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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.

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)

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.

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)

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:

Rebecca Esselman

Rebecca keeps one eye on the river and the other on climate.She is a bit of a news buff too, bringing you News to Us twice a month.When not at the office you can find her and her family enjoying Hudson Mills and Mill Creek Park.

Latest posts by Rebecca Esselman (see all)

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.

News to Us

Snowy Owl. Photo credit: Zak Pohlen. Creative Commons.

Snowy Owl. Photo credit: Zak Pohlen. Creative Commons.

Winter, without a doubt, is upon us.  And after a major ice storm and the polar vortex hitting our area, the weather and water are making headlines. Read a couple of pieces on the polar vortex, what it is and what responses it provoked.  Also, a lovely winter resident, the Snowy Owl, is making a little trouble for air travel.  Read a local article on new substances showing up in our drinking water and a national article chronicling some major issues facing our water supply and where technology made hold the solution.

U.S. Cold Snap Inspires Climate Change Denial, While Scientists See Little Room for Doubt  The Polar Vortex sure did a lot to spark conversation about Global Warming.  This article shares why cold weather and a warmer climate are not mutually exclusive.

The Polar Vortex Explained in 2 Minutes  And speaking of the Polar Vortex…what is such a thing anyway?  This short video explains the phenomenon for those of us that do not spend our days thinking about jet streams, pressure systems and temperature differentials.

Why airports look like home to snowy owls Detroit Metro Airport is landing more than planes these days.  This winter has been a bumper year for the Snowy Owl, a sometimes winter resident of southeast Michigan.  They are a welcome sight but pose a particular challenge at airports.

What should we do about the trace chemicals found in drinking water? Recent testing found 19 different drugs in the water used for Ann Arbor’s drinking water, of which, only 8 were filtered out during treatment.  What does this mean for our health and the health of aquatic organisms?  Listen to this report to find out more.

EPA’s Top 10 Technology Needs For Water Nutrient, sediment, and bacterial pollution, aging infrastructure, inefficiencies in water use and climate change all strain the nation’s water supply. This article shares what the Environmental Protection Agency deems the top ten water issues that could benefit from technological solutions.

News to Us

Happy New Year from all of us here at HRWC.  We hope 2014 brings you many opportunities to convene with the rivers and lakes of the watershed.  To start the year off right, consider heading to Proud Lake Recreation Area for some winter river recreation.  This edition of News to Us also shares stories on the dioxane contamination in Ann Arbor’s groundwater, an Ypsilanti riverfront development, a new State-level strategy on aquatic invasives, reports of another major waterbird die-off event and how water loss from pipes is affecting your water bill.

photo credit: John Lloyd

photo credit: John Lloyd

Heavner Canoe, Kayak Rental To Host Outdoor Open House on New Year’s Day
Bundle up and get down to the river tomorrow to kick off the new year!  Heavner Canoe, the Department of Natural Resources and Solar Club are hosting an event at Proud Lake Recreation Area.  Snow shoe, kayak or canoe your way into 2014.

Michigan DEQ could set higher standards for dioxane pollution cleanup in 2014  The Department of Environmental Quality is considering higher State-level standards for dioxane contamination. This is welcome news for Ann Arbor residents who have been advocating for a better cleanup of a dioxane plume spreading in the groundwater in the Wagner Road area and moving toward the Huron River.  The toxic plume is the result of contamination from the Pall Life Sciences medical manufacturing facility. HRWC supports stricter standards for the clean up of this toxin.

Smaller $12M Eastside Recreation Center proposed to accommodate future Water Street developments  Ypsilanti may be home to a new recreation center along the Huron River. The proposed community center is a cornerstone of the Automotive Heritage Trail District being created by local partners to brand this section of the Huron River and border to border trail from Peninsular Park to the historic Ford Lake Dam.

Michigan agencies step up invasive species fight  Michigan state agencies now have a shared strategy to help fight the spread of aquatic invasive species.  Implementation of the strategy will begin in earnest with coordinated early detection and rapid response. The strategy also involves public education as a means of identifying new infestations early.

Paying more to lose water by the minute  Volumes of water are lost from leaking pipes in our water systems.  Aging infrastructure and the absence of standardized required water audits have led to the loss of approximately 66.5 billion gallons of water annually in the Great Lakes region.  Water loss leads to revenue loss for utilities which results in increased water rates for consumers.

Botulism Bacteria Blamed for Deaths of Waterbirds on Lake Ontario Another significant Great Lakes waterbird die-off event is occurring now, this time in Lake Ontario.  A complex mix of factors, including nutrient pollution and algal blooms, lead to the botulism outbreaks that are killing loons and other water birds at alarming rates.

 

News to Us

 

Swimming in Base Line Lake

Swimming in Base Line Lake

There is a lot of local action this edition of News to Us.  Read about a potential new wastewater treatment facility in Superior Township and lakeside residential development on Woodland Lake in Brighton.  Hamburg Township has come to resolution on conflict around boater behavior on Base Line Lake.  Learn more about the work of HRWC and many partners to enhance the role the river plays in many of our communities.  And finally, a recent article provides a good summary of the current status of fracking in the State of Michigan.

SUPERIOR TOWNSHIP: Board updated on developers’ DEQ permit application  Negotiations continue around a proposed 1,200 unit mobile home development and new wastewater treatment plant that would discharge into the Huron River in Superior Township.  Rock Riverine has submitted an application to DEQ for a wastewater discharge permit which would add phosphorus to the Huron in stretch of river that already exceeds the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for phosphorus.  TMDL’s are part of the Clean Water Act and set the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards.

Development worries residents  A proposed project would bring nearly 50 new homes to Woodland Lake in Brighton Township on what may be the last undeveloped parcel on the lake.  The 43 acre parcel is currently forested with wetlands and is hilly.  Local residents are voicing their concerns over the development of this parcel and the impacts it would have on the lake. There is a public hearing tentatively scheduled for Feb. 10, 2014.

Hamburg won’t seek watercraft ordinance from state  Last month we highlighted an article citing growing concerns about noise and the inappropriate behavior of boaters on Base Line Lake.  In lieu of a watercraft ordinance, the Township has decided to provide additional patrolling as a first step to manage the issue.

Guest Blogger: Tom Woiwode  Friend of HRWC and champion for greenways in Southeast Michigan, Tom Woiwode blogs about RiverUp!, the water trail and other efforts to invest in the river for community vitality, economic development, and recreational and cultural activity.

Tighter regulations coming for hydraulic fracking in Michigan  For those following the fracking issue in Michigan, this article provides a nice summary of recent changes to regulations.  Read more about the natural gas extraction process, the rules regulating it and the public’s concern about the growing number of wells drilled using high volume hydraulic fracturing in the State.

 

News to Us

the michigan hand 2The latest edition of our biweekly news round up provides an update on Great Lakes water levels, highlights a major road construction project in the watershed and shares how Ann Arbor is planning to implement its Climate Action Plan.  Read about potential riverside developments in two of the Huron River Water Trail Trail Towns. Also, how often do you play tourist in your own state?  Take a fun survey to see how many sites you have seen in the Mighty Mitt.

Issues of the Environment: Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan  A recent broadcast of WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interviews Ann Arbor’s, Environment Coordinator, Matt Naud.  The interview discusses the City’s Climate Action Plan and the push to implement strategies identified in the plan that will help reduce carbon emissions and prepare the city and its residents for anticipated changes to the local climate.

Great Lakes water levels recover from near-record lows  Water levels in the Great Lakes is an issue many Michiganders are paying attention to.  Much has been debated about the cause(s) of record low levels in the Great Lakes and what can be expected over time pertaining to lake levels.  Here is the latest update that brings some welcome news on the issue.

Environmental group raises concerns about US-23 project north of Ann Arbor  A newly proposed highway project in our watershed is getting some attention from environmental groups wanting to make sure improvements appropriately address potential impacts.  A public meeting is scheduled for December 12, 2013 for those interested in learning more or providing input.

Milford’s AMP in Central Park Nears Fundraising Goal   Community members in Milford have joined forces to raise funds for improvements to its Central Park along the Huron River.  The group is nearing its fundraising goals that will bring an outdoor amphitheater and barrier-free public restroom facilities to the park. Milford is a Trail Town on the Huron River Water Trail.  Read more about the value of riverside amenities and municipal spaces at RiverUp!

Waterfront development with restaurants, a boardwalk and upscale apartments proposed for Ford Lake  Ford Lake, a reservoir of the Huron River, is the location of another proposed riverside development.  The concept plans shows potential amenities such as dining and retail along the water, as well as housing, recreation trails, and a disc golf course. Improving walkability and access to the lake on the north shore of the lake could be assets to Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti, a  Trail Town of the Huron River Water Trail.

Michigan Tourist Attractions  And for a little fun, how good of a local tourist are you?  Take a look at these Michigan attractions.  How many have you visited?  Tell us! What tops your list of must-sees?

News to Us

Lake invasive European Frogbit.  Photo credit: flickr.com/petroglyph

Lake invasive European Frogbit. Photo credit: Michael Butler

 

Lots of activity in the policy sphere in this edition of News to Us.  EPA threatens to reclaim control over wetland regulations in Michigan, Hamburg Township considers a watercraft-control ordinance and a lovely little butterfly seeks endangered status to protect remaining populations. Also read about a new aquatic plant invading lakes and how several Great Lakes cities are adapting to climate change.

EPA hearing will give public a voice in whether Michigan should retain regulation of wetlands  On December 11th, Michigan residents will be able to provide comment during a public hearing on whether or not the EPA should revoke Michigan’s authority to administer wetland regulations under the Clean Water Act.  Michigan’s administration of the regulations have been under scrutiny as inconsistent with Section 404 of the Act and less protective of wetlands.

Officials take aim at lake revelry  Conflict over public uses of Baseline Lake have Hamburg Township officials considering options.  Residents around the lake are complaining of loud and inappropriate behavior on the public lake. On November 19th there will be a public hearing on the issue and the potential for a local watercraft-control ordinance.

Cities adapting to changing climate, but more changes coming  The work of HRWC partner, the Graham Sustainability Institute, was highlighted in a story on how cities are adapting to a changing climate.  Ann Arbor is one of several cities in the Great Lakes that are part of the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities program helping support cities considering how to adapt to changes in temperature and rainfall patterns.

Michigan cracks down on frogbit crowding out state lakes  A new non-native aquatic plant is invading lakes and other slow moving waters in southeast Michigan. Several confirmed reports have the species taking hold in areas of the lower Huron River watershed near the outlet to Lake Erie. The Michigan DNR is looking for citizen help to identify new locations of this nuisance weed.  The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network has information on the species and how to report sightings.

STATE: U.S. considers endangered classification for butterfly found prominently in Michigan  One of our watershed residents the Poweshiek skipperling, has seen dramatic population declines in recent years. This little butterfly lives in the remaining prairie fens in the watershed with known occurrences in Livingston, Oakland and Washtenaw counties. If classified as endangered a recovery plan for the species will be developed.


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