Archive for the ‘Climate change’ Category

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

 

Survey Participants Needed

Please help HRWC better serve the communities of the Huron River watershed by completing this survey. Good will and possibly a $20 Amazon Gift Card are in it for you.

Click here to access survey

Ann Arbor floodingHRWC research partners are surveying residents in our watershed and the results of this research will be very helpful to HRWC. The survey is intended to help us understand how people and communities perceive their risk associated with impacts from climate change, how prepared people feel and their willingness to prepare.

Your participation in this study is voluntary and greatly appreciated. Your information will be anonymous. The findings will be shared with stakeholders to inform community planning toward resiliency and sustainability. The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used.

Please take 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey by October 31st.  Also, consider sharing this blog or survey link via community websites or other appropriate locations to help increase our response rate.

Click here to access survey

Thank you for all the ways you help to make the Huron the best it can be!

News to Us

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Stormwater management in a changing climate, buffering our rivers and lakes, emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics, and drunk tubing (because, why not?) all in this edition of News to Us, HRWC’s monthly round up of noteworthy water news.

How Grand Rapids is prepping for the next big storm
Bridge Magazine takes an in-depth look at how two cities in Michigan are changing the way they build and rebuild to deal with heavier rainfall. Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor use innovative stormwater management practices to protect people and infrastructure from damage that can be caused by flooding.

Huron Natural River District One Step Closer In Webster
HRWC has been working with municipalities along the stretch of the Huron River designated a Natural River District.  Webster is strengthening protections for the river by adopting a local ordinance that requires buildings be set back a distance from lakes and rivers to minimize impacts of development to the ecological health and beauty of the Township’s water ways.

Emerging pollutants are those that are relatively new to our collective awareness of what negatively impacts our environment. Two recent articles illustrate the myriad ways that these pollutants show up and wreak havoc and how little we know about sources, impact and solutions. There is more work to be done.

And just for a little fun…

Fifteen hundred possibly drunk Americans successfully invade Canada via the St. Clair River
No this is not satire.  It is a real headline. A chuckle worthy headline.  None-the-less, a reminder to mind your manners and your neighbors when recreating in our state’s beautiful lakes and rivers. Read our Share the River Code here.

Trees, plant one!

Is fall the best time to plant trees? Good question. Seems that the answer is debatable. With the onset of fall, there are a couple of compelling reasons to plant — availability and affordability! We know of at least two upcoming tree sales here in the shed:Tree at Island Lake by Anita Daley

Washtenaw County Conservation District fall tree sale (Order by September 30)

Matthaei Botanical Gardens fall native plant and tree sale (October 1/October 2, 10am-4:30pm)

What is not up for debate is that trees are good for protecting local waterways. “Polluted stormwater runoff is the number one threat to the Huron’s health. Trees soak up stormwater with their roots and intercept rainwater in their canopies. They filter pollution such as pesticides, fertilizers, and animal wastes out of runoff; and they shade the river and its streams, keeping them cool. One tree can intercept 1,763 gallons of runoff water each year.” Huron River Report, Fall 2014, Hardworking Trees, Low-cost watershed workers.

Need more proof? Check out Trees Tame Stormwater, an interactive poster from the Arbor Day Foundation. Drag the slider from few trees to abundant trees. Notice how clean and sparkly the urban river becomes — no doubt due to less polluted stormwater coming through that stormdrain (middle right).

Want to dig deeper?  Take a look at a Review of climate impacts to tree species of the Huron River watershed, from HRWC’s Climate Resilient Communities project. As climate zones shift across the Great Lakes region, some populations of native tree species will be stressed, and habitats may become more suitable for species from outside the region. Geared toward natural resource managers in the region, the guide includes tree species change summaries. You can see general trend predictions for trees like Red Maple and White Pine.

For more how-to info see Home Trees & Shrubs from Michigan State University Extension.

 

News to Us

crayfishA new livery will open in the Huron next year! This month’s roundup of water news also includes articles on three contaminants we are watching closely here that affect the Huron River watershed – blue-green algae, Dioxane and coal tar based pavement sealers.

Former Mill Creek Sports Center in Dexter to become canoe livery
Exciting news! Dexter will be home to a new canoe livery.  Occupying a vacant building on Mill Creek in the heart of downtown Dexter, Michigan native Nate Pound hopes to renovate and be open for business by paddling season in 2017. Long term plans include a climbing wall and/or bike rentals.

Blue-green algae adapting easily to rising carbon dioxide levels
Climate change will challenge all species to adapt to new conditions.  Some will fare better than others. New research shows that blue-green algae, the type of algae that includes Microcystis – the algae that contaminated Toledo’s water system in 2014 – are likely to be particularly good at adapting. There are implications for water quality, drinking water and aquatic ecosystems as we move to a more carbon dioxide-rich environment.

The Green Room: The Ann Arbor Area’s 1,4 Dioxane Plume
HRWC Board Member and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Evan Pratt, shares his thoughts on pursuing Superfund designation for the Dioxane plume contaminating the groundwater in Ann Arbor. Mayor Chris Taylor discusses the City’s involvement and how he is engaging with State and Federal elected officials.

HRWC’s campaign to ban coal tar based sealcoats throughout the watershed continues to make headlines. So far Van Buren Township, Scio Township, Ann Arbor, Hamburg and Dexter have passed ordinances with many other communities reviewing potential action. WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interview discusses the issue broadly and the Detroit Local 4 News spot highlights the recent ban in Hamburg Township.


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