Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

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.”

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.

 

2016 Stewardship Awardees

Last night, HRWC’s Annual Meeting featured highlights from 2016: progress on the Huron River Water Trail, green infrastructure projects and plans, updates on pollution prevention initiatives like coal tar and dioxane, and efforts to ready the watershed for climate change. Our work would not be possible without the amazing support given by our donors, funders, volunteers, and peer organizations. Please join us in celebrating a few who went above and beyond in recent years. You can read more about these folks in our summer newsletter, the Huron River Report, coming out in June.

HRWC Stewardship Awardees 2017

Janet Kahan, Melissa Damaschke, John M. Erb, Sally Rutzky and Wendy Schultz

Janet Kahan
Volunteer of the Year
Janet leads HRWC’s youth streamside education program, working with volunteers of all sorts to teach stream ecology and water quality to over 1000 students per year.

Sally Rutzky
Herb Munzel Achievement Award
Sally has been a stalwart supporter of the Huron, HRWC, and local communities as she’s advocated for better zoning and planning, gotten in the way of sand mining, and used her expert plant identification skills on behalf of the watershed.

Wendy Schultz
Extraordinary Partner Award
A key ally of HRWC’s water quality monitoring program, Wendy and her staff test our samples from Washtenaw County, identify and solve programmatic problems, and graciously greet our volunteers throughout the season offering tips and encouragement for collecting much needed water samples from our streams.

Erb Family Foundation
Big Splash Award
The Erb Family Foundation has been a forerunner in funding organizational growth and new programmatic initiatives including our RiverUp! program. Long-term support like theirs is key to nonprofit organizational health.

Join us in congratulating these watershed champions!

 

Climate Change Education

Invite me to speak at your next community meeting or event!Climate Reality Project

This past March I 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 traveled to Denver Colorado for “Climate Reality Leader Training” from the Climate Reality Project.  There 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.

I would love the opportunity to share what I have learned throughout the Huron River watershed! I am available to give the famous Al Gore slide presentation (there are long and short versions) to town halls, club meetings, school groups, or any kind of event or gathering. I can customize the presentation to fit your timing.

To schedule a talk please call or email me, Kris Olsson, at (734) 769-5123 x 607.

The Next Big Action for Climate will be the People’s Climate March this Saturday, April 29! Get to Washington, D.C. or find a local sister march like Detroit or Ferndale to attend.

 

 

News to Us

Sandhill Crane. John Lloyd.

Sandhill Crane. John Lloyd.

In this edition of News to Us, learn some of the implications of the proposed federal budget for the Great Lakes, how HRWC is helping prepare the Huron River for climate change, the magnitude of the challenge of aging water infrastructure, and see a short film on the inner workings of a river.

 

Trump Proposal To Gut Great Lakes Funding Could Allow Pollution To Flourish
The fund which allocates almost $300 million each year to the protection and restoration of our nation’s Great Lakes is proposed to be completely defunded. The new administration’s proposed budget cuts the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) entirely as they seek to reduce EPAs budget by 31%. (This article was written before the official budget was released. Cut went from 97% to 100% at the official budget release this week.) GLRI has been in place since 2010 and has funded critical work from studying Harmful Algal Blooms to supporting cleanup efforts in our most polluted waters and so much more. The implications of this are wide reaching from serious declines in water quality and losing ground on invasive species to significant impacts to the economy of our coastal towns and job losses in tourism and research. HRWC is meeting with and talking to our Senators and Representatives and please do too–call your Senators and Representatives and ask they fight to protect the GLRI.

Issues Of The Environment: Building Resilience Along The Huron River Amidst Changes In Climate HRWC’s Rebecca Esselman is interviewed on the impacts of climate change to the Huron River and the strategies being implemented to help the river adapt to a new climate future. Protecting forests along the river and stream, restoring habitat and improving the management of flow by dams can create conditions that will help the Huron be more resilient to more extreme rainfall events, drought and higher air temperatures. Watch a short film on this topic here.

We have a lot of old water infrastructure, so what do we do about it? Our water infrastructure – the pipes, pumps and plants that deal with stormwater, drinking water and wastewater are old and failing. The price tag associated with necessary upgrades is huge and the source of that money is unknown.

The Secret Life of Rivers
And for a little fun, check out this really cool glimpse at a rarely considered, hyper-important part of a river system- the hyporheic zone. It will only add to your awe and respect for these complex ecosystems. And as an added bonus, a tardigrade makes a guest appearance and if you don’t know about tardigrades, google it. They are astounding.

Engage, Engage, Engage

In the last 2 months I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on sustainability and climate going forward. At a recent climate rally I shared what we do best at HRWC—the climate science and trends, and what people can do.

Here is a synopsis of my comments:

For 50 years our job has been to study and protect the Huron River, which runs right through many communities, including Ann Arbor. We have 25 years of data about this ecosystem. And the data confirms what we’ve seen this February. We have a migrating climate. Days like this are what we would have expected to see in Kentucky 20 years ago. Within 50 years our seasons will feel more like Oklahoma. This has massive implications for our natural ecosystems and our economy, and our quality of life!

Ann Arbor floodingSo let me tell you about what our science shows us about Michigan today:

  • It’s warmer. Annually by 2 degrees F; by 2070 an increase of 3.5 to 6 degrees.
  • Today, the growing season, or the frost-free season, has gotten longer by 9 days. In the future, it could increase by 1-2 months.
  • Today, Michigan gets more rain and snow—an 11% increase. In Ann Arbor 24% more.
  • The strongest storms have become more intense and more frequent. These rain storms are so heavy they overwhelm our storm sewers, our dams, and our wastewater treatment plants.

But, that’s facts and figures, let me tell you a couple of stories about how that affects us all.

  • People might remember that three years ago, a rain caused flooding in our watershed and in particular, on the UM campus. It was so intense and with so much water, students kayaked down the East University Street.
  • HRWC researches the river. Every January, we send about 100 volunteers out, up and down the river, to collect Stoneflies. Stoneflies are little bugs that are sensitive to changes and pollution, so they tell us how healthy the river is. Two years ago we had to cancel because of the extreme cold. The volunteers couldn’t break the thick ice to get in to the river. This year, we had the opposite problem: our volunteers could not get in the river in certain places due to high flows from a 50 degree thaw. We heard from volunteers that they were already seeing stoneflies that had hatched rather than in their larval stage. This means that when the fish start spawning in April, they won’t have as many stoneflies to eat….that damages the entire aquatic ecosystem.

So we’ve had an extremely warm February, but these unexpected extremes should now be expected.

So what can we do about this? Engage, engage, engage. I hear from people day in and out that they are frustrated and yearning to take action. We need big change; to change the way we operate major infrastructure systems of this country—transportation, energy, stormwater, housing, waste, and food.

As somebody who has spent my career working on environmental issues, here’s what I find effective: 1. Take individual steps on your own and with your family; 2. Build connections with people (your colleagues, elected officials, friends, neighbors) to work on issues at a larger scale.

Stand up against the things you don’t want (a weaker EPA, the Dakota pipeline, Line 5), but at the same time take actions to create the things you do.

There’s lots of things we can do as individuals. We also have elected officials, business, and government employees, and it’s important to do things collectively and scale them up.

  • To change our transportation systems, Take the bus—and advocate for robust public transit;
  • To change our stormwater systems, Put in a rain garden or rain barrel—and work with neighbors to push your university or town to install better rain capture systems on roads, parks, and rooftops;
  • To change our energy system, Put in solar—and help your elected officials pass tax incentives and ease of permitting for alternative energy; and
  • To improve our housing system, Live near your work or school—and encourage affordable housing so others can too.

Finally, it’s important to volunteer—engage in your community, sit on a board or commission. This is tough but necessary work. This is where change is made.

In my work as Director of HRWC, I bring very different people together to protect something we all love, the Huron River. I do that by talking to everyone who plays a part—farmers, drain commissioners, hunters, anglers, politicians, scientists, and homeowners. We’re all really different people with different political perspectives. We don’t always agree, but we find ways to make real change. Because all these people work together, the river is cleaner than it’s been in 50 years. It’s that steady engaged work that makes a difference and gives me hope.

Go get involved, take up the challenge, and let’s get to work!

Here are some of our projects that exemplify how our partnerships address climate change.

 

Preparing the Huron for Climate Change

Given the noticeably mild weather this fall and winter, it may come as no surprise that 2016 was just declared the hottest year on record. 2015 held the same title as did 2014.  In other words, we have broken the record for “hottest year on record” for three consecutive years. Climate Change is a threat that affects everyone and everything in some way. We must aggressively continue global efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. At the same time, communities everywhere are preparing for new weather extremes.  We are one of them. Here’s a new film about our work to help prepare the Huron River for climate change. Please share this with friends to get the word out on how we are protecting the future of our local water.

HRWC would like to thank the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund made possible by funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the support of this project and the creation of the film. To learn more about climate change in southeast Michigan and what HRWC is doing to address this threat visit http://www.hrwc.org/the-watershed/threats/climate-change/

Beautiful Fall Colors This Year

The Huron in Autumn

The Huron in Autumn

Every year I think is the best “color year” for our beautiful Southeast Michigan trees.  This year was not only colorful, but the colors just kept coming — just when I thought, “well, there go the golden hickories, it won’t be long and all the leaves will fall and we’ll be into November and bare branches,”  well here we are in November and now the oaks are finally turning — a deep dark crimson.

Then I came upon this New York Times article – yes, the late colors have climate change to blame.  And, while this may be a pleasant outcome for now, it bodes ill for the future, as warmer temperatures will push our more colorful trees like red and sugar maples further north, leaving us with less colorful oaks and hickories (though they happen to be my favorites).

Faye Stoner, Washtenaw County Natural Areas Stewardship Coordinator, agrees. “Colors are definitely lasting longer this fall – I can remember doing school programs and losing all colored leaves (that came in handy on those walks with kids)  sometimes before the school programs were finished up for October/before Halloween!

“To have several trees, including maples out “in the wild” still almost glowing with color on Nov. 3, to me, is ‘out of ordinary’.”

Other naturalists have noticed the fall tick season has lengthened.

Read more about climate changes impacts on our watershed and HRWC’s efforts in climate adaptations.

Check out HRWC’s fact sheet about climate change impacts on the watershed’s natural resources.

autumntree

 


Donate to HRWC
Volunteer
Coal Tar Sealers
Calendar
Huron River Water Trail
RiverUp
Donate to HRWC
SwiftRun
rss .FaceBook-Logo.twitter-logo Youtubelogo