Archive for the ‘News to Us’ Category

News to Us

The Huron. Credit: John Lloyd.

The Huron. Credit: John Lloyd.

This month in News to Us we cover some of the ongoing discussions about the impact of the new federal administration on water protection, a study that reveals we could be doing better on funding research on chemicals,  a couple of stories on Michigan fish and a Michigan dam removal success story.

Uh oh. Studies find little U.S. money to study ecological impacts of chemicals The number of chemicals being introduced to the environment are mind boggling both in number and quantity. At HRWC we are considering which of them are of most concern in the Huron. This article summarizes two studies that found steep declines in funding for research on the impacts of chemicals to our natural systems. Without this critical research our understanding of the problems affecting ecosystems and the solutions necessary to protect them is limited.

Scott Pruitt Is Seen Cutting the E.P.A. With a Scalpel, Not a Cleaver The EPA plays an incredibly valuable role in protecting our country’s freshwater. The agency administers the Clean Water Act, provides tools and resources for water protection, and funds an irreplaceable portion of freshwater restoration and protection efforts. Speculation about the nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is that he will be more of a foe to the agency he leads than a friend. Here is one piece that describes how Pruitt may undermine the ability of the EPA to protect our air and water.

Panelists discuss the future of environmental sustainability under Trump adminstration  HRWC Executive Director, Laura Rubin was one of several panelists invited to discuss sustainability in the new federal administration at the University of Michigan. One key take home message was that state and local action are critical. And as for the average citizen concerned about the direction this administration is taking on the environment, advice from the panel is to ‘engage, engage, engage’. See the full forum here.

In Michigan, a Fight Over the Future of a Fabled Trout River  Conflict continues over the fate of a fish hatchery expansion that could negatively impact one of Michigan’s most prized rivers, the Au Sable.  The river supports one of the best trout populations this side of the Rocky Mountains. Those opposing the expansion are worried about added nutrients to the river from the hatchery. The New York Times covered the ongoing debate.

Walleye run could start earlier than normal; now is time to prepare An unseasonably warm winter has anglers gearing up for an early walleye run. Walleye use water temperature to queue their annual migration up into the Great Lakes tributaries where they spawn. The Huron sees a walleye run up to Flat Rock where the dam there halts further movement of the fish.

By 2020, 90% of Michigan’s dams will meet or exceed their design life  There are 2600 dams in our state. Listen in on a Stateside interview with Patrick Ertel from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division who shares the story of Michigan’s Boardman River. It is one of the most comprehensive dam removal and restoration projects in Michigan’s history and one of the largest such projects in the Great Lakes Basin. Our own restoration efforts on Mill Creek here in the Huron show that dam removals can have big community benefits and cost a lot less.

News to US

30158738441_16b87bda57_oNews to Us this month provides an update on the dioxane contamination case. Also, two new projects bring money to improve water quality in the Huron. Finally, read articles on two widespread water quality issues – PAH contamination due to coaltar pavement sealers and bacterial pollution from failing septic systems.

Judge grants local intervention in Ann Arbor dioxane pollution case In a precedent setting decision, Judge Connors granted intervention on legal negotiations associated with the Gelman dioxane plume to HRWC. Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor were also granted intervention. As the Attorney General’s counsel stated, “…. in our experience we’ve never seen a circumstance where an environmental policy group or a public interest group basically has intervened and been a participant in the negotiation of a consent judgment, whether it’s the very first negotiation of a consent judgment, or in this case the fourth amendment to a consent judgment.” HRWC will represent the needs of the river ecosystem and recreational users.

$1.8M in federal funds to help protect Huron River watershed A significant award through a federal Farm Bill program is coming to the Huron. These funds will be used to protect natural and farmed lands and support farming practices that protect water quality. Efforts led by the Legacy Land Conservancy will be focused on the headwaters of the Huron in Oakland, Livingston and western Washtenaw counties. HRWC is one of many local groups involved in this unique partnership.

$675K design contract for new tunnel to Ann Arbor riverfront approved A major stormwater management and river access project in Ann Arbor now has the funding it needs to move forward. A tunnel will be built underneath the railroad tracks connecting pedestrians from Depot Street to the Border-to-Border trail and Argo park. This tunnel will also act as a release valve for stormwater which tends to back up and flood land and property in this low lying area where Allen Creek meets the Huron River.

Coal tar main source of toxicity in streams A recent study found that up to 94% of PAHs found in sediments in Milwaukee-area creeks and streams came from coaltar pavement sealants and that 78% of all samples had enough PAH content to be considered toxic. PAHs are a toxic class of chemicals that impact aquatic life and human health. HRWC has been working, in the face of mounting evidence, to ban the use of coaltar and other high PAH sealcoats to reduce the impacts of this unnecessary contaminant. Learn more about area bans at hrwc.org/coaltar

Aging septic systems fouling Michigan waters Did you know that Michigan is the only state that does not regulate septic systems? As many as 1.4 million of these systems exist within our state, very few are under any inspection and maintenance requirements. Sixty four rivers sampled in Michigan had bacterial contamination that was traced back to human sources. This is one of the biggest threats to Michigan waterways. HRWC has more information on this issue and how you can maintain your septic system here and will be investing in septic system education in Honey Creek, a tributary of the Huron considering impaired by the State for bacterial contamination.

News to Us

Photo credit: John Lloyd

Photo credit: John Lloyd

HRWC and EPA have taken action recently pertaining to 1,4 dioxane – the chemical contaminating groundwater in the Huron River watershed.  During road salt season, consider alternatives to reduce impacts to our lakes and rivers. Huron River residents and the Great Lakes received good news this week on funding for natural resource protection and recreation. All in this edition of News to Us.

Dioxane makes list of 10 toxic chemicals EPA giving closer look  This past summer the act that governs the regulation of chemicals in the US underwent major reform which arguably reduced barriers to regulate toxic substances. The 30 year old act had made it notoriously difficult to regulate chemicals. Under the reformed act, EPA was tasked with selecting ten substances to evaluate first. 1,4-dioxane is on that list, meaning the chemical that is contaminating groundwater under Scio Township and Ann Arbor will undergo a thorough risk evaluation over the next three years.

Huron River Watershed Council and county take legal action on dioxane Last week, HRWC filed a motion to intervene in the Gelman case that would amend the consent judgement that put cleanup of the 1,4 dioxane plume contaminating local groundwater in the hands of MDEQ and Gelman Sciences.  HRWC and Washtenaw County, who also filed a motion to intervene, argue that cleanup efforts have failed. Should the court choose to open the case again, HRWC would provide a voice for the river, aquatic life and river recreation.

Road Salt Sex Change: How Deicing Messes with Tadpole Biology  In the season of ice and snow, Huron River residents will be bringing out the road salt. There is mounting evidence of negative impacts to rivers and lakes due to high salt concentrations. This article discusses new research findings that implicate road salt in developmental issues in tadpoles, particularly by altering sex ratios. For some alternative practices for safe sidewalks visit our tips page.

Coalition Applauds Great Lakes Investments in Bill Great news for the Great Lakes. The federal government has authorized another round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding. GLRI will provide $1.5 billion in funding over the next five years for projects that help restore our water resources. GLRI has funded projects in the Huron and throughout Southeast Michigan to the benefit of people, businesses and the natural resources.

Gov. Rick Snyder applauds Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommendations Several projects in the watershed were awarded grants from the Michigan Natural Resource Trust fund.  These projects will advance trail systems in our area including the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border (B2B) trail segment from Dexter to Ann Arbor.  Trail projects also build out the Huron Waterloo loop in Lyndon Township and a segment of the Iron Belle trail in Ypsilanti Township.

News to Us

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Mulching fall leaves is a river friendly practice. Photo credit: Dean Hochman via Flickr Creative Commons license.

HRWC’s commitment to compiling and sharing noteworthy water-related news continues. This month’s News to Us covers the recent listing of Lake Erie as impaired waters, problems associated with low density development, a great river recovery story and some tips on good river “housekeeping” for autumn leaves.

 

Conservation Groups Applaud Michigan’s Inclusion of Lake Erie in Impaired Waters Report
Last week the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality listed western Lake Erie as impaired waters under the Clean Water Act. Environmental groups have been advocating for this for some time now as it will allow for further research, funding and action to address the nutrient pollution that leads to toxic algal blooms in Lake Erie. This is very good news for this Great Lake. Many are pushing for Ohio to follow suit.

Is the Infrastructure ‘Time Bomb’ Beginning to Blow?
It may not be immediately obvious, but low density development—what we see in suburban and rural areas where homes are built on large lots far from city centers—is not good for waters and watersheds. Here at HRWC we prefer high density development in a few areas as opposed to low density development everywhere. This article highlights one of the problems associated with sprawling development. “Low density housing cannot pay the bills.”  The tax revenue is too low to cover the cost of infrastructure maintenance like roads, sewer and water necessary to serve these developments. When this infrastructure fails, the environment suffers. Check out our Smart Growth publications to learn more.

Taking Down Dams and Letting the Fish Flow
Last issue we shared an article about the human safety benefits of dam removal. This heartening story shows how quickly an ecosystem can rebound after dam removals. Three dams were removed on the Penobscot River in Maine in 2012 and 2013. Just three years later, huge numbers of native migratory fish have resumed their migration up the river—a trip they have not been able to make for nearly 200 years!

Leave The Leaves–Putting Organic Waste To Work
Leaves and grass that make their way into waterways add excess nutrients and use up valuable oxygen as they decompose. Local Master Composter Nancy Stone gives advice on how to utilize fall yard waste to maximize the benefits of fallen leaves. Leaves can be used in your yard to improve your soil and reduce weed growth. Nancy recommends mowing the leaves into your lawn. Mulching leaves can also reduce the greenhouse gas methane. Give this interview a listen as you are getting ready to clean up fall leaves. For more tips on river friendly home care visit our pollution prevention page.

News to Us

pointe-moullieIn news of interest to us here at HRWC, we’ve seen more coastal wetlands now under protection near the mouth of the Huron River and a new business is in town in the lower reaches of the river as well. American Rivers lays out a path for removal of dams to reduce loss of life from dam failures. And two articles take a look at the two sides of climate change, how it is impacting us now (or in this case, how it is impacting birds) and what we, as a global community, are doing to solve the problem.

Two donate property to Detroit River wildlife refuge
A 43 acre complex of wetland, woodland and some agricultural land has been added to a complex of sites that creates the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge. This parcel sits at the outlet of the Huron River near the Point Mouillee State Game Area where the Huron empties into Lake Erie. This refuge is home to many resident and migratory birds and helps clean inland waters heading into our Great Lakes.

How our unseasonably warm fall is affecting migratory birds
Weather pattern affect species differently, some more than others. Experts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology discuss how our warm fall temperatures impact bird migration. Those most likely to be impacted are species that rely more heavily on temperature cues.  Others rely more on waning daylight to cue migration.

Removing Dams Can Save Lives
Many dams in the US were built decades ago and are now persisting beyond their lifespan. This article highlights the importance of removing or repairing aging dams to reduce risks to people.  Several major storms this year resulted in multiple dam failures in areas affected. American Rivers goes on to articulate a solution to the problem including modifying dam safety program requirements and making more federal funding available.

The past two weeks are a perfect illustration of what “solving” climate change will look like
This article shares some hopeful news that indicates on a growing number of fronts, countries are acting on climate change. Within the last few weeks, you may have run across these headlines. Canada established a nationwide carbon tax. While the Paris Climate Agreement was forged in 2015, it was not ratified until this month and thankfully, it included the US and China who were late to sign the deal. And finally, a global deal was established to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a really potent greenhouse gas used for cooling. Keep up the good work people of the world!

New coffee, tea, specialty gift shop opens in Flat Rock
One of the Huron River Trail Towns has a new business ready to serve you.  If you are paddling, fishing, picnicking or otherwise enjoying the river near Flat Rock, stop by the Blue Heron Trading Company and say hello. Its businesses like this that keep our trail towns vibrant, welcoming places to take a break from the river and refuel.

News to Us

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Microplastics issue far from solved. Image: Chesapeake Bay Program via Flickr Creative Commons

Stormwater management in a changing climate, buffering our rivers and lakes, emerging pollutants such as pharmaceuticals and microplastics, and drunk tubing (because, why not?) all in this edition of News to Us, HRWC’s monthly round up of noteworthy water news.

How Grand Rapids is prepping for the next big storm
Bridge Magazine takes an in-depth look at how two cities in Michigan are changing the way they build and rebuild to deal with heavier rainfall. Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor use innovative stormwater management practices to protect people and infrastructure from damage that can be caused by flooding.

Huron Natural River District One Step Closer In Webster
HRWC has been working with municipalities along the stretch of the Huron River designated a Natural River District.  Webster is strengthening protections for the river by adopting a local ordinance that requires buildings be set back a distance from lakes and rivers to minimize impacts of development to the ecological health and beauty of the Township’s water ways.

Emerging pollutants are those that are relatively new to our collective awareness of what negatively impacts our environment. Two recent articles illustrate the myriad ways that these pollutants show up and wreak havoc and how little we know about sources, impact and solutions. There is more work to be done.

And just for a little fun…

Fifteen hundred possibly drunk Americans successfully invade Canada via the St. Clair River
No this is not satire.  It is a real headline. A chuckle worthy headline.  None-the-less, a reminder to mind your manners and your neighbors when recreating in our state’s beautiful lakes and rivers. Read our Share the River Code here.

News to Us

crayfishA new livery will open in the Huron next year! This month’s roundup of water news also includes articles on three contaminants we are watching closely here that affect the Huron River watershed – blue-green algae, Dioxane and coal tar based pavement sealers.

Former Mill Creek Sports Center in Dexter to become canoe livery
Exciting news! Dexter will be home to a new canoe livery.  Occupying a vacant building on Mill Creek in the heart of downtown Dexter, Michigan native Nate Pound hopes to renovate and be open for business by paddling season in 2017. Long term plans include a climbing wall and/or bike rentals.

Blue-green algae adapting easily to rising carbon dioxide levels
Climate change will challenge all species to adapt to new conditions.  Some will fare better than others. New research shows that blue-green algae, the type of algae that includes Microcystis – the algae that contaminated Toledo’s water system in 2014 – are likely to be particularly good at adapting. There are implications for water quality, drinking water and aquatic ecosystems as we move to a more carbon dioxide-rich environment.

The Green Room: The Ann Arbor Area’s 1,4 Dioxane Plume
HRWC Board Member and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Evan Pratt, shares his thoughts on pursuing Superfund designation for the Dioxane plume contaminating the groundwater in Ann Arbor. Mayor Chris Taylor discusses the City’s involvement and how he is engaging with State and Federal elected officials.

HRWC’s campaign to ban coal tar based sealcoats throughout the watershed continues to make headlines. So far Van Buren Township, Scio Township, Ann Arbor, Hamburg and Dexter have passed ordinances with many other communities reviewing potential action. WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interview discusses the issue broadly and the Detroit Local 4 News spot highlights the recent ban in Hamburg Township.

News to Us

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Tubing at Argo Cascades. Photo credit: Andy Piper via Flickr Creative Commons License.

Climate change, river recreation and regulating toxics are all in this edition of News to Us – the HRWC monthly brief on water and watershed related news that catches our attention.

In hot water: Climate change is affecting North American fish
This blog summarizes the conclusions from several recent research articles on the impacts of climate change to fish. Coldwater species and those in arid environments are most vulnerable.  Fisheries are already experiencing measurable change from climate change that impacts ecosystems, recreation and the economy.  HRWC is wrapping up a two year project to help the Huron adapt to climate change.  You can read more about this project here.

U.S. Needs Smarter Disaster Planning
Disaster planning is one way to protect human communities from the impacts of climate change.  Extreme weather events are becoming more common. Municipalities each develop plans to protect their communities from, respond to and recover from natural disasters.  This article discusses the importance of incorporating climate change into these plans.

Ann Arbor trying to curb alcohol, parking problems at popular tubing spot
A growing number of complaints pertaining to visitors of Argo Cascades in Ann Arbor is leading the city to consider how to address the issues. While we love to see people enjoying the river, we encourage everyone to consider appropriate safety and etiquette.  Visit the Huron River Water Trail website for ways to have fun on the river without impacting other users, river neighbors and the river itself.

Editorial: Ann Arbor joins VBT, Scio in banning coal tar sealants
The Belleville Independent published an editorial highlighting progress locally to ban coal tar pavement sealers. Van Buren Township led the way on this issue in Michigan banning the toxic substance in December 2015.  Recently, Scio Township and Ann Arbor have joined Van Buren on the front lines to reduce health risks to humans and aquatic communities due to PAH compounds which occur in very high amounts in a commonly used pavement sealer. You can help HRWC continue to tackle this issue in our watershed by donating to our Coal Tar Free Huron campaign.

Strange brew: How chemical reform legislation falls short
Last month, the federal government signed into law a reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).  The new law has met with very mixed reviews from companies and groups working to reduce the number of toxic chemicals in consumer products. The chemicals ultimately end up in our bodies and environment and little is known about the thousands of chemical brought to market each year. Read this bloggers take on the good and the bad of the new law.  It may have implications for our ability to regulate chemicals at the local level including coal tar pavement sealers.

News to Us

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New Zealand mudsnails are a new invasive species in Michigan Rivers. Photo credit: USGS

In this edition of News to Us: a new invasive affects inland waterways of Michigan, Green Oak tries to resolve flooding issues, a new report quantifies the gap between what we are spending and what we need to spend on our water infrastructure, and a new House Bill threatens to reduce Michigan’s power to protect our natural resources.

Invasive New Zealand mudsnail reaches Au Sable River
One of Michigan’s most recent aquatic invasives is on the move.  While we have not found it in the Huron River yet, we are concerned about the damage the mudsnail can cause. Your diligence can help avoid its further spread. Cleaning boats, waders and even shoes as you move from one waterbody to the next can reduce the chance of spreading the mudsnail to new rivers (especially if you have been on the Pere Marquette or Au Sable). For more information, and to report new sightings of New Zealand mudsnails to the DEQ and DNR, go to www.michigan.gov/invasives.

Flooded or forced out of their homes?
Repetitive flooding has plagued one corner of Green Oak Township for some time now.  And the problem is getting worse. The Township recently applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help acquire homes at fair market value and allowing the land to function as a floodway without risk to personal property or human health.

Q&A: PSC’s Jon Beard discusses how much Michigan should be spending on its water infrastructure
This is an interesting interview about a study that estimated the amount of money Michigan needs to spend on drinking water, stormwater and wastewater in order to meet the growing demands of aging infrastructure.  The research found Michiganders should be spending between $284 and $563 million more each year on water infrastructure.  While this is a lot of money, with about 10 million residents in the state, the gap could be filled by increasing water bills by as little as $3 to $6 each month.

‘No stricter than federal’ bill aims to make Michigan mediocre again
This blog put out by the Michigan Environmental Council provides commentary on House Bill 5613 which attempts to bar Michigan from passing rules stricter than an established federal standard. Read this blogger’s opinion on the implications of the bill to Michigan’s water and other natural resources. Since the writing of the blog, the House has passed the bill.  It is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

News to Us

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DIA InsideOut exhibit in Flat Rock – Huroc Park

Our monthly news roundup provides some watershed stories covering a fun event in Flat Rock and emerging research on the dioxane groundwater contamination in the Ann Arbor area.  Bridge Magazine published an in depth article on the rising profile of County Drain Commissioners.  And two new reports provide a look at how climate change is being addressed in planning efforts nationwide and is likely to impact public health in Michigan.

InsideOut exhibit brings museum-quality artwork to Flat Rock
Check out a unique art exhibit in one of the Huron River Watershed’s Trail Towns. For the second year in a row Flat Rock is displaying replica’s of fine artworks this summer through the DIA’s InsideOut program.  This year you can see 8 paintings at locations throughout the town.

Professor says dioxane probably has reached Huron River already
Dr. Lemke of Wayne State University has been studying the Pall Gelman dioxane plume since 1998. He recently presented results of some modelling efforts that show a more nuanced range of possibilities for the movement of the contamination in Ann Arbor’s groundwater. The article illustrates further the need for better monitoring and solid planning for many potential scenarios about the path and time it will take for the dioxane to reach the river. (Note: While we think this is important news to cover, the headline here is misleading. There has been no evidence to suggest the plume has reached the Huron yet and the city of Ann Arbor regularly tests Barton Pond for dioxane.)

Why on earth is Candice Miller running for county drain commissioner?
This article discusses the role of county drain commissioners (sometimes known as water resource commissioners as they are in Washtenaw and Oakland Counties) and how this elected position is becoming higher profile in light of growing issues with water quality and water infrastructure. The Flint water crisis, combined sewer overflows, beach closings, and Great Lakes water quality are bringing much needed attention to our states aging water and sewer infrastructure.

Cities trying to plan for warmer, wetter climate
A researcher at the University of Michigan conducted a review of climate adaptation plans around the nation.  These plans are intended to determine what is necessary to create a town or city that is prepared for the impacts of climate change and able to bounce back quickly from these impacts.  While more communities are completing plans, they are falling short on implementation. How these strategies will be funded and who is responsible for carrying them out remains an area of adaptation that needs attention.

Changing climate conditions in Michigan pose an emerging public health threat
Additional new climate change research coming out of Michigan focuses on the human health impacts. “Michigan Climate and Health Profile Report 2015: Building resilience against climate effects on Michigan’s health” chronicles the many ways that more heat and more heavy rain events can affect our health.  Respiratory diseases, heat related illnesses and water and vector borne diseases are areas of concern.


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