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Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category

News to Us

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek.  Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek. Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

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:

News to Us

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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.

News to Us

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High water levels in the watershed after a series of heavy spring rains

Look out for cooler summer temperatures and high water levels in the Great Lakes this summer.  Also keep a lookout for ticks as populations are booming in some locations.  Read a couple of articles on how river flows, both high and low, can impact communities and ecosystems.  Finally, read the latest on two hot local topics – the proposed Lyndon Township sand mine and the oil and gas prospecting taking place in Scio Township.

Extensive Great Lakes ice and El Niño equals cooler Michigan summer Forecasters are predicting a cooler than average summer this year.  Historically, years with high ice cover on the Great Lakes also have cooler summers and this year had some of the highest ice cover on record.  Meteorologists also predict a delay in the typical severe storm season for Michigan.  We may be seeing some severe events into June.  Another outcome of this year’s Great Lakes ice cover is that lake levels are expected to be significantly higher in recent years.

There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know There is a population boom of blacklegged ticks in Michigan this year.  This is the species of tick that can carry Lyme disease. It is good to know how to identify a deer tick and how to remove it correctly.

Ann Arbor canoe liveries temporarily shut down river trips due to high water in Huron River  Following a series of larger rain events in mid-May, several canoe liveries shut down operations because of high water levels which result in fast flows and otherwise unsafe conditions for less experienced paddlers.  Stream gages that measure flow in the river were measuring over 2,000 cubic feet per second; double the flow beyond which liveries close down operations.

A Sacred Reunion: The Colorado River Returns to the Sea In national news, we celebrate a momentous occasion this month.  For the first time in well over a decade, (and one of only a few occurrences since 1963) the Colorado River has reached its outlet at the Sea of Cortez. The fact that the river has run dry in its lower reaches for so long serves as an illustration of how over allocation of our freshwater resources has cascading impacts for both wildlife and people.  The river is reaching the sea due to a recent agreement between the US and Mexico.  The agreement allows for a five year experiment that implements a pulse flow at a critical time of year.  While this is not a permanent solution to a very complex problem, it is a heartening step in the right direction.

City attorney for Chelsea responds to sand mine public hearing For those of you following the dialog around a proposed sand mine in Lyndon Township, this latest article shares that the application for the mine has been tabled for six months.  Delaying a decision on the application will allow the City of Chelsea and Lyndon Township time to update ordinances and do more research into impacts of the mining operation.

Area lawmakers express concern over oil, gas drilling proposed for Scio Township  In other local extraction news, opposition to proposed oil and gas drilling in Scio township continues to grow.  Several local legislators have submitted a public comment asking the State to deny a permit for an exploratory well.  Read the letter and learn more about the issue in this article.  The public comment period on the permit is still open.

 

News to Us

High school students learn by doing water quality monitoring.

High school students learn by doing water quality monitoring.

Water quality is a major focus of our work at HRWC.  Three articles in this edition of News to Us address water quality from very different angles – youth education, lawn and garden care, and beer.  Yes, beer.  Plein air art is a way of enjoying nature that may be new to some of you.  And, finally, on the heels of the release of the National Climate Assessment last week, a piece on why global warming leads to more severe rainfall – an outcome particularly significant to the Midwest.

White Lake Middle School students study human impact on Huron River   Students are taking to the river to learn about how human actions can impact local rivers. Students measure water quality and sample invertebrates at various spots in the headwaters of the Huron River watershed. This program is based on the GREEN program developed at the UM by Bill Stapp with guidance from HRWC.

The Toxic Brew in Our Yards  This opinion piece does a great job highlighting the health risks of outdoor chemical use on our lawns and gardens. The author makes very clear the connection between chemical use and water quality as well.  There are alternatives to pesticide and synthetic fertilizer use that protect your family’s health and the health of our waterways and drinking water. To get started see HRWC’s webpages on going phosphorus free and growing a healthy lawn.

Short’s Brewing ties seasonal beers to Clean Water Campaign  We get a lot of support from local brewers for our water quality improvement efforts.  It is not lost on them that beer is mostly water. Local water.  One of Michigan’s most successful microbreweries is using its popularity to educate residents on the threat of an Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Straights of Mackinac.  There has been growing concern about the condition of the pipeline, the accountability of Enbridge to maintain the line and the consequences of an oil spill to our Great Lakes.

Looks Like Rain Again. And Again.  As mentioned in a recent HRWC blog, the 3rd National Climate Assessment report was released last week. Spurred by the report, climate change has been all over the news lately.  This piece is both interesting and useful to those of us in Michigan.  The aspect of climate change that is likely impact our region the most is rainfall.  More of it and in larger storms.  This piece explains why global warming leads to more rain.  Learn more about what HRWC and municipalities within the Huron River watershed are doing to prepare for more rain.

Artists venture outdoors, brush up on nature scenes  Yet another way to enjoy the river!  Plein air artists are artists who paint in the open air, capturing scenes of nature or community life over the span of a few hours.  Several plein air events happen in our area over the course of the summer including one in Brighton, June 28th- 29th and in Dexter, August 12th – 16th.

News to Us

Bat with White-nose Syndrome - a disease recently found in Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bat with White-nose Syndrome – a disease recently found in Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation

This edition of News to Us provides a link to a series of meaty articles on global water scarcity.  Closer to home, what is the impact of persisting lake ice on our Great Lakes?  And what does the recent outbreak of white-nosed syndrome mean for bats in Michigan?  Also, read about oil and gas leasing in Scio Township and a locally hosted conference on recycling.

How We Can Save Our Water – Three heavy hitters in publishing science on the natural world have come together to produce an in-depth report chronicling issues associated with freshwater supplies, climate change and the private sector.  Multiple articles and opinion pieces help characterize the issues and potential solutions to global water scarcity.  It is a lot of information.  But for those interested in the issue, this is one of the best compilations of articles we have run across. While we have abundant freshwater in the Great Lakes, freshwater scarcity is a global issue that affects everyone.

Biologists expect the worst for Michigan’s bat population – We have recently received really bad news in the State of Michigan.  White-nose syndrome, a disease that kills bats in astounding numbers, has been found in two locations in the State. Bats play a critical role in our ecosystems, in part as voracious consumers of mosquitos. Not to mention they are adorable, fascinating flying mammals. The disease impacts 5 of the 9 species of bats we have in Michigan and will ultimately kill 90% of the population of those species.

Scio residents voice opposition to oil drilling in area – More than 300 people showed up to an informational meeting on oil and gas leasing activity in the township.  Most of the crowd voiced opposition to any drilling activity citing concerns about pollution and water quality among others.  However several leases have already been signed.   A panel, facilitated by Gretchen Driskoll, included representation from the oil and gas company- West Bay Exploration, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, MSU Extention, Michigan Environmental Council and the Sierra Club. HRWC attended a prior meeting of homeowners providing resources for residents interested in stopping the drilling.

Statewide recycling conference coming to Ann Arbor area this week – One of the country’s largest recycling conferences is happening in Ann Arbor this week.  The City is highlighting some progressive programs including its new curbside compost program.  Michigan’s recycling rate for residential household waste is about 15 percent, lagging behind a national average of 35 percent.  The Governor’s Office will present a new plan to increase residential recycling in Michigan on Thursday.

Why it’s a big deal that half of the Great Lakes are still covered in ice – In regional news, reports continue to discuss the implications of the doozy-of-a-winter we just experienced.  This article shares the implications of the persistence of Great Lakes ice cover longer into the spring than typical. Late lake ice cover has both economic and ecological consequences.

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News to Us

White Oak

White Oak

This edition of News to Us has several articles focused on some lingering impacts of this winter’s high snowfall as we face some increased flood risk and consider the impacts of added salt to the environment. Learn about the mark green building is making on Michigan’s real estate market, and about an ecosystem once common in southeast Michigan – Oak Openings.

Hamburg Twp. prepares for worst as flood risk varies Hamburg Township is being commendably proactive in response to elevated flood risk this spring.  Oscillating warm and cold temperatures have helped slow the melt of a record snow pack but flood risk still ranges from 40-90% in Hamburg.  Because of major flooding experienced in the township in 2004, the community knows where the challenges are and has plans in place to manage what may come.

Flood insurance rates rising: Database shows impact on Michigan communities  Changes in federal policy is resulting in large rate increases in flood insurance.  Rates will increase steadily in the coming years to levels that more accurately reflect true flooding risk rather than the subsidized rates currently in place.  This will impact a significant number of properties in Michigan.  The article allows you to see data by county.

Issues of the Environment: The Impact of Road Salt in the Huron River Watershed  Listen to a piece on the fate of road salt during an interview with HRWC’s Ric Lawson.  With 50% more salt distributed this winter, it is worth considering the impacts of this practice, where it is essential and where alternatives may be sufficient.

Oak openings from Ohio to Highland Oaks  This is a nice natural history piece giving a nod to the mighty oak tree, the namesake for Oakland County and many of the parks and natural areas in Southeast Michigan.  Once expansive, oak openings are now an extremely rare oak dominated system in the area.  Some remaining oak openings can be found in the Toledo area.  In the Huron River watershed you can still find some examples of similar systems such as oak barrens and oak savannahs.

The ‘411’ on the ‘greening’ of the real estate industry  This is an interesting article on the current real estate market.  ‘Green’ upgrades to homes are seeing the highest return on investment of all home improvements.  More and more people are prioritizing energy efficiency when house hunting. Good for the environment and the pocket book it is great to see this gaining momentum among home buyers.

Mockingjay spotted in Pinckney Recreation Area  Previously unknown in this part of the world, this non native bird was said to be screaming “sspprriiiiiing is coming, sspprriiiiing is coming”. Researchers are currently searching for a breeding pair to see if this harbinger needs to be placed on the invasive species list.

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News to Us

Maple tree sap being tapped for syrup.  Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

Sugar maple tapping. Creative Commons Image by www.flickr.com/photos/ladydragonflyherworld/

This edition of News to Us shares news stories on how the Great Lakes fared in federal budget negotiations, the status of the debate over the proposed Lyndon Township mine and a couple articles that will hopefully help you “think spring”!

President’s budget cuts Great Lakes programs The federal budget for 2015 is proposing significant cuts for two programs supporting clean water work in the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative faces a $25 million budget cut.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund which supports wastewater treatment and sewer systems faces $150 million in cuts. Considering the rapidly declining condition of our state’s wastewater infrastructure, this is very bad news.

DEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring It is sugaring season in southeast Michigan.  For a short window of time, as we transition to warmer temperatures, maple syrup can be extracted from local sugar maples.  Many parks in the area provide tours and opportunities to tap trees in the coming weeks.

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea  More news on the proposed Lyndon Township sand and gravel mine and the growing opposition.

How are robins faring this winter?  Not all robins head south for the winter. The large fruit crop from last year has helped robins weather this hard winter.  Learn more about this bird, their life history and why we see them through the winter even though they are thought of as our local “sign of spring”.

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit  Take it easy on your local wastewater treatment plant, your septic tank and the Huron River by abstaining from flushing the now widely available “flushable wipes”.  These products are wreaking havoc on systems throughout the U.S, to such a degree that lawsuits are being filed against companies manufacturing the products.

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News to Us

Sign of Spring? Credit: John Lloyd

Sign of Spring? Credit: John Lloyd

There has been a wealth of relevant news we have run across here at HRWC over the past couple of weeks.  So much so, that for this edition of News to Us, I couldn’t pick just five.  So, in addition to the five article summaries I usually post, I have a list of headlines that may be of interest to you as well. Read about the loss of several key stream gages in the watershed, the proposed Lyndon Township sand mine, Ann Arbor’s new Green Streets policy and several articles on the implications of the severe winter weather we are experiencing.

Deal sought to keep flood predictor intact The Huron Clinton Metropark Authority recently pulled funding for several stream gages in the Huron River and its tributaries. These gages provide river flow measurements used by municipalities and other groups to monitor water levels in the river. Hamburg Township is one community looking into how to keep these gages in operation. They provide critical early warning during flood conditions.

The Crushing Cost of Climate Change: Why We Must Rethink America’s Infrastructure Investments Our nation’s aging infrastructure crisis coupled with more extreme weather events are adding up to burdensome level of expenses shouldered by states and local municipalities. This article discusses action at the national level to support critical infrastructure improvements and rebuilding after disasters.

Ann Arbor adopts ‘green streets’ policy to address stormwater runoff, pollution Ann Arbor’s City Council voted to adopt a policy that requires road projects to address stormwater. Road projects will use engineering and vegetation to infiltrate at least the first inch of rain from storms improving water quality and stream flows, reducing the risk of flooding and minimizing wear and tear on the stormwater system.

CHELSEA: Public sounds off about Lyndon Township sand mine proposal The public hearing pertaining to a proposed sand mine in Lyndon Township between the Pinckney and Waterloo Recreation Areas drew hundreds voicing opposition to the project including State Representative Gretchen Driskell. Concerns about water quality, groundwater wells, wildlife, traffic and noise were among those voiced at the public hearing.  A second hearing is scheduled for March 13th and a petition is circulating for those who oppose the development.

Convicted sewage dumper loses another court challenge  The conviction of a man charged with violating Michigan’s Natural Resources Protection Act, stands after a recent court challenge. Charges came from an incident where raw sewage was dumped into the Huron River for three days from a property owned by the defendant.

Also:

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News to Us

Fish consumption advisories will likely be in place for a long time.

Fish consumption advisories will likely be in place for a long time.

Dexter’s Mill Creek Park recieves an award.  Also, learn more about the problem underlying Michigan fish consumption advisories, what all this snow means as temperatures warm, and the status of negotiations on the future of Detroit Water and Sewer. Finally, we share two articles on proposed developments in the watershed that are making waves.

DEXTER: Dexter Village recognized by Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors for Mill Creek Park   Area realtors give a nod to Dexter’s Mill Creek Park, awarding the Village of Dexter one of two Environmental Awareness Awards.  Several groups came together including HRWC and the Village to remove a dam from Mill Creek in 2008. The dam removal and riverside improvements on this tributary of the Huron River show how social, cultural and ecological goals can align and result in something remarkable.

Michigan’s toxic fish face long recovery, state finds  Most fish consumption advisories in the State are in place because of high levels of mercury and PCB’s in fish tissue.  These pollutants are particularly challenging to reduce as the majority of the pollutants originate in places outside of Michigan and are deposited here when it rains. A sobering analysis conducted by MDEQ concludes clean-up requires global commitments to reduce emissions of these toxins and could take 50 or more years before we see improvements here in Michigan.

Could all this snow bring spring flooding in Ann Arbor? City official says it depends  The weather forecast for next week shows warm temperatures at last.  Will we see flooding as record setting snowfall accumulations melt?

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson on Detroit water deal: ‘We’re probably going to walk’
Many residents of the watershed receive their drinking water from Detroit Sewer and Water, particularly in Wayne County and parts of Oakland County.  With major budget issues DSW has been in flux and one solution on the table is to create a regional water authority. Communities have mixed opinions on the current proposal for this new entity.

CHELSEA: Public hearing on Lyndon sand mine expected to attract concerned residents There are a couple of pending developments in the watershed that are creating a stir.  This article shares a proposed sand mining operation in Lyndon Township near Green Lake and Waterloo Recreation Area. To voice your concerns, attend a public hearing scheduled for Monday February 17th at 7:00 PM at Sylvan Township Hall.

Development spurs debate Another development making headlines is a proposed subdivision on one of the last remaining natural areas on Woodland Lake in Brighton Township.  A public hearing took place last week.  A rezoning proposal now resides with the Livingston County Planning Commission.

News to Us

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

This edition of News to Us shares several articles on pollution, both where we are losing ground and making some gains.  Two stories provide updates on pending park improvements.  Finally, take a look back at January’s weather in a piece that captures the month in numbers.

Michigan rivers polluted by human, animal waste more than double previous estimates Occurrences of pathogen pollution have more than doubled in Michigan’s rivers and lakes in recent years.  The new numbers are thought to be the result of better monitoring rather than marked changes in water quality.  The problem is, and has been, widespread.  Most of the waters impaired by pathogens (from human and animal waste) are located in southeast Michigan.  Failing septic tanks, manure from farm fields, sewer overflows and polluted runoff are the leading contributors to the problem.

Can sewage treatment plants protect fish from the chemicals in the water? Building on the story we published in the last edition of News to Us on trace chemicals in drinking water, Michigan Radio’s The Environment Report, covers potential impacts to fish from emerging contaminants – pharmaceuticals.

Michigan: Thornapple River. Removing Dam Improves Dissolved Oxygen Levels in River It is not all bad news when it comes to water quality.  Before and after monitoring data showed improved dissolved oxygen (DO) levels at the site of a dam removal. Prior to the removal of the dam, DO levels were so low, the river was listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act.  The river will be delisted for its DO impairment.

By the numbers: See how Ann Arbor’s cold and snowy January stacks up against history  This is a fun look at this month’s weather.  It uses Ann Arbor’s weather stations but similar numbers would apply across the watershed.  Spoiler alert: It’s been coooold!

Milford Village Council Approves Final Submittal for Phase I of AMP Project  Milford is one step closer to making significant improvements its Central Park that includes an amphitheater for their summer concert series. Pettibone Creek, a tributary of the Huron River, runs through this park.  Milford is one of five Huron River Trail Towns.

Next steps for Ann Arbor greenway project uncertain after grant funds denied  A key parcel in the Allen’s Creek Greenway, did not receive state funding for improvements necessary to take it from a retired city maintenance yard to a welcoming civic space.  The Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy and the City of Ann Arbor will be meeting to determine what the next steps for keeping the greenway project moving forward.


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