Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
On Thursday, I met with 26 folks from around Washtenaw County to talk about how we can transform stormwater infrastructure from grey to green. In this first of our Growing Green Infrastructure Forums, we talked broadly about the differences between conventional grey stormwater infrastructure (the gutters, ditches and pipes) and green infrastructure (practices using natural landscapes to infiltrate stormwater runoff). We also differentiated the broadly planned green infrastructure (GI) approach from site-focused Low Impact Development (LID) (see our webpage on LID vs GI). Josh Miller, an HRWC intern this year, discussed barriers to GI development that he discovered in interviews and research over the last year. Finally, I gave the group some maps of the watershed in Washtenaw County with GI opportunity areas identified and asked them to think about what was possible in each of their jurisdictions.
There was quite a bit of good discussion about what is possible and what is holding GI development back. It was clear from the discussion that the GI approach to stormwater management is being applied all around us and throughout the country. There is ample information about the water quality, aesthetic and economic benefits of the GI approach, and its applicability in the upper midwest. However, local examples need to be better promoted and policies and funding mechanisms like stormwater utilities need to be used more broadly.
All the discussion got me to thinking about a trip my family and I just took to Seattle and Vancouver earlier this Spring. There, GI is the norm rather than the exception for new projects and redevelopment. Neighborhoods around the city are vibrant, active and becoming even greener than they were (see photos). People there strongly identify with and take advantage of their connection with water, and this mindset drives their commitment to address what, according to the US EPA, is the greatest source of water pollution in the country — stormwater runoff. Sure, the Emerald City is not SE Michigan, but as Scott Dierks said at the Forum, “rain is the same, good-draining soils are the same, and deep-rooted plants all crave water the same.”
It is time for us to acknowledge that Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and Milwaukee are no longer the exceptions, and get to work greening our stormwater systems. Those who participated in the Forum are making a good start in their communities in Washtenaw County.
For this edition of News to Us, learn about water pollution issues related to septic systems in Michigan and how you can help prevent pollution. It is burn season as new vegetation emerges after a long winter. Prescribed fire is used to help control some of our most aggressive non-native plants such as Phragmites. Finally, a few success stories on how anyone from individuals to corporations can take actions to protect water resources.
Michigan has nation’s weakest regulations on septic systems Michigan lacks the regulatory means to ensure septic systems are operating properly. Failing septic systems release wastewater and sewage into soils which can end up in our ground and surface waters causing issues associated with excess nutrients and bacterial contamination. Many of the homes in the Huron River watershed are on septic systems. A few local counties have inspection and repair requirements at the time of home sale, which helps. Regular pumping and inspection of your system is the best way to ensure your system is not contributing to water pollution issues. Here is a useful guide for homeowners on septic systems.
Thousands of failed septic tanks threaten Michigan’s waters In a related article, learn more generally about Michigan’s issues with failing septic systems and the Huron River’s ranking in a recent study out of Michigan State University examining fecal contamination in water from septic tanks. Learn more about HRWC’s Failing Septics project, which takes a different approach to identify and correct problems.
Phragmites all fired up Phragmites is a tall grass that invades wet areas crowding out native plants and drying up wetlands. Prescribed fire (an intentional, controlled burn) is a management tool to help control the invasion of this nuisance plant. Prescribed fires are common this time of year and provide many benefits to our natural areas.
Green City Diaries: Conserving water, improving neighborhood life Read an inspiring story about how two local residents are taking simple steps toward water conservation in their neighborhood and home.
Scotts drops phosphorus from lawn fertilizer Waterways across the country breathe a sigh of relief as one of the major lawn fertilizer companies drops phosphorus from its formula. Most soils have sufficient phosphorus to maintain healthy lawns. Excess phosphorus in water results in algal and plant growth that can quickly reach harmful levels. Michigan has been pro-active on this issue already banning phosphorous in lawn fertilizers. It is nice to see nationwide action to reduce the impacts of this pollutant.
Summer weather provides many chances to get outside and explore the world we live in. If populated beaches aren’t your idea of summer fun but you still want to enjoy Michigan’s fresh waters; join us for our summer paddling trips and HRWC will take you on the path less traveled.
This year we are offering five unique paddle trips at various locations along the beautiful Huron River. Each of the paddling trips is either led by Huron River guides Barry Lonik or Ron Sell and the HRWC staff will also be participating in the paddle adventures.
The recreational value of each trip is worthwhile, and the first-hand educational opportunities are second-to-none! Each trip includes discussion regarding the river’s water ecology, history, and unique features. The first paddling trip is May, 18th and will take us from Proud Lake State Recreation Area to Downtown Milford’s Central Park. Ann Arbor Ornithologist, Dea Armstrong will be joining us on this paddle to provide her insight of the regional birds we encounter. Registration is limited to ten watercrafts for each trip, and we provide the shuttle.
Visit the Summer Events page for more information on each trip, and how to register to ensure a boat-load of summer fun!
Just in time for spring renewal, this edition of News to Us highlights several stories that have positive implications for our river and rivers throughout Michigan. Greenways, volunteer opportunities, and a growing demand for dam removal are chronicled. Also read about some of the implications of the high waters and flooding of our extremely wet April.
FLAT ROCK: Groundbreaking scheduled for final stretch of Flat Rock-Oakwoods connector trail We are blessed with extensive trail systems along the Huron River. With the addition of this final mile of trail in Flat Rock, there will now be 24 miles of contiguous trail from Belleville Lake to Lake Erie. It is amenities like this that help get people to the river and enjoying the outdoors which is one of the goals of HRWC’s RiverUP! project.
Let the river run: Dam removal accelerates across Michigan Read a nice summary of dams and dam removal efforts in Michigan. There is growing interest and funding to support the removal of aging dams that have outlived their original purpose. Dam removal is one of the tools of river restoration which helps support healthy populations of species that thrive in running waters like salmon, trout and walleye.
DNR reminds anglers of high water safety on rivers It is a popular time on the river for anglers. Fish are on the move which is an exciting time to fish. At the same time, with the recent rains, the river is running high and fast. Take caution when recreating in the river while waters remain high.
It’s good to get your hands dirty Volunteers are the life blood of many environmental non-profits. The Huron River Watershed Council is no exception. The beauty of volunteering is that both the organization and the volunteer experience benefits. This article highlights several local non-profits discussing the value of volunteering. Visit our Volunteer page to learn about volunteering with HRWC.
ANN ARBOR: City gets river clean-up grants worth more than $39,000 Several river clean up events will be happening in Ann Arbor this summer thanks to a grant from the DEQ. If you are interested in volunteering to help remove trash from the river, this article lets you know how.
Grand Rapids officials looking ahead to next big storm Throughout Michigan, we have had a very wet April. We watched the Huron rise and fall but we were spared much of the flooding experienced on the west side of the state. This article discusses Grand Rapid’s response to this years’ flooding. They are thinking now about ways to protect against future events which are predicted to become more common. Learn more about how we are working with communities in the Huron to build resilience to severe weather events affecting the river and residents here.
Good news . . .
State Attorney General Bill Schuette has weighed in on a constitutional guarantee that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) can only be used for protecting our natural resources for future generations. Use of the MNRTF for dredging had been threatened and the Attorney General’s opinion is a decisive action to stop this pressure. The largest threat came from a bill that has passed the State Senate that would make dredging a permissible use for the fund.
With great lakes levels at record low levels the State Legislature has already approved an emergency $21 million from the general fund and the Michigan State Waterways Fund.
I applaud the decision. MNRTF monies are intended “to preserve and protect Michigan’s bountiful resources for generations to come” which means the purchase and development of parks and natural areas for the residents of Michigan. Hopefully this will put to rest the regular political tactics to raid the fund . . . at least it’s a strong defense!
Last week over 500 people from 43 states and two territories gathered in Denver, CO for the inaugural National Adaptation Forum. These 500 represented our national climate adaptation community—folks from around the country helping people and wildlife prepare for a changing climate. I attribute it to the universal nature of the issue that the event was attended by federal, state and local government staff and officials, academics and professionals from the non-profit and private sectors. City planners, public works professionals, wildlife biologists, sustainability directors, climate scientists, insurance and hazard mitigation professionals all exchanged ideas, successes and challenges. Each brought new perspectives and innovations that crossed sectoral silos and built a common fabric upon which all of us can draw and build. I was fortunate to be a part of this seminal event.
The program and presentations were exciting and energizing. Cities and towns throughout the nation are taking action to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts which vary depending on where you are in the country. Out west, water scarcity will worsen as less snow falls on the mountains to replenish their water sources. Wild fires are becoming more frequent and severe. Coastal areas face sea level rise, higher storm surges and salt water intrusion. Here in Michigan, we are expecting more severe droughts in the summer and larger storms in the spring and fall. Many communities are reacting to extreme events that have already occurred such as Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 drought or the Chicago heatwave. The thread running throughout the talks, no matter where a speaker was from or what issue they were focused on, is that communities should be minimizing risk. We cannot know when that big storm will come or how long a drought or heat wave will last. But we can be proactive and ready our communities for these times.
I was proud to speak on behalf of HRWC and the communities in the watershed participating in our Climate Resilient Communities project. Our work is unique in that we are approaching adaptation on a whole systems scale – the watershed. Involving the many municipalities in the watershed is challenging but innovative. And there is power in our numbers. What we can accomplish together is far greater than what any one community can accomplish on its own.
The National Adaptation Forum was the first climate adaptation event of this nature and, exceeding the expectations of the conference organizers, generated tremendous interest. Twice as many presentations were submitted as could be accommodated. Registration closed long before the conference and a long wait list formed. As conference organizer and plenary speaker Lara Hansen of EcoAdapt stated, we are part of the “adaptation vanguard”- a group of forward-thinking individuals at the front lines of a growing movement. This made me feel hopeful. I hope it does the same for you.
Discount rain barrels for sale at two community events this spring!
Save at least 20% off regular prices. Two sales + one great supplier (Great Lakes Rain Barrel) = Water saved, Huron protected
Rain Barrels come with all parts needed for installation and operation and can be used “planter-style.”
Option 1 = Washtenaw County Area
Pre-order your barrel online by Monday May 13 and pick it up on Saturday May 18th.
Go to www.hrwc.org/rainbarrels for more information and to order.
Use promo code HRWC1 or HRWC2, depending on which barrel you want.
Discounted prices on a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (85% recycled RainStation in charcoal), $75, promo code HRWC1; OR a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (Granite Classic Edition), $85, promo code HRWC2. All pre-orders MUST be picked up at the sale location on the day of the event.
Pickup: Saturday, May 18, 9am-2pm
Washtenaw County Road Commission
555 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI
Hosted by Great Lakes Rain Barrel, HRWC, the City of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, the Washtenaw County Road Commission, and Barton Hills Village.
Option 2 = Down River
Pre-order your barrel online by Monday May 6 and pick it up on Saturday May 11th.
Go to www.greatlakesrainbarrel.com for more information and to order.
Use promo code SAVEH2O.
Discounted price on a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (85% recycled RainStation in charcoal). The barrels are available for $75.00 (regular $99.99 value) using the promo code SAVEH2O. All pre-orders MUST be picked up at the sale location on the day of the event.
Pick Up: Saturday, May 11th 10am-2pm
Van Buren Township Hall
46425 Tyler Road
Belleville, MI 48111
Hosted by Great Lakes Rain Barrel and the Alliance of Downriver Watersheds.
Questions? Contact Great Lakes Rain Barrel at email@example.com or 248.477.6988
As we continue to endure winter-like conditions through the end of March, I am remembering last year at this time – 70 and 80 degree sun, punctuated by a devastating tornado season, including one in our own backyard, in Dexter.
What’s going on?
Surprisingly, this cold spring weather, like last year’s unusually toasty and tempestuous one, can also be traced to changes to our Earth brought by the ever increasing greenhouse gases we are spewing into our atmosphere.
The Weather Underground web site, co-founded by a University of Michigan Meteorologist, publishes a number of blogs and web pages dedicated to the impacts of climate change on the weather. A couple of their recent blogs give good perspectives on how local weather is globally connected.
Surprised by the robust levels of snowfalls this year in the midwest, east, and Michigan’s north? The Weather Underground’s Dr. Ricky Rood gives a good explanation for how climate change can result in larger snowfalls in some areas of the country in his recent blog. It turns out, snow is more likely at temperatures in the low 30′s range than at colder temperatures. So, as northern areas have warmer winters on average, we can expect to see heavier snowfalls. (For all you skiers and other winter sports enthusiastic, don’t get too happy — with the heavier snow events come the higher average temperatures, so that snow is not going to stick around).
How about this meat locker we seem to be trapped in this spring? Dr. Jeff Master’s recent blog explains that, due to arctic sea ice loss, the jet stream has contorted to bring cold weather to the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe and near -record warm weather to Greenland.
Some good news came with Sunday’s New York Times article about the increase in the use of renewal energy all over the world and how it is quite feasible for the U.S. to likewise reduce our dependence of fossil fuels. For instance, countries like Portugal get 40% of their electricity from renewables. In fact, 13 countries got more than 30% of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011. The U.S. number is 12%.
The article goes on to describe a Stanford University study showing that New York State (not known for high winds or sunny days) could easily produce most of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
So, take heart and encourage your state and federal officials to support our transition to clean energy!
What do HRWC volunteers and Aldo Leopold have in common? They spend (or spent, in the case of Mr. Leopold) their free time making valuable contributions to our knowledge of the natural world. Also, read about key federal appointments that affect the environment and the latest on Detroit’s Water Department.
Citizen Science Musings: The Efficiency of Amateurs. A nod to so many of you that help us through our citizen science programs–you bring much to the table and enable so much more than we could do alone. Apparently, this truth is timeless.
Remembering Aldo Leopold, Visionary Conservationist And Writer Aldo Leopold is an iconic and influential character in the conservation movement. This article revisits Leopold’s contributions and discusses how, even more than 60 years after his death, his essays and observations are still contributing to what we know about the natural world.
Washington Water Main, March 14: Energy, EPA Director Nominations Pending. Learn more about nominees for two key federal leadership positions. The Director of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy lead institutions governing issues that have significant implications for the environment.
Detroit Mayor, Water Board Endorse Plan for Independent Water Department If you have been following local news you know Detroit is struggling financially and the City’s Water Department is facing huge cuts. This article shares what is hopefully a step in the right direction for the Water Department which provides drinking water and waste water services to many of the downstream communities of the Huron River watershed.
Interested in chasing storms?
The City of Ann Arbor is offering a unique opportunity for residents to participate in collecting needed data as part of the recently-launched Stormwater Model Calibration and Analysis project, which is the first step in evaluating and recommending improvements to the City’s stormwater system. (Read more about the project here.)
As part of the City of Ann Arbor’s “Citizen Storm Corps,” you would be the eyes on the ground, recording and submitting visual observations from one or more of the Large Event Data Gathering (LEDG) locations where the City is monitoring surface flooding. (See a map of LEDG locations here.) “Large Events” is the technical term for a big rain storm!
Volunteering is easy, fun, and will not require much time. If you can take a photo and use a map, you’re qualified! The City anticipates that over the next few years, Storm Corps volunteers will be asked to submit observations 1-3 times after significant rain events – although more frequent participation would be most welcome, if you choose.
The City of Ann Arbor is hosting several orientation sessions for people who may be interested in serving as part of the Citizen Storm Corps:
- Tuesday, March 19: 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room
- Tuesday, March 19: 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Traverwood Library
- Thursday, March 21: 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. at the Downtown Library multipurpose room
No need to RSVP – please feel free to join at your convenience during any of the above blocks of time (the actual orientation will only take about a half hour). Also, please note that attending an orientation does not obligate you to participate – come by, check it out, and see what you think!
Finally, if you are not able to attend one of the sessions, but think you might be interested in volunteering in the Citizen Storm Corps, simply contact Jen Lawson at the City of Ann Arbor (734.794.6430 x43735, firstname.lastname@example.org). She will help you identify a convenient location, and orient you to the materials via phone or email.