Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category

News to Us

This edition of News to Us shares local news on recovering Osprey populations, increasing entrance fees in our metroparks system and an examination of Livingston County drinking water issues.  At the state level, Michigan is considering banning of plastic microbeads. And in national news, aging dams are making headlines again.

Osprey population booms in Southeast Michigan Osprey populations are rebounding in the Huron River watershed. The Huron River Watershed Council helped install two new platforms for nesting sites in the river. Learn about the bird and its recovery in this article.  See more on HRWC’s role in this mini-documentary.

Microbeads and the Great Lakes We have shared stories about the issue of plastic microbeads from bath and beauty products in previous editions of News to Us.  These beads end up in our lakes and rivers as they are not captured in the wastewater treatment process. Now, the Michigan legislature is considering a ban. Michigan is the last remaining Great Lakes state without a ban.  Here’s hoping we can join the rest of the region in protecting our lakes and streams from this pollutant.

Huron-Clinton parks plan: Higher fees, bigger offices Huron Clinton Metroparks are a significant landholder in the Huron River watershed, much of it along the river itself.  The parks are wonderful amenities for our residents and play a role in protecting water quality and freshwater ecosystems. The park system is considering raising rates for entrance fees.  This article shares more.

Aging And Underfunded: America’s Dam Safety Problem, In 4 Charts  America’s dams are getting old. The nation received a D grade in a recent assessment (Michigan received a D as well). On a day to day basis, this may not be a big deal. But the flooding that occurred in South Carolina last month illustrates why we must be proactive about this issue.  During those floods, more than 20 dams collapsed, dramatically increasing the impact of already damaging rainfall.  Funding is a challenge but preventing a collapse is almost always less expensive than recovering from one.

Safe to drink? Livingston faces own water issues In response to the Flint drinking water crisis, one reporter decided to look into the potential for this kind of disaster in Livingston County.  While the Flint scenario is not a likely one, the article does share the myriad issues that can occur with drinking water and how water suppliers, the county and residents are helping to ensure safe drinking water for everyone.

News to Us


Volunteers collecting water quality data in Swift Run

Read articles on issues with water infrastructure in our watershed and Michigan-wide. Earlier this month the US Federal Court of Appeals made a ruling on a pesticide known to kill pollinators. Our water trail continues to make headlines. And the Swift Run creekshed is getting some special attention these days.

Ten surprising facts in Michigan’s new water strategy
In July, Michigan released a draft 30-year water strategy.  Much public discussion on the strategy has occurred since then. This is a blog written by Brad Garmon at the Michigan Environmental Commission that takes a little different look at the strategy.  Brad captures some startling statistics on the water assets Michigan owns and must steward.

Supervisor: Overuse causing discolored water in system
Lyon Township residents have been experiencing trouble with their drinking water. While the water remains safe to drink, some people are finding their water discolored. The township Supervisor attributes the color to iron in the water that occurs when backup wells are used to meet increased demand. The article highlights the issue of aging infrastructure with population growth and increasing water demand common throughout our watershed.

Michigan’s top 11 water trails named
The Huron River Water Trail was named one of the top water trails in Michigan by a public vote conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But we knew that already didn’t we? Click through to see other awesome river destinations throughout the state.

Court: EPA Should Not Have Approved Bee-Killing Pesticide
A step in the right direction for the honeybee crisis. Bees and other pollinators have be in rapid decline. An agricultural chemical, sulfoxaflor, has been found to be one contributor to these declines. The lawsuit shines a spotlight on the role of federal regulators in this complex problem and will hopefully encourage more extensive testing of new chemicals before receiving EPA approval.

Swift Creek Improvements
HRWC’s Ric Lawson talks about a project we have underway to improve stormwater management and water quality in the Swift Run tributary of the Huron River.   Learn about the problems in Swift Run and the solutions HRWC, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are supporting to improve the river.

News to Us


Volunteers installing an osprey nesting platform in the Huron River. Photo credit: 7 Cylinders Studio

Local osprey are being outfitted with tracking devices so you and researches can monitor their travels, a new online learning opportunity will improve your knowledge of lakes, and researchers are predicting another severe algal bloom in Lake Erie this summer.  Oil and gas pipeline accountability has been in the news a lot lately.  Here we pulled together three articles that will catch you up on the latest happenings.  And that is what is News to Us.

DNR monitoring osprey chick migration with GPS. Several osprey chicks have been outfitted with backpacks to help monitor the bird’s movements and growth. Two of the four chicks that will be monitored are from a nest in Kensington Metropark in Milford. There is a site where you can track the birds too at michiganosprey.org.

Introduction to Lakes course coming soon to a computer near you. With over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is home to many lake enthusiasts. If that describes you and you have always wanted to know more, Michigan State University Extension is now offering an online course providing in introduction to lakes.

‘Severe’ algal blooms forecast this summer on Lake Erie. Researchers are predicting a more significant algal bloom this year than the one last summer that shutdown Toledo’s water supply for several days. The bloom won’t necessarily lead to issues with drinking water but will certainly impact recreation on Lake Erie and the organisms that live in the lake.  Phosphorus runoff and heavy rains in June are two major contributors to the severity of the bloom. Conservationists are targeting large livestock operations for phosphorus reduction.

July has been a big month for news on oil and gas pipelines in Michigan.  Here is a sampling of articles sharing pieces of the larger issue of moving oil through our state’s waterways.

  • Life 5 years after the nation’s worst inland oil spill – NPR’s Environment Report revisits the Kalamazoo River oil spill which is the largest inland oil spill in US history caused by a break in an Enbridge pipeline that traversed this waterway.
  • Report calls for heavy crude oil ban in Straits of Mackinac pipeline – The Michigan DEQ led a special task force that released a report last week on the status and future of pipelines in the state. Of particular focus is the Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Some say the recommendations are a big step in the right direction for safety and accountability. Others assert it does not go far enough to protect our freshwater resources.
  • National Wildlife Federation to Sue Dept. of Transportation over Oil Pipeline Oversight Failures  — On the heels of this report, the NWF announced they plan to sue the federal government for failing to uphold the Oil Pollution Act which requires approval of a safety plan for pipelines which travel in, on or under inland waters. This lawsuit comes after much scrutiny and investigation into the safety of the Enbridge pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

News to Us

It has bAnn Arbor floodingeen a busy news month. Many exciting things happening at the global, national and state level that affects us right here in the Huron.  The environment took front seat in international news this month with Pope Francis’ encyclical. Our federal government finally provided clarity on the Clean Water Act by better defining “waters of the US”.  The State of Michigan has released a draft vision for water that includes a dramatic reduction in phosphorus to our waterways.  And not to leave out local action, the Ann Arbor Observer provides a look at how the University of Michigan handles stormwater.

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change. The recent papal encyclical has been making waves among Catholics and far beyond. The document is a call to action bringing a moral argument to environmental protection and climate change.  A fascinating and welcome contribution to the environmental movement, if you haven’t read much about this, the article is a nice summary of the report and the implications.

Issues of The Environment: The Clean Water Rule. HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs is interviewed about EPA’s ruling on Waters of the US, or the waters protected under the Clean Water Act.  She discusses how this ruling will impact our state and watershed and why this ruling is so important.

DEQ announces 30-year vision for water. The State’s draft water strategy addresses nutrient pollution, invasive species, boating and harbors and water trails.  The strategy also calls for investment in technologies that support clean water and the establishment of a fund to finance implementation of water strategy.  The vision is out in draft and the DEQ is accepting comments until August 28th.

More information on Michigan’s Water Strategy and how to comment can be viewed here

Calming the waters.  This editorial provides a deeper dive into the issue of phosphorus pollution, reduction goals, and how Michigan needs to do more to make meaningful progress toward those goals and make appropriate contributions to a region-wide effort to reduce problems in the Great Lakes resulting from excess phosphorus in our lakes and waterways.

Storm Over the U-M: The city and county have strict new stormwater requirements. But the university isn’t on board.  Water knows no political boundaries which can create tension over responsibility for and management of this resource. When it rains on our cities and towns, it needs to be managed to avoid flooding, erosion and other stormwater related issues. This article chronicles ongoing tension around stormwater management by the University of Michigan.

News to Us

How much water is needed to produce the food we eat?

How much water is needed to produce the food we eat?

HRWC’s work has been highlighted in some news recently covering volunteer stream monitoring and the significance of water to Michigan’s economy.  In national news, FEMA now requires climate change be considered when planning for natural disasters.  Finally, a fun interactive piece allows you to calculate the water footprint of your favorite meals.

Volunteers in forefront of monitoring Great Lakes streams
HRWC leads the statewide Michigan Clean Water Corps program which provides training and funding to groups throughout the state that want to use volunteers to monitor the condition of our rivers and streams.  The program has supported volunteer monitoring efforts at more than 800 sites in Michigan and all of the data is shared publicly online. Learn about similar programs in other Great Lakes states as well.

Include Climate Change in Disaster Planning, FEMA Says States and local governments are required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to have a current Hazard Mitigation Plan.  These plans help communities understand risks and vulnerabilities associated with disasters such as flooding or oil spills.  FEMA recently announced that revisions to these plans (which occur every 3-5 years) must take into account climate change; a requirement that will help us be better prepared for more extreme weather events.

New report highlights broad impact of water on Michigan’s economy At least one in five jobs in Michigan is tied to water? Yes, according to a new report on the importance of our water to the State’s economy. HRWC’s RiverUp! program is highlighted in the report as one of Michigan’s “Blue Places” where communities are embracing rivers and lakes as amenities contributing to local economies and quality of life.

832 gallons of water were used to make this plate By all accounts, the current drought in California is one of the most severe on record. And the impacts stand to affect us all.  There are many thought provoking articles, infographics and images fueling an ongoing discussion about water use and how we can be more thoughtful about our water consumption.  This interactive feature calculates the amount of water it takes to produce a plate of food.  Put together your favorite meal or the dinner you have planned for tonight and see what the water footprint is.  Try finding meals with lower water inputs.  We can all do our part to alleviate the demands on our finite water resources.

News to Us

Booms placed in the Huron River to capture oil leaking from an underground storage tank.

Booms placed in the Huron River to capture oil leaking from an underground storage tank.

In the news, the Huron River continues to receive more attention from both local governments and the national government.  Also, oil reached the river from a leak at a private residence near Portage Lake.  Finally read two stories covering new research, one fueled by data collected by citizens, the other from a University of Michigan researcher on microplastics in the Great Lakes.

Ypsilanti adopts designation of Michigan Trail Town along Huron River Ypsilanti City Council has formally adopted the designation of Huron River “Trail Town”.  Ypsilanti is one of five, along with Milford, Dexter, Ann Arbor and Flat Rock, water trail towns along the Huron that are working to maximize the benefits of being situated right on the river.  The Huron offers recreation, economic and aesthetic benefits as well as many ecological benefits.

Federal agencies assist in oil leak  There was an oil spill on private property in Pinckney last week. Some of that oil ended up in the Huron River. Hazmat teams were called in to contain and clean up the spill.

200 years of citizen science predict the future of forests One family has left quite a legacy.  For generations, the descendants of Robert Marsham continued his efforts to capture the timing of leaf out and flowering of many plant species and the appearance of certain animals at their family estate in England. A researcher has used this information to look for trends in the data that may help us understand how natural communities may respond to changing temperatures. Citizen science helps us in many ways here at HRWC.  Who knows, maybe one day all of you HRWC volunteer data collectors will be part of a story told from 200 years of data on the Huron River!

National Designation Awarded to Huron River Water Trail  The Huron River Water Trail/RiverUp! is the cover story of the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association publication! The recent designation is continuing to get high profile press at the local, state and national level exposing a new audience to the treasure we have right here in southeast Michigan.

UM researcher says microplastics could threaten Great Lakes fish  Here at HRWC we keep our eyes and ears open for emerging threats to the river and citizen of the Huron River watershed.  Microplastics (microbeads and microfibers) are a somewhat recent addition to our aquatic systems.  This article discusses potential impacts of this pollutant coming out of new research from the University of Michigan. Legislation has been introduced at the State to ban products containing microbeads.

News To Us

Snowy Huron by Dan Bruell

Snowy Huron by Dan Bruell.

This edition of News to Us shares news of Minnesota’s proposed steps toward protecting state waters, while New Jersey proceeds with a controversial decision that bypasses voter involvement. Read to learn about a diabetes drug affecting fish in Lake Michigan as well as increasing recognition of the Huron River Water Trail.

Minnesota Governor Dayton to propose environmental buffer zone for all state waterways. Governor Mark Dayton will be proposing legislation to protect Minnesota state waterways with fifty foot buffer zones, and is expecting opposition from farming interest groups.

New Jersey Governor Christie Signs Bill ‘Siding With Private Water Companies’ Over Public Water. Governor Chris Christie signed the controversial “Water Infrastructure Protection Act” which allows municipalities to sell their public water utilities to private businesses without putting the measure to voters.

Diabetes drug affecting fish in Lake Michigan. A recent study has found that the popular Diabetes drug, Metformin, is affecting the hormonal system of fish in Lake Michigan.

The 10 Most Important Water Stories in 2014. Peter Gleick with the Pacific Institute, and Carl Ganter of Circle of Blue, list the ten most important water stories of 2014 with #8 and #10 affecting our region.

Communities along the Huron River are embracing the Huron River Water Trail’s recent designation as the 18th National Water Trail by the National Park Service:

News To Us

River Raisin. Julie Falk.

A snowy river. Photo: J. Falk

This edition of News To Us includes a recent interview with HRWC’s Executive Director Laura Rubin, and news of water conservation efforts in California. Read an update from the residents affected by the West Virginia chemical spill, the results of a hydraulic fracturing study in northeast Ohio, and an invasive species newly added to the Michigan DNR’s prohibited list. Finally, a mobile phone application allows local citizens to provide important stream data to scientists.

Issues of The Environment: The Dangers Of Coal Tar Sealants. HRWC’s Executive Director, Laura Rubin discusses the dangers of coal tar sealants with WEMU’s David Fair.

Michigan Adds 7 Aquatic Species To Prohibited List. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources bans possession of an additional seven invasive aquatic species.

Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development Proposes Addition of Water Soldier to State’s Prohibited Plant List. Water Soldier has recently been found invading the Trent-Severn waterway in Ontario.

Los Angeles, City of Water. Contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles has become a leader in water conservation efforts and possibly a model city for others to look to in the future.

On The Anniversary Of The Elk River Chemical Spill, West Virginians Tell Their Stories. An update from residents who were affected.

Study: Fracking Triggered 77 Earthquakes in Ohio. A recent study proves a stronger connection between fracking and local earthquakes in Ohio.

Stream app turns Great Lakes citizens into scientists. Indian Springs Metropark at the Huron’s headwaters, is setting up several stream gauge stations that allow citizens to aid in gathering data via a phone app.

Sustainable Ann Arbor Monthly Series Kicks Off Jan 8. A think tank of local stakeholders, including community organizations, local government staff, businesses and residents, will join the public to discuss local sustainability efforts and challenges.

News to Us

This edition features an update on recent legislation battling the Asian Carp, while Grand Rapids takes the lead in measuring the impact of its climate change efforts.  How did our water system become so disconnected, and how can we fix it? The Great Lakes Commission is working to answer this question by looking at the water system more holistically. Read about a true Huron River adventure from paddlers who kayaked over a gusty and rainy Halloween weekend.

Legislation Seeks Interim Steps to Stop Asian Carp Representative Dave Camp and Senator Debbie Stabenow join forces to fight the Asian Carp.

What Can Cities Really Do About Climate Change? Over a thousand US cities have agreed to abide by the Kyoto Protocol. The Mayor’s Climate Protection Center has been documenting these efforts, but measuring the impact has been difficult.  Since 2009, Grand Rapids’ sustainability plan has been tracking progress to measure its success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fractured Water: Can metro Detroit reconnect its watersheds? Our water system has evolved into a system that is fractured and disconnected.  How did rivers become this way and what can be done to return the river to its natural state?

Halloween Storm 2014 on the Huron River Water Trail The Huron River Water Trail “Paddler’s Companion” came in handy for these paddlers who traversed the length of the Huron this fall.  Their trip is inspiring to those who wish to make the 125 mile trek. These guides can be purchased at the HRWC office or online here.

News to Us

A "view" of Allens Creek. Allens Creek, a tributary of the Huron River, is almost entirely buried under the city of Ann Arbor.

A “view” of Allens Creek from West Park in Ann Arbor.  Allens Creek, a tributary of the Huron River, is almost entirely buried under the city of Ann Arbor.

A couple of recent interviews cover HRWC’s RiverUp! project and watershed management planning efforts for Honey Creek. A very cool project in San Francisco is “daylighting” buried rivers through artist’s renderings. This edition of News to Us also highlights news from Dexter, the river that runs through it – Mill Creek, and a man influential in both his town and his watershed – Paul Cousins. Finally, more oil activity in the watershed as injection well is proposed in White Lake.

Bringing life, recreation and business back to the Huron River An Ypsilanti blogger interviews HRWC Deputy Director Elizabeth Riggs about RiverUp!. The result is a great conversation that paints a lovely picture of what the Huron River is and can be. Learn how this project is improving river health, encouraging river recreation and building trail towns along the Huron that bring focus to this incredible resource in our backyard.

Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan Released Listen to a brief radio interview with Ric Lawson on the recent release of the Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan.  Honey Creek is a tributary of the Huron River that runs through Scio Township.  Learn what threatens this creek and plans to improve its condition. Several other resources, including HRWC’s creekshed reports, can be found on our website to learn more about Honey Creek.

San Francisco Is Painting the Streets with Historical Creeks All too often, as cities were built rivers were contained in pipes and buried underground. A new initiative in San Francisco will have artists rendering rivers along their path through the city. Should we try this with Allens Creek? If we did you would “see” the river running throughout downtown Ann Arbor and west side neighborhoods from the UM stadium down to its outlet below Argo Dam.  A reminder of what was.

Trout Unlimited group conducts survey at Mill Creek in Dexter The Huron River’s Mill Creek runs through Chelsea and Dexter before joining the mainstem of the river in Dexter. It is one of the cooler stretches of river and once the Mill Creek dam was removed, it became a desirable location to establish a trout fishery.  While not a native fish to the Huron, the success of brown trout in Mill Creek indicates the tributary is in good condition and it brings anglers and families to the river to enjoy. This article shares the status of stocking efforts that began in 2010.

Dexter Council recognizes Paul Cousins for years of service Dexter Village Council takes time to honor Paul Cousins for his years of service to the community of Dexter. Paul has been an intrepid board member and board chair at HRWC for many years. His tireless effort and enthusiasm was instrumental in the Mill Creek dam removal project and creation of Dexter’s Mill Creek Park.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Paul as well, for everything he has done and will yet do for Dexter, the watershed and all of us who live here.

Oil exploration company suspends request for White Lake park injection well Over the past two weeks, citizens of White Lake township and nearby areas, have been reacting to a proposed injection well, cited for Island Lake Park, for the disposal of oil extraction waste. For now, the applicants have withdrawn their application from the EPA for the permit claiming there is not enough need for the local well at this point.

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