Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category

News to Us

Milford Asset Mapping. Photo: Oakland County PEDs

Milford Asset Mapping. Image credit: Oakland County PEDs

News to Us today highlights a couple of local stories from Milford and Scio Township.  Several climate-related articles came across our desks recently including a press release on a new report connecting climate change to pest outbreaks and some promising bi-partisan legislation in New York. Finally, more fall out from the recent flooding in Detroit — raw sewage in local rivers and ultimately Lake Erie.

Milford activists aim to integrate river, downtown Recently, interested community members met in Milford to discuss the Huron River.  As one of the Huron River Trail Towns, Milford is looking for ways to connect all the downtown assets available to people from the river, to parks to downtown businesses. Improved canoe landing areas, signage, and new development opportunities were among the topics discussed.  Trail towns are part of HRWC’s RiverUp! program.

Scio Township imposes moratorium on oil and gas operations  Following the installation of the first drilling operation in Scio Township on Miller Rd and W. Delhi, the township has established a 6-month moratorium on further oil and natural gas developments. This will give the township time to consider existing protections related to oil and gas activities such as ordinances on noise, odor, and hours of operation.

Warming Climate Brings Greater Numbers of Bugs and Outdoor Pests  A new report is linking factors related to climate change are responsible, in part, for high populations of mosquitoes and ticks as well as the toxicity of poison ivy. Read the full report: Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change.

Legislature sends climate change bill to Cuomo Across the nation, from the federal to local levels, people are planning and taking action to prepare communities for a changing climate.  Last month, New York took a significant leap by bring legislation to Governor Cuomo that would require all state-funded projects to address climate change and extreme weather into planning and implementation of these projects. Legislation passed a democratic controlled Assembly and Republican controlled Senate and awaits the Governer’s approval expected sometime late this summer.

Metro Detroit’s sewage overflow feeds Lake Erie algae growth  The historic flooding that occurred in the Detroit area this August caused trouble beyond flooded roadways and basements. Many areas affected by the flood have combined stormwater and sewer systems that, when overwhelmed, deliver raw sewage directly to rivers, streams and ultimately Lake Erie further exacerbating recent water quality issues in the lake. We are fortunate in the Huron River Watershed not to have combined sewer systems.  However, stormwater and sewer infrastructure failures affect us all.  Improving this infrastructure to handle large rainfall events will help protect against future failures.

News to Us

Image credit: National Weather Service

Image credit: National Weather Service

This edition of News to Us is full of state and regional news that piques our interest here at HRWC.  We have seen two significant events in our area make national headlines recently – last week’s record rainfall in Southeast Michigan and the toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that left many in Ohio and Michigan without drinking water for days. We’ve selected two articles to share that focus on solutions. Read also about efforts to halt the spread of aquatic invasives, commentary on the implications to Michigan’s energy infrastructure of the recent EPA regulations limiting carbon emissions and a research report on the status of diversity represented within environmental groups.

Ohio offers no-interest loans in water toxin fight Initial steps are being taken in Ohio to safeguard the region from further drinking water issues. Actions include free drinking water testing, funding to reduce phosphorus runoff from farms, and loans available for water treatment upgrades.

Editorial: Re-envision infrastructure in wake of historic rainfall This is a solid editorial piece on the status of Michigan’s aging infrastructure in the wake of Detroit’s record breaking rainfall this week. Our ability to manage stormwater from significant rains throughout the state is challenged by old, inadequate pipes, lack of funding and more frequent large precipitation events. The author calls for legislative action and the use of more green and blue infrastructure solutions.

Stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species in Michigan The Michigan Department of Fisheries and Wildlife is taking action this summer to slow the spread of invasive species between water bodies in Michigan. A small crew is visiting popular boat launches throughout the state with a trailer mounted boat washer meant to scrub the boat before it moves to another lake potentially carrying a nuisance species and to educate boat owners about the issue. Aquatic invasives cause many problems from harmful algal blooms to weed mats and the loss of native diversity. Learn more about how you can help stop the spread of aquatic invasives.

A $15B upgrade for utilities: New EPA rules stoke Consumers, DTE move to wind and gas The CEO of DTE Energy estimates about $15 billion will be spent on Michigan’s power infrastructure over the coming decades to meet EPA’s rules on carbon emissions. Experts expect to see a significant shift in the source of our power from coal to natural gas and wind. Read more about how this industry is expecting to change in the coming years.

New Findings: The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations Through a survey of 243 environmental non-profits in the Great Lakes Region, a University of Michigan researcher concluded that within this sector, gender, race and class diversity is low. The author recommends more inclusive recruitment and active mentoring to help bridge the diversity gap.

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ErieAlgaeNews to Us this week finds more on local activity around recent interests in oil and gas development in our watershed in the news lately.  Also, a new shop opens in Dexter catering to river and nature enthusiasts and a couple of updates on water pollution issues reminding us to keep diligent on both new and known pollutants.

Judge denies injunction against oil well in Scio Township For those keeping tabs on oil well drilling in Scio Township, an injunction filed to delay oil exploration drilling in Scio Township was denied in Washtenaw Circuit Court. The delay was sought to have more time to assess potential environmental damages associated with the drilling.  The next step may be to take the issue to Ingham County Courts.

Open house in Chelsea draws dozens to learn about proposed natural gas pipeline  An open house was held in Chelsea to allow residents to get more information about a proposed pipeline that will run from Ohio to Canada through parts of Washtenaw, Lenawee, Livingston, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties.  The Rover Pipeline project is scheduled to begin as early as January 2016.

Bailiwick’s Outdoors in Dexter offers apparel for adventure sports and fly fishing gear for enthusiasts It is great to see new businesses open that grow our own local “blue economy”.  A new river-based recreation shop has opened in Dexter.  If you have paddling, fishing, birding, hiking or equestrian needs, consider stopping by and supporting our friends at Bailiwicks.

Big Toxic Algal Bloom Again in Forecast for Lake Erie. As a reminder that we cannot assume that once a condition improves it will stay improved – Lake Erie’s algae bloom issues from the 1960’s and ‘70’s have returned in recent years.  This year is no exception.  Forecasts predict the algae bloom this summer could be one of the largest in the past decade. Phosphorus from fertilizers, sewage and industrial waste is the main culprit driving the blooms.

Plastic microbeads could be banned from personal care products in the U.S. by 2018  In a previous News to Us we shared an article about an emerging pollutant to our waterways. Plastic microbeads are used in many cosmetic and personal care products.  They make it through many wastewater treatment facilities and into our waters where they are ingested by wildlife and release known toxins. Look for products with natural alternatives such as almonds, sea salts and apricot pits. Legislation has been introduced at the federal level. Illinois is the first state to ban products with plastic microbeads.

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:

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dte site

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


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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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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