Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category
The 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?
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.
This edition of News to Us provides updates on a couple of emerging threats to Michigan’s water – Asian carp and fracking. Also, learn where Osprey go to escape the winter and how water can be the basis of a strong and growing economy.
Osprey from Michigan refuge arrives in Cuba You may recall, back in September, we shared some news about our local Osprey getting a new accessory (Osprey to wear backpacks in Southeast Michigan). Well, it seems our friends have traveled long and far. Read this article to find out where for local Osprey are wintering this year.
Michigan DEQ proposes new fracking regulations in light of environmental, health concerns In response to growing public concern, MDEQ has updated regulations on hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. The new regulations require more reporting and closer monitoring of high volume fracking operations. While this is a step in the right direction, there is still room for improvement to ensure our waters are protected from depletion or contamination from fracking.
Water, water everywhere in Michigan – but is it enough? While water in Michigan hardly seems scare, this article highlights why we should not take this for granted and how even in a state with abundant water resources, we can experience scarcity.
Asian carp reproduce in Great Lakes watershed Scientists have found evidence that the non-native Asian Carp has reproduced in the Sandusky River in Ohio. While individual carp have been found in the Great Lakes watershed in the past, this is the first time it can be confirmed that they are here and reproducing.
Great Lakes state playing catch-up in effort to build water-based economy You may have, by now, heard the term “Blue economy”. It is the idea that water and all of its uses can form the basis of a burgeoning economy. While there are many examples in Michigan of communities making strides toward a robust blue economy, one study shows Michigan is lagging behind other Great Lakes states in this area. RiverUp! is an example here in the Huron River watershed of building a water-based economy.
News to Us has been coming to you via a guest editor (one of HRWC’s summer interns Jhena Vigrass — Thanks Jhena!) for the past couple of months while I was out on maternity leave. After many weeks of very minimal exposure to news and current events, I have resurfaced to mixed news on the state of our river and the waters of Southeast Michigan. There have been an alarming number of reports of sewage overflows and other hazardous spills recently. This may be due to better reporting, coincidence, aging infrastructure or negligence. Likely it is a combination of several of these reasons. What it means for certain is our river has taken some hits and diligence on the part of HRWC, local governments, the State and watershed residents is as important as ever. Read about some of these setbacks and the steps several of our neighbors including Oakland County, the City of Ann Arbor and the communities of the Raisin River watershed, are doing to improve the situation.
COLUMN: Crucial issues need to be addressed regarding Great Lakes health Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner, Jim Nash shares his opinion on some of the most pressing local issues that affect our waterways and the health of the Great Lakes. He discusses stormwater management and what he hopes the recent summit hosted by the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will do to raise awareness about stormwater issues and solutions.
Ann Arbor’s increasing sewage overflows and aging sewer system a concern of officials This article discusses recent sewage spills in Ann Arbor, possible reasons for more frequent infrastructure failures and what the City is doing in response. These spills often reach the Huron River or its tributaries directly, impacting water quality. Rapid response and prevention are key to protecting our water from sewage contamination.
Popular Bathroom Wipes Blamed for Sewer Clogs. In related news, this national piece was recently released. There are things, we as residents of this watershed, can do to help our cities and villages keep sewer systems clean, functioning and less susceptible to failure. Avoid flushing anything that does not breakdown readily such as the bathroom wipes mentioned in this article but also diapers, disposable toilet bowl cleaners, baby wipes, feminine hygiene products, oil and grease all of which contribute to clogged sewage pipes.
Unknown fluid draining into Huron River near EMU campus Washtenaw County HAZMAT and EPA are investigating the spill of an unknown substance to the Huron River last week. The spill occurred near the Eastern Michigan University campus by the bridge on Forest Avenue, near Frog Island.
River Raisin Less Polluted, Officials Say Good news coming from our neighbors to the south. The Raisin River watershed, draining areas of Washtenaw, Jackson, Lenawee, Hillsdale and Monroe counties, has realized enough improvement in the river that several “beneficial use impairments” (BIUs), set by USEPA, have been removed. Two of fourteen BIUs were removed because of marked gains on E. coli and nutrient levels in the river. This is great progress made through the efforts of the communities and residents of the Raisin River watershed.
**Note: If you are looking for the October 9th edition of News to Us please click here. An incorrect link was circulated in our recent email.**
This edition of News to Us describes new projects dedicated to protecting the Huron River and other freshwater resources throughout the state. Read about the increasing popularity of the Huron as well as a recent bird sighting.
European frog-bit: the next invasive plant to watch – Fast moving aquatic invasive that colonizes marshes, ditches and swamps as well as shorelines of lakes and rivers discovered near Alpena.
Helping Michigan cities plan for a warmer future – A Michigan Radio interview with Beth Gibbons, project manager for the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C) on helping cities like Flint, Michigan plan for climate change adaptation.
Jackson officials accept court’s decision nullifying stormwater fee; services such as leaf pickup eliminated — The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the city’s stormwater fee an unconstitutional tax that violates the Headlee Amendment. Jackson declines to appeal the decision.
Ann Arbor officials credit large increase in river trips to popularity of Argo Cascades – Liveries along the Huron reported record numbers of river trips this summer, including HRWC’s neighbors at the Argo Canoe Livery. The recently installed Cascades are said to be the reason. Get out on the river before the summer ends. Register here for HRWC’s last paddle trip, September 21.
Washtenaw County to back $3.33M in bonds for flood control in Ann Arbor — The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners recently approved support for five exciting projects within Ann Arbor and the Allen Creek watershed that will help to mitigate flooding and reduce E. coli and phosphorus levels in the Huron. Projects range from installing new stormwater control measures in drains to planting trees!
Sewer overflows declining, but heavy rains still push sewage into streams – Michigan’s sewer systems seem to be out of sight and out of mind — until they break. Recent reports find that current systems will take billions of dollars to upgrade and fix. Many cities and counties are trying to adapt these systems to a changing climate, with more intense rainfall that stresses stormwater plants. Fortunately, new legislation is funding grants to be used by cities throughout the state to alleviate the problem.
Bird battle stuns shutterbug — A great blue heron recently got a little too close to a mother osprey and her nest. Mama osprey went above and beyond the call of duty to teach heron a lesson.
This edition of News to Us focuses on a number of issues that are affecting the Huron River, from stormwater runoff to septic system failure. Learn about the growing global importance of the Great Lakes, as well as an important connection between water and energy.
Assessing the health of Michigan’s rivers and inland waters — HRWC’s executive director Laura Rubin talks with Michelle Nelson on Michigan Radio’s Stateside with Cynthia Canty. Rubin explains how urban pollution has become the main danger to the health of our rivers and lakes, but remains positive that both economic and environmental interests can be met in protecting our natural resources.
Ann Arbor Wastewater Treatment staff evaluating operations after 10K gallon raw sewage spill — A big storm on June 27 not only overflowed Ann Arbor’s streets, but also its Wastewater Treatment Plant, sending 10,000 gallons of untreated sewage into the Huron River. While staff responded quickly, preventing a larger spill, the plant is currently evaluating its operations as a result.
Thousands of failed septic tanks threaten Michigan’s waters — Researchers from Michigan State University recently found high levels of genetic markers of human waste in many of Michigan’s rivers, including our own Huron. They say that a significant contributor is failing septic systems present throughout the state. HRWC is working on a Failing Septic Identification project to explore ways to save money, and protect home and freshwater resources.
Great Lakes ‘ground zero’ for water needs — As climates change and freshwater vanishes throughout the world, the Great Lakes are becoming an invaluable global resource. Water supplies and food production may become a huge part of Michigan’s future economy.
Research Gaps in Understanding the Connection between Water and Energy Identified in New AWE/ACEE Report — The Alliance for Water Efficiency is looking to accelerate collaborative and integrated approaches to managing water and energy resources. This report identifies specific recommendations for future opportunities, calling out priority research areas. Learn about the water energy nexus through HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy Project. AWE is an important resource for HRWC’s efforts.
Anti-biodiversity SB 78: Michigan scientists (133 of ‘em!) poised to tell Gov. Snyder it is “against the best advice” of state’s academic efforts — Michigan Senator Tom Casperson has recently sponsored SB 78, legislation that would redefine the term “biodiversity” as well as prohibit the designation of public lands in order to conserve that diversity. This would effectively strip power away from our state agencies that have helped to protect our abundant natural resources — including our freshwater.
Tip-toeing around climate change at the state capitol — Bridge magazine reports on current climate change issues within the state of Michigan and what our legislators are doing about it, with an entire issue dedicated to the topic.
From record rains in Ann Arbor to a federal study on the health of our nation’s streams and rivers, this edition of News to Us highlights a variety of news items that focus on impacts on water quality and what people are doing to help.
Ann Arbor’s 4th wettest year on record results in higher Huron River levels – So far, 2013 has given Ann Arbor quite a lot of rain. The June 27 storm alone had a tremendous impact on our river. HRWC’s executive director Laura Rubin explains that storms like that will soon be the norm as a result of climate change. Learn more about climate change in the watershed.
Huron River health: Phosphorus levels have dropped 25 percent in the past 15 years – Thanks to HRWC and all of it’s volunteers, the Huron River is one of the cleanest in the state. One noteworthy victory is the reduction of phosphorus levels in the river. HRWC’s Laura Rubin and Ric Lawson explain why this is such good news, and what we have to work on next.
The High Cost of Free Curb and Gutter – Do stormwater and parking have anything in common? Yes! This article proposes new ways of dealing with runoff and looks at modern parking practices to create better stormwater runoff management. Learn more about urban stormwater runoff and green infrastructure.
Can Beer Force Obama to Clean Up the Water Act? – Our local brewers are standing up for something pretty important – protecting water quality! Surprisingly, beer is 90% water. Michigan brewers largely rely on water from the Great Lakes. If that water isn’t high quality, then their beer won’t be high quality. HRWC’s September 12th event Suds on the River exemplifies this idea by allowing you to enjoy beer made out of water from the Huron.
Scientists Diagnose Streams in Trouble – Federal scientists recently completed a study regarding the health of our nation’s streams and rivers. Using a more holistic approach, they looked at how people were affecting the health of algae, fish and macroinvertebrates in the water. Study results show that at least one of these groups were negatively impacted in 83% of the streams in urban and agricultural areas and that the healthier streams received less runoff from urban areas. Learn more about urban runoff and protecting local water quality.
Wait…Something Just Touched You? – Invasive lake weeds can take over, making swimming unpleasant and crowding out native plants. The Eurasian watermilfoil is an invasive species that has little to no predators at the moment and grows so densely that it gets tangled on boat motors and even people, and greatly harms fish habitat. Cutting it down, can actually spread it even further. The Michigan Clean Water Corps is helping Michigan residents, boaters and lake-shore homeowners learn what to do.
This edition of News to Us highlights some shifting sands in the State and watershed that could have negative implications for water resources in the Huron. At the same time, local action is leading to protections for our natural areas and communities in Dexter Township and Ann Arbor. Finally, learn about an interesting new application of crowdsourcing to monitor water levels.
Michigan in danger of losing wetlands permitting program: Just signed by the Governor!
New legislation (SB 163) is being put in front of Governor Snyder that would weaken protections on Michigan wetlands. HRWC has signed on to a letter opposing the bill. Wetlands are extremely important in maintaining the water quality of the Huron River and Great Lakes and provide valuable services to communities across the state. We think the bill fails to comply with the federal Clean Water Act in a number of important ways. In addition, many of the changes unnecessarily increase program costs and reduce revenue being raised from those parties that utilize and benefit from the program. Our 3 main concerns are the creation of exemptions that will jeopardize the program assumption, mitigation issues, and the contiguous language.
Highland to host ‘fracking’ meeting
We have been keeping our eye on the issue of the use of new fracking methods to extract natural gas in the State of Michigan. The deeper horizontal wells require a large volume of water and has the potential to contaminate ground water sources with the chemicals used in the process. To date, fracking has been a bigger threat in other parts of the state. This articles shares that new state-issued oil and gas drilling leases in Oakland County are opening up thousands of acres to exploration, extraction and possibly fracking. The County is hosting a series of public meetings on the issue. Many residents and the County itself are concerned about the threat. Some areas cited for exploration are in the headwaters of the Huron River.
DEXTER: Township adopts green infrastructure map
Last week Dexter Township was presented with a Green Infrastructure map developed by HRWC and Township officials and residents earlier this year. The map captures the natural areas in the township that provide many benefits to the community, wildlife and water resources. The map was adopted by the township planning commission and can be used to inform master planning and ordinance development. This is part of a larger effort at HRWC to protect the quality of the Portage Creekshed. Learn more about the program here.
Transforming adversity into opportunity: Bringing resiliency to every community in America
Ann Arbor is one of 50 inaugural signatories on the Resilient Communities for America Agreement in which leaders pledge to take actions that create cities and towns more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Congratulations on being a leader in climate resiliency by making a local commitment to minimize the risk and impacts of extreme weather events and energy challenges.
There are 7 places in Michigan where you can text data to scientists
HRWC collects water level data at many locations throughout the watershed but we could always use more. Here is a fun, citizen-driven solution to getting more data about the status of our streams and rivers. CrowdHydrology allows citizen to text water level measurements to a central database for further analysis. What do you think? Would you participate?
In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.
Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment. A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements. Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!
A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress. He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.
Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’ Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades. Notice anything interesting, fun or sad? Let us know in the comments.
There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area. Don’t be alarmed. Just be aware. And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.
Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river. Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements. The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron. A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.
In the past couple of weeks we have seen some good radio coverage of watershed issues. A few are highlighted here. Read also about the idea of a “blue economy” for the Great Lakes and one community’s response to last year’s drought.
DEXTER: Village Council discusses mandatory outdoor watering restrictions which are now in effect
In response to last year’s dry conditions, Dexter has made a proactive decision to instate water restrictions for the Village. Conservation efforts like these can help reduce losses to the aquifers we draw water from, the burden on infrastructure needed to pump the water, and the costs associated with pumping or establishing new wells if existing wells should run dry, while still allowing residents to maintain lawns and landscapes.
Great Lakes region pins economic hopes on water
You may have seen the term ‘blue economy’ emerging in the local lexicon. If you haven’t yet, you soon will. More and more, communities are seeing the value of harnessing the economic value of living in a water-rich region like the Great Lakes. Learn more about this idea and what it means in our region in this article.
Hidden dangers of underground oil pipelines, and the potential impact on the Huron River
WEMU interviewed HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin for a recent ‘Issues of the Environment’ piece on the risks to the river from underground oil pipelines in the Huron River watershed.
Spring floods bring bumper crop of mosquitoes
I’ve noticed a lot of mosquitos this year while trying to get my garden in the ground. Have you? Here is a quick report on why we are seeing a few more of our biting friends this spring.
By law, the state can only own so much land, but that might change
HRWC recently provided comments on a new land acquisition plan for the DNR. Aspects of the plan may have very positive implications for our region. The plan proposed more land acquisition in SE Michigan giving more of the State’s urban residents access to public lands. On the other hand, elements of the plan may open more public land to natural resource extraction. While HRWC does not oppose natural resource extraction across the board, how that extraction is accomplished and to what degree has a wide range of implications for public lands.