Archive for the ‘Wetlands’ Category

HRWC releases first-of-its kind study on river’s economic impact

Read the newly released “Summary of The Economic Impact of the Huron River.”

In 2016, HRWC commissioned a unique study to measure the economic impact of the river on local communities, focusing on Huron River Water Trail activities and the value of natural systems that maintain a healthy, clean river.

The Huron River contributes enormous benefit to the local economy.

That’s one of the key takeaways from research conducted by a research team with Grand Valley State University lead by Dr. Paul Isely, associate dean. Their work, supported by HRWC and the RiverUp! initiative, represents a significant step forward in quantifying the economic value of the Huron River corridor and the Huron River Water Trail, a designated National Water Trail.

Read the “Full Study of The Economic Impact of the Huron River by Grand Valley State University.”

Key Findings

The Huron River and Huron River Water Trail are conservatively estimated to have the following economic impact on the five-county region in which they are located:

  • $53.5M in economic output ($29.9M direct + $23.6M indirect spending) annually
  • $150M annual economic value of ecosystem services provided by the Huron River
  • $3.8B total economic value of services provided by the Huron River
  • 2.6 million visitor days

The study provides robust baseline information about who’s using the river and trails along it, how the downtowns and businesses near the river relate to it, and how the value of maintaining the river corridor’s natural features can be monetized. As a result, HRWC and its partners can make more targeted investments, track changes over time, and have another tool for engaging new partners.economic-impact-pull-quote-web

The team followed a two-part approach to understanding the value of the Huron River: measure the river’s economic impact using visitor and business surveys; and assess the positive benefits of the Huron River watershed to people, also known as ecosystem services. The Huron River supports recreation, tourism, and business activities that greatly support the local economy. The majority of this spending is driven by outdoor activity around or near the water.

The second part of the study estimates the ecosystem value of the Huron River. Nature provides vital contributions to economic and social well-being that are often not traded in markets or fully considered in land use, business, and other economic decisions. In the case of a river, these contributions include protection against erosion and flooding, habitat for diverse birds, fish, and mammals, and cultural and aesthetic benefits that come from people’s interactions with nature.

Measuring the economic impact of the Huron River will benefit local partners as well as similar placemaking efforts and water trails around the country. A 2015 survey of impact studies for water trails by the National Park Service found only three reference studies. Water trails in Michigan and around the country through the National Water Trails System are ready to learn from findings on the Huron River Water Trail.economic-output-and-aesthetic-value-pull-quote-web

Since it began in 2012, RiverUp! has contributed more than $2 million in private and public investments to restore and protect the Huron River, revitalize community waterfronts, and increase water-based recreation for all. RiverUp!’s work is leveraged by an additional $40 million in riverfront improvements by partners over that time. This new report provides HRWC and its RiverUp! partners with reliable information on the value of these investments compared to the river-based economy.

On the chopping block: clean water

***  UPDATE: On August 16, 2017, the EPA and the Army extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in. *** The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. ***

While we are working to clean up the Huron River system for a good quality of life, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working to roll back the Clean Water Act. The current administration is rushing through a repeal of the Clean Water Rule and we have only until September 27th during public comment to try and stop it. It’s critical for your voice to be heard in D.C.

The proposal has been published in the federal register.

You can help by submitting a request to stop the repeal of this important rule on or before Wednesday, Sept. 27, 11:59pm EST.hrwc-clean-water-rule-wetlands

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

Background:

What is the Clean Water Rule? In 2015, the previous administration clarified and finalized protections for streams and wetlands across the country. These safeguards protected the small streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 1 in 3 Americans. They protected wetlands throughout the nation that filter pollutants from water, absorb floodwaters, and provide habitat for countless wildlife. In fact, industry and other permittees asked for this clarification as an end to regulatory confusion about which of the country’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. The rule was supported by millions of Americans.

The Clean Water Rule followed a robust public process. Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, EPA held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and published a synthesis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which showed that the small streams and wetlands the Rule safeguards are vital to larger downstream waters.

What is this administration proposing? Administrator Pruitt does not want to implement the Clean Water Rule. Instead, he plans to rush through the repeal of the Clean Water Rule this year, then propose and finalize a less protective rule in less than a year. President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing the EPA to propose a new rule based on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s opinion of which waterways the Clean Water Act protects. A rule following Scalia’s interpretation would result in drastic exclusions of wetlands and streams from protection; fewer than half of wetlands and fewer than 40 percent of streams would receive federal protection. If that scenario comes to pass, then the nation’s waters will be less protected than they were in 1975!

Who is opposing the Clean Water Rule? Lobbyists for oil and gas producers, homebuilders, and farm bureaus.

What’s at stake? Our right to clean drinking water is in jeopardy. Rolling back hrwc-clean-water-rule-at-riskthe rule will result in the same regulatory confusion that resulted in broad-based calls for clarity about which of our nation’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Rolling back the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.

Michigan’s rivers play a key role in economic and community building. Here in the Huron River watershed, we know the value of a healthy river system that includes healthy wetlands and smaller feeder streams. The river and water trail are conservatively estimated to have the following economic impact:

  • $53.5 million in annual economic output (direct, indirect, and induced spending)
  • $628 million in added property value
  • $150 million in annual environmental value (such as clean drinking water, wetlands and floodplains that prevent flooding, and forested riverbanks that foster rich fisheries and healthy streams)

Please speak up – send a message to the EPA today. Tell Administrator Pruitt: Hands off our water. We’ve provided a sample public comment letter. We encourage you to add your own description of the value of clean water.

Postscript: Republicans, meanwhile, are targeting the rule on a second front. A section of the Defense Department spending bill (page 277, line 12) allows the administration to revoke the rule with no strings attached — strings being requirements for public consultation.

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

 

Happy World Wetlands Day!

In honor of World Wetlands Day today, we at HRWC thought we’d share a little bit of info about our wetlands here in the Huron watershed.

Huron River wetland in Ann Arbor Township.

Wetlands – Nature’s Kidneys

Wetlands, along with floodplains and shorelines, are critical environmental areas. Wetlands are saturated lowland areas (e.g. marshes and swamps) that have distinctive soils and ecology. Wetland areas filter flowing water, hold flood water, and release water slowly into surrounding drier land. These functions are critical to keeping the Huron River clean and safe for wildlife, drinking, paddling, fishing, and swimming. See our Wetland Page for more details.

The Huron Watershed’s Wetlands

The Huron watershed is home to many kinds of wetlands (the Michigan Natural Features Inventory lists 26 different kinds of wetlands that exist in our watershed!); including wet prairies, hardwood swamps, and bogs. Unfortunately, due to agricultural drainage and development, only about half of our wetlands remain.

Wetland Protection

With all the ecological services that wetlands provide to the River, it is important to keep our wetlands healthy and restore wetlands when we can. HRWC highly recommends local communities enact wetland ordinances, along with building setback requirements from wetlands, to protect our remaining wetlands.

HRWC’s Bioreserve Project is mapping and assessing wetlands and other natural areas to help target conservation efforts (come to our Field Assessment Training to learn how you can assess wetlands and other natural areas), and our Green Infrastructure programs are  working with communities to protect existing and create new wetland areas, to restore the landscape’s ability to filter and control stormwater runoff.

What You Can Do

Volunteer with HRWC, learning to evaluate wetlands (their special features and plants) on May 14 at our Field Assessment Training and then join us this summer for some field assessments!

 

 

Geomorphologists Assemble!

HRWC recently hosted the first Michigan Aquatic Restoration Conference (MARC) with partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, Michigan Departments of Environmental Quality and Natural Resources, as well as business sponsors Stantec, North State Environmental, Inter-Fluve, and Spicer Group. Located at the retreat setting of the Kettunen Center, the MARC brought together over 120 agency and academic scientists and engineers and industry professionals from all over Michigan as well as several other Great Lakes states. Much of the conference focused on geomorphology, or the study of the processes that shape a river channel and produce the habitat that exists in its present state.

Studying the Pine River

Participants visited the Pine River to study a recent restoration effort.

The MARC was led off with a workshop on “Woody Debris Management” by one of the founding fathers of geomorphology, Dr. David Rosgen from Wildland Hydrology. He also provided a keynote presentation on lessons he has learned from more than two decades of stream restoration work. National restoration expert Will Harman from Stream Mechanics discussed a popular conceptual framework he developed — the “Functional Pyramid” — and discussed how restoration practitioners should seek to provide rivers and streams with “functional lift.”

Other presentations and discussions focused on the various and sundry nuances of stream restoration in practice throughout Michigan, the Great Lakes region, and parts south and west. There was a genuine excitement in the air throughout the conference as participants engaged in vibrant discussion about how to apply principles (some theoretical at this point) to stream restoration, in what is a relatively new applied science.

Local TV news coverage of the MARC

If you missed the conference this year, check out the MARC website for a sampling of the presentations and discussions, and keep your eye out for an announcement of the next iteration.

Birds, Bat, Butterflies, and Dragonflies: Part 3

What is something that birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies all have in common?

Well, yes, they do fly.  But something that doesn’t occur to the typical person not well-versed in these animal types is that all of these creatures migrate.  Now that summer is ending, days are getting shorter, and the air is just a bit cooler out there, we can expect to see these animals on the move soon.

This blog is part three of a short series on migrating animals. This topic: butterflies!

The Monarch. credit: USFWS

The Monarch. credit: USFWS

The Impressive Migrating Monarch

Most butterflies do not migrate.  They have the ability to overwinter as larvae, pupae, or even adults depending on the species.  Only one species is known to migrate like birds: the Monarch.

The beautiful orange and black Monarch Butterfly makes a very impressive journey every year.  The Huron River Watershed and the rest of Michigan play an important role in that migration, having prime summer weather conditions for butterfly breeding.  Come fall, the Monarch is headed south– about 3000 miles south.  In fact, the migration path is so long that it outlasts any individual butterfly’s life span.  One Monarch generation migrates south, the next generation migrates north, breeds two or three short-lived generations in the summer, the latest of which continues the cycle by heading south.

The trip south

In late August, Monarchs in Michigan begin their trip south, traveling along the Great Lakes coastline, though the Great Plains States, and eventually reaching their winter breeding grounds in southern Mexico and Central America.  The Great Lakes are important features in the flight of the monarch– the insects use the winds over the lakes to speed them along on their journey. Monarch’s can not do this migration without proper rest and relaxation though. Shoreline habitats are important for feeding and recovering energy.

At the date this blog is being written (September 30), Monarchs are well out of Michigan.  They should be flying through Oklahoma and crossing the Texas border!

Once the butterflies reach Mexico in November, they congregate into huge populations on the highlands and mountains of Mexico and Central America. There are only 12 traditional wintering sites, which means the species is susceptible to habitat changes and bad weather.  In 2012 and 2013, bad weather conditions during the winter breeding season led to a Monarch population crash.  In 2014, weather conditions were ideal and the population rebounded slightly, but the population is still 80% below the 20 year average.

monarch_ElRosario0087

They may be in Mexico, but cold weather can still reach the high elevations of the Monarchs’ winter breeding grounds. credit: El Rosario Sanctuary

The trip back north

In the spring, Monarchs slowly move their way back north.  States on the Gulf Coast will see Monarchs return by early April, and by mid April the butterflies will have reached Kentucky and Tennesee.  By early May, the first Monarchs can be in south Michigan and they will reach the Upper Penninsula by the end of May. Monarchs do continue into southern Canada as well, though for many individuals, Michigan is their final destination.

The Monarch caterpillar: loved by elementary students everywhere! Who hasn't raised one of these in a classroom? credit: USFWS

The Monarch caterpillar: loved by elementary students everywhere! Who hasn’t raised one of these in a classroom? credit: USFWS

Give me more details!

Annenberg Learner hosts a terrific website giving photos and the migration timing for the Monarch. They keep an up-to-date blog on where the butterfly currently is found!

 

Protecting Water Under the Clean Water Act

We needy our help to bring protections back to our wetlands and small streams.

We need your help to bring protections back to our wetlands and small streams.

Wait, what?  The Clean Water Act doesn’t protect clean water?  How can that be?

Well in 2001 and 2006 there were 2 Supreme Court Decisions that confused the implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and placed many wetlands and streams out of protection and at risk.

Earlier this year, the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released a very important draft rulemaking. This draft rule clarifies which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.  This rulemaking will fundamentally influence our work to protect or restore our watershed.

Please comment on the draft US EPA rule on Clean Water Protection (aka Waters of the US) Rulemaking

Comments on this important rulemaking are due October 20, 2014. We encourage river lovers (YOU) to speak up! If you haven’t been following this issue or need a refresher, please check out this link.

Your comments can be as simple as, “Clean water is important to me. I want EPA to protect it for my health, my family, and my community” or as specific as, “I support the agencies proposal to define “waters of the United States” in section (a) of the proposed rule for all sections of the CWA to mean: Traditional navigable waters; interstate waters, including interstate wetlands; the territorial seas; impoundments of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, including interstate wetlands, the territorial seas, and tributaries, as defined, of such waters; tributaries, as defined, of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters, or the territorial seas; and adjacent waters, including adjacent wetlands. Waters in these categories would be jurisdictional “waters of the United States” by rule—no additional analysis would be required.”

Thank you!

Where are the Mudpuppies?

mudpuppy2The University of Michigan, sovaldi Eastern Michigan University, and the Herpetological Resource and Management are asking for help in collecting dead specimens of Mudpuppies. Due to the extreme weather conditions this year, herpetologists are anticipating a large winterkill, which provides a unique opportunity to assess population health.

What is a Mudpuppy?

• Michigan’s largest, fully aquatic salamander

Why Are They Important?

• “Bioindicator” species: Due to their sensitivity to pollutants and poor water quality, these salamanders act as an early warning system for environmental problems

• Are the only intermediate host to the Endangered Salamander Mussel

• Great Lakes populations are declining, and the true abundance is currently unknown

How Can I Help?

Place the whole Mudpuppy(s) in ziploc bag, seal, and freeze the bag. Tissue samples may be placed in storage tubes containing ethanol.

Include the following information on a 3×5 card placed within the bag (using pencil) and on the outside of the bag (using permanent marker). In the case of tissue samples, label outside of tube with permanent marker.

1.) Observer

2.) Date

3.) Precise Collection Location

Contact one of the following people:

1.) David Mifsud 517-522-3525 DMifsud@HerpRMan.com

2.) Maegan Stapleton 517-522-3525 Stapleton@HerpRMan.com

3.) Amber Stedman 815-761-8941  AStedman@EMich.edu

4.) Greg Schneider 734-647-1927, 734-763-0740 ES@UMich.edu

mudpuppy1

Michigan Wetlands at Risk

A tantalizing copse of tamarack grow out beyond the lily pads - good indicators of a fen or bog ecosystem.

Wetlands serve critical functions in a watershed and our watershed is no exception.

  1. Biodiversity: wetlands provide a unique habitat for animals—from fish, hospital amphibians, and macroinvertebrates to birds and mammals.
  2. Water quality: wetlands are like the watershed’s kidneys, filtering sediment and pollution and keeping the water in the lakes and streams cleaner.
  3. Water quantity: wetlands act like sponges as they take up excess water in heavy rains and provide a steady and slow replenishment to creeks and rivers in drier periods.

Unfortunately, try we have lost approximately two-thirds of our wetlands. We’ve drained and filled most of these wetlands to plow farm fields and create drier and more buildable land. This last May, Michigan passed a new wetland law. Is this a positive development? We need a little history to get an answer.

In October 1984, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authorized the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to administer Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which regulates wetlands. Since then, Michigan has been one of two states that administers its own wetland  permitting program (New Jersey being the other state). Yet, over the years, environmentalists began to question the state’s lax commitment to wetland protection. As a result EPA initiated an informal review of the Michigan program and reported its findings in November 2002. After a lengthy review and comment period, a final review appeared in May 2008. The review outlines EPA’s concerns with Michigan’s implementation of the Section 404 permitting program.

These concerns sparked a debate in 2008 to consider handing the program back to the EPA. Michigan decided to keep the program and convened a task force to help it address EPA concerns and make the program viable. This past spring the state legislature passed a bill that purportedly addressed the concerns and improved Michigan’s permitting program. Governor Snyder signed the bill into law in early July 2013.

In fact, this new law only heightens HRWC’s concerns about the program. The law makes substantial changes that affect the area of jurisdiction, scope of regulated activities, and criteria for review of permits. It provides more exemptions, less protection of wetlands, and weakens criteria for permitting. In addition to the weakened regulations, HRWC is concerned about the lack of federal review and potential Clean Water Act violations.  Since the bill takes effect upon the governor’s signature, no time is allotted for required federal review which results in a violation of the Clean Water Act.

The EPA should inform the State of Michigan that implementation of any changes to the state program must be delayed until the federal review process is complete. Not only are the provisions under the new law ineffective until EPA review, but upon preliminary review of the draft legislation, EPA noted that “the draft legislation also introduces new inconsistencies with Federal law, guidance, or case law.” After receiving letters from HRWC and other environmental groups, EPA is currently reviewing the new act.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is holding an informational meeting and public hearing on Wednesday, December 11, 2013, at 6p.m. (informational meeting) and 7 p.m. (formal public hearing) at the Crowne Plaza Lansing West Hotel in Lansing, Michigan. In addition, EPA is accepting written comments on the proposed revisions through December 18, 2013. To make a comment and to learn more about the CWA Section 404 program in Michigan go to: www.regulations.gov. We encourage you to attend the informational meeting and hearing, and to provide your comments.

News to Us

Lake invasive European Frogbit.  Photo credit: flickr.com/petroglyph

Lake invasive European Frogbit. Photo credit: Michael Butler

 

Lots of activity in the policy sphere in this edition of News to Us.  EPA threatens to reclaim control over wetland regulations in Michigan, decease 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, medical 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, seek 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.

News to Us

Kris Olsson presenting a green infrastructure map to Dexter Township Planning Commission.  Credit: Nathaniel Siddall/For Heritage Media

Kris Olsson presenting a green infrastructure map to Dexter Township Planning Commission. Credit: Nathaniel Siddall/For Heritage Media

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?


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