways with unknown ecosystem health effects.
8 Surprising, Depressing, and Hopeful Findings From Global Survey of Environmental Attitudes A recent survey gaged the environmental attitudes and behaviors of individuals in 18 nations. Sadly, American’s are not doing so well. The worst, actually, among the eighteen. And people in emerging economies such as Brazil and India are far more likely to adopt green behaviors than those in established economies such as England and Germany.
On August 2nd, Mayor of Toledo Michael Collins, issued a ban on drinking water. Microcystis, a bacteria*, reached toxic levels in the City’s drinking water supply in western Lake Erie. The ban lasted two days and left nearly half a million people without water including residents of Monroe County, Michigan. During that time there was much media coverage discussing cause, response, extent of the impacts and who was to blame.
What you may not have read is that this event is not unique. Increasingly, and across the globe, our lakes and oceans are experiencing booms of algae and bacteria populations that are reaching levels toxic to both wildlife and people. The question I want to explore here is how may climate change be contributing to this issue that is plaguing Lake Erie and many other coastal waterways?
Lake Erie has seen an increase in the frequency and size of blooms since the 1990’s. A harmful bloom of algae and bacteria occurs when waters are warm and nutrients are high. Lake Erie is shallow and therefore warmer than other Great Lakes. Additionally, there is extensive agricultural and urban development in the watersheds that drain to the lake. Nitrogen and phosphorus reach our rivers from farm fields, leaking septic systems and discharge pipes from industry.
Climate change can make conditions worse in two major ways. As air temperatures increase, water temperatures increase. In our area we have already experienced a 1.1° F increase in average annual temperature in the past 30 years.** Models predict an additional increase of 4-12° F (depending on what carbon emissions values are used) over the course of this century. Additionally, not all rains are created equal. More nutrients run off of land and through pipes during large rain events. These nutrients are carried from the source, to a river, which eventually delivers the “food” to Lake Erie where it is used to fuel a bloom. In Southeast Michigan we are already experiencing an average of 2.9 inches more precipitation (much falling as rain) each year than we were 30 years ago. Models predict further increases to our average annual rainfall, and more importantly to this story, that rain is expected to fall in larger events. An analysis of Toledo rainfall records revealed that they have experienced a 40% increase in the number of strongest storms in the last 30 years when compared to the previous 30 years. This is typical for the entire Midwest region of the US.
So, while harmful algal blooms have occurred in Lake Erie for decades, there is reason to believe that climate change is an additional, and increasingly important, factor leading to the uptick in frequency and severity of these events.
You can read more about microcystis and the Huron River watershed in our upcoming newsletter scheduled for release in December. If you do not receive our newsletter, you can subscribe here.
________*Point of clarification — Microcystis is a bacteria, not an algae, though the two tend to bloom simultaneously under the right conditions. ** All climate data was provided by the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments Center www.glisa.umich.edu
This edition of News to Us shares articles on rainfall — how to use rain gardens to manage it, how it carries nutrients to our waterways causing issues with algae and microcystin blooms and when extreme, how much damage it can cause. Learn also about efforts in Ann Arbor to revitalize the riverfront and how communities throughout the nation are building climate resilience.
Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program To Be Shared Across Michigan Listen to a brief story aired on WEMU about the Washtenaw County Rain Garden program and how to learn more. Rain gardens help keep pollution and stormwater out of the Huron River increasing the health of the system. Washtenaw County is a leader in this area and can serve as a great resource for anyone interested in installing a rain garden.
Manchester-area farmers finding ways to reduce waste run-off after Lake Erie scare A group of local farmers from the Raisin River watershed to our south, spent time touring Lake Erie and discussing ways to reduce nutrient contributions from farms to the Great Lakes. Excess nutrients in the lakes contributed to the microcystin contamination of Toledo’s drinking water last month. This tour provided a unique opportunity to learn about nutrient management practices and exchange ideas among farmers.
The Green Room: River Renaissance In a recent WEMU Green Room story, Laura Rubin and others are interviewed to discuss the river and riverside revitalization efforts underway in the Argo area of the Huron River in Ann Arbor. Highlighting Argo Cascades and the MichCon brownfield redevelopment site, interviewees tell a story of the ups and downs associated with the river’s new found popularity.
Facing Climate Change, Cities Embrace Resiliency This article discusses community resilience – a concept emerging in cities and towns throughout the United States in response to the increased number and severity of extreme weather events. Building resilience entails anything that improves the preparedness of a community to literally, weather the storm, minimizing damage and the threat to public health and safety. Several communities within the Huron River watershed are working to build resilience to changes we are seeing here.
Deadly Once-in-1,000-Years Rains Wipe Out Roads in Arizona, Nevada Many places across the globe are experiencing extreme rainfall events. While the Detroit area recently experienced a 100-year rain (1 % chance of occurring in any given year) parts of Arizona and Nevada experienced a rainfall event with even lower probability of occurring – some areas experience the 1000 year event (0.1% chance)! These larger evens cause extensive damage to infrastructure and personal property. Many communities are working to prepare for these larger events which are predicted to occur more frequently as the global climate warms.
News to Us today highlights a couple of local stories from Milford and Scio Township. Several climate-related articles came across our desks recently including a press release on a new report connecting climate change to pest outbreaks and some promising bi-partisan legislation in New York. Finally, more fall out from the recent flooding in Detroit — raw sewage in local rivers and ultimately Lake Erie.
Milford activists aim to integrate river, downtown Recently, interested community members met in Milford to discuss the Huron River. As one of the Huron River Trail Towns, Milford is looking for ways to connect all the downtown assets available to people from the river, to parks to downtown businesses. Improved canoe landing areas, signage, and new development opportunities were among the topics discussed. Trail towns are part of HRWC’s RiverUp! program.
Scio Township imposes moratorium on oil and gas operations Following the installation of the first drilling operation in Scio Township on Miller Rd and W. Delhi, the township has established a 6-month moratorium on further oil and natural gas developments. This will give the township time to consider existing protections related to oil and gas activities such as ordinances on noise, odor, and hours of operation.
Warming Climate Brings Greater Numbers of Bugs and Outdoor Pests A new report is linking factors related to climate change are responsible, in part, for high populations of mosquitoes and ticks as well as the toxicity of poison ivy. Read the full report: Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change.
Legislature sends climate change bill to Cuomo Across the nation, from the federal to local levels, people are planning and taking action to prepare communities for a changing climate. Last month, New York took a significant leap by bring legislation to Governor Cuomo that would require all state-funded projects to address climate change and extreme weather into planning and implementation of these projects. Legislation passed a democratic controlled Assembly and Republican controlled Senate and awaits the Governer’s approval expected sometime late this summer.
Metro Detroit’s sewage overflow feeds Lake Erie algae growth The historic flooding that occurred in the Detroit area this August caused trouble beyond flooded roadways and basements. Many areas affected by the flood have combined stormwater and sewer systems that, when overwhelmed, deliver raw sewage directly to rivers, streams and ultimately Lake Erie further exacerbating recent water quality issues in the lake. We are fortunate in the Huron River Watershed not to have combined sewer systems. However, stormwater and sewer infrastructure failures affect us all. Improving this infrastructure to handle large rainfall events will help protect against future failures.
This edition of News to Us is full of state and regional news that piques our interest here at HRWC. We have seen two significant events in our area make national headlines recently – last week’s record rainfall in Southeast Michigan and the toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that left many in Ohio and Michigan without drinking water for days. We’ve selected two articles to share that focus on solutions. Read also about efforts to halt the spread of aquatic invasives, commentary on the implications to Michigan’s energy infrastructure of the recent EPA regulations limiting carbon emissions and a research report on the status of diversity represented within environmental groups.
Ohio offers no-interest loans in water toxin fight Initial steps are being taken in Ohio to safeguard the region from further drinking water issues. Actions include free drinking water testing, funding to reduce phosphorus runoff from farms, and loans available for water treatment upgrades.
Editorial: Re-envision infrastructure in wake of historic rainfall This is a solid editorial piece on the status of Michigan’s aging infrastructure in the wake of Detroit’s record breaking rainfall this week. Our ability to manage stormwater from significant rains throughout the state is challenged by old, inadequate pipes, lack of funding and more frequent large precipitation events. The author calls for legislative action and the use of more green and blue infrastructure solutions.
Stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species in Michigan The Michigan Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is taking action this summer to slow the spread of invasive species between water bodies in Michigan. A small crew is visiting popular boat launches throughout the state with a trailer mounted boat washer meant to scrub the boat before it moves to another lake potentially carrying a nuisance species and to educate boat owners about the issue. Aquatic invasives cause many problems from harmful algal blooms to weed mats and the loss of native diversity. Learn more about how you can help stop the spread of aquatic invasives.
A $15B upgrade for utilities: New EPA rules stoke Consumers, DTE move to wind and gas The CEO of DTE Energy estimates about $15 billion will be spent on Michigan’s power infrastructure over the coming decades to meet EPA’s rules on carbon emissions. Experts expect to see a significant shift in the source of our power from coal to natural gas and wind. Read more about how this industry is expecting to change in the coming years.
New Findings: The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations Through a survey of 243 environmental non-profits in the Great Lakes Region, a University of Michigan researcher concluded that within this sector, gender, race and class diversity is low. The author recommends more inclusive recruitment and active mentoring to help bridge the diversity gap.
News to Us this week finds more on local activity around recent interests in oil and gas development in our watershed in the news lately. Also, a new shop opens in Dexter catering to river and nature enthusiasts and a couple of updates on water pollution issues reminding us to keep diligent on both new and known pollutants.
Judge denies injunction against oil well in Scio Township For those keeping tabs on oil well drilling in Scio Township, an injunction filed to delay oil exploration drilling in Scio Township was denied in Washtenaw Circuit Court. The delay was sought to have more time to assess potential environmental damages associated with the drilling. The next step may be to take the issue to Ingham County Courts.
Open house in Chelsea draws dozens to learn about proposed natural gas pipeline An open house was held in Chelsea to allow residents to get more information about a proposed pipeline that will run from Ohio to Canada through parts of Washtenaw, Lenawee, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties. The Rover Pipeline project is scheduled to begin as early as January 2016.
Bailiwick’s Outdoors in Dexter offers apparel for adventure sports and fly fishing gear for enthusiasts It is great to see new businesses open that grow our own local “blue economy”. A new river-based recreation shop has opened in Dexter. If you have paddling, fishing, birding, hiking or equestrian needs, consider stopping by and supporting our friends at Bailiwicks.
Big Toxic Algal Bloom Again in Forecast for Lake Erie. As a reminder that we cannot assume that once a condition improves it will stay improved – Lake Erie’s algae bloom issues from the 1960’s and ‘70’s have returned in recent years. This year is no exception. Forecasts predict the algae bloom this summer could be one of the largest in the past decade. Phosphorus from fertilizers, sewage and industrial waste is the main culprit driving the blooms.
Plastic microbeads could be banned from personal care products in the U.S. by 2018 In a previous News to Us we shared an article about an emerging pollutant to our waterways. Plastic microbeads are used in many cosmetic and personal care products. They make it through many wastewater treatment facilities and into our waters where they are ingested by wildlife and release known toxins. Look for products with natural alternatives such as almonds, sea salts and apricot pits. Legislation has been introduced at the federal level. Illinois is the first state to ban products with plastic microbeads.
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
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.
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.