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Registration Now Open for 2014 State of the Huron Conference

We are putting together a fantastic conference for you and couldn’t be more excited for the 2014 State of the Huron Conference!

Learn about the focus of the April 24th event including keynote speakers, conference theme, and registration details at www.hrwc.org/sohc2014.

Join us for the only conference dedicated solely to the Huron River where community leaders, planners, scientists, educators, engineers, residents, and business owners engage in a conversation and celebration of this irreplaceable river.

Amy and Dave Freeman will share their enthusiasm for river adventure. credit: D. Freeman

 



Senate approves bill to battle algal blooms

The Senate last night approved legislation from a bipartisan group of lawmakers to boost federal efforts against the harmful algae blooms that haunt many of the nation’s waters.

S. 1254, the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act of 2013, is sponsored by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and 18 colleagues, would authorize interagency work on algae blooms and the dead zones, suffering from a lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, that they frequently spawn. The legislation would also create a national program with a research plan and action strategy. The legislation also requires the interagency Task Force to: (1) submit within 18 months to Congress and the President an integrated assessment that examines the causes, consequences, and approaches to reduce hypoxia and harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes; and (2) develop and submit to Congress a plan, based on such assessment, for reducing, mitigating, and controlling such hypoxia and blooms.

The upper chamber approved the legislation by unanimous consent.

Algae blooms, a result of nutrient pollution that washes off farm fields and suburban streets and comes from wastewater treatment plants, are an entrenched problem across the United States. Sprawling algae blooms on Florida’s east and west coasts this summer kept people from the water and contributed to the deaths of sea animals, including the highest recorded annual death count for manatees (Greenwire, Dec. 20, 2013). Closer to home, nuisance algal blooms impact Ford Lake and Belleville Lake, impoundments of the Huron River, reducing access to the waters for fishing, swimming, and other outdoor pursuits.

“We can’t sit back and let endangered creatures disappear along with jobs in the fishing industry,” Nelson said when he introduced the legislation in June.

Elizabeth Riggs

Elizabeth directs RiverUp!, the signature placemaking initiative for Huron River communities, and also serves as Deputy Director for the Watershed Council. She thinks this may be the year that she finally invests in her own kayak or canoe - suggestions welcome.


Study Recommends More Work in Millers Creek

Focus area of impacts from Millers Creek sediment accumulation

Focus area of impacts from Millers Creek sediment accumulation. Courtesy of City of Ann Arbor.

Final results of a 1.5 year study of sediment transport in Millers Creek within the City of Ann Arbor were recently released at a public meeting on February 5. The city contracted with Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. to conduct the study following a series of flooding events near the mouth of the creek. These floods were due to a new course the creek was taking following sediment build-up in its floodway. The study estimated that  47 tons of sediment were deposited in Ruthven Nature Area over a five-year period.

The study recommends a range of small and large projects to reduce future accumulation or sediment transport to the Huron River. Recommendations run from simple annual maintenance activities priced at $2-3,000 per year, but yielding little sediment removal, to the $1.5 million stream restoration design HRWC helped develop for the former Pfizer property (now owned by the University of Michigan). Recommended projects include a sediment trap and removal approach, as well as channel modification (and restoration) to reduce sediment loading at the source. Some recommendations can be undertaken directly by the City of Ann Arbor alone, while others require participation from Ann Arbor Public Schools or the University of Michigan. All recommended projects would further benefit the Huron River by reducing sediment and nutrient loading from Millers Creek.

City staff will share the study with the city council and submit select recommendations for stormwater funding. Take a look for yourself at the project website.

Ric Lawson

Ric works on stormwater management and policy and sends volunteers out to measure the pulse of the river and help with watershed monitoring and studies. Officially, he is a Watershed Planner. Unofficially, he gets wet trying to catch fish and splashing around with his wife and kids at various undisclosed river locations.

Latest posts by Ric Lawson (see all)



Michigan Fisheries: 200 Years of Changes

Now available in print or PDF

A four part series on the history of Michigan fish,  featured in HRWC’s newsletter over the last two years, has been compiled into one document and is now available digitally and in print form. It is great for students, fishermen, history buffs, and everyone interested in fish and aquatic ecology.

“Michigan boasts 11,00 lakes, 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, and is surrounded by the largest system of freshwater lakes on Earth. Over the past two hundred years, European settlers and their descendants have done much to alter these natural systems and the creatures that inhabit them.
 
This special report examines how humans changed fish diversity and abundance in Michigan since 1830 through greed, stewardship, ignorance, and intention.”
This 1930's fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

This 1930′s fisheries scientist surveys a habitat improvement project. Credit: Institute for Fisheries Research

 

You can get the PDF version here.

 

If you would like a printed version, please email Paul at psteen@hrwc.org.  The printed version will not be mailed but will be available at the HRWC office for pickup.  Supply is limited!

Paul Steen

Paul works on the Adopt-a-Stream Program and is program manager for Michigan's MiCorps program, a statewide volunteer water monitoring network. He really likes aquatic insects, fish, stream ecology, natural history, and trying to make the HRWC website more legible.

Email: psteen@hrwc.org

Latest posts by Paul Steen (see all)



Save Water, Save Energy, Win Free Water

That’s right! HRWC will pay the April water bill for three lucky families in the Huron River watershed, up to $250 each!Pledge, Save, Win

HRWC’s “Pledge, Save, Win” Contest encourages watershed homeowners to make the connection between water and energy. Saving one, means saving the other. Up to 13% of our nation’s electrical energy goes to pumping, treating and heating our water supplies.

There are just three steps for entering.

1 —  GO to www.h2oheroes.org, to watch a 60-second public service announcement.

2 — PLEDGE to do one or more activities to save water daily.

3 — REPORT what you did to save water by March 31, 2014. Reporting can come in the form of stories, videos, photos or other creative ideas. Winners will be selected based on creativity and effectiveness.

To help jump start your family’s efforts, www.h2oheroes.org has many tips and tools, including an online savings calculator, and a map to verify that you live in the boundaries of the Huron River watershed if you don’t know.

Winners will be announced by April 15, 2014.

“Pledge, Save, Win” is a campaign of the Saving Water Saves Energy Project, funded by a grant from the Masco Corporation Foundation.



News to Us

Fish consumption advisories will likely be in place for a long time.

Fish consumption advisories will likely be in place for a long time.

Dexter’s Mill Creek Park recieves an award.  Also, learn more about the problem underlying Michigan fish consumption advisories, what all this snow means as temperatures warm, and the status of negotiations on the future of Detroit Water and Sewer. Finally, we share two articles on proposed developments in the watershed that are making waves.

DEXTER: Dexter Village recognized by Ann Arbor Area Board of Realtors for Mill Creek Park   Area realtors give a nod to Dexter’s Mill Creek Park, awarding the Village of Dexter one of two Environmental Awareness Awards.  Several groups came together including HRWC and the Village to remove a dam from Mill Creek in 2008. The dam removal and riverside improvements on this tributary of the Huron River show how social, cultural and ecological goals can align and result in something remarkable.

Michigan’s toxic fish face long recovery, state finds  Most fish consumption advisories in the State are in place because of high levels of mercury and PCB’s in fish tissue.  These pollutants are particularly challenging to reduce as the majority of the pollutants originate in places outside of Michigan and are deposited here when it rains. A sobering analysis conducted by MDEQ concludes clean-up requires global commitments to reduce emissions of these toxins and could take 50 or more years before we see improvements here in Michigan.

Could all this snow bring spring flooding in Ann Arbor? City official says it depends  The weather forecast for next week shows warm temperatures at last.  Will we see flooding as record setting snowfall accumulations melt?

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson on Detroit water deal: ‘We’re probably going to walk’
Many residents of the watershed receive their drinking water from Detroit Sewer and Water, particularly in Wayne County and parts of Oakland County.  With major budget issues DSW has been in flux and one solution on the table is to create a regional water authority. Communities have mixed opinions on the current proposal for this new entity.

CHELSEA: Public hearing on Lyndon sand mine expected to attract concerned residents There are a couple of pending developments in the watershed that are creating a stir.  This article shares a proposed sand mining operation in Lyndon Township near Green Lake and Waterloo Recreation Area. To voice your concerns, attend a public hearing scheduled for Monday February 17th at 7:00 PM at Sylvan Township Hall.

Development spurs debate Another development making headlines is a proposed subdivision on one of the last remaining natural areas on Woodland Lake in Brighton Township.  A public hearing took place last week.  A rezoning proposal now resides with the Livingston County Planning Commission.



Snow: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow?

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Fleming Creek in winter. Photo: John Lloyd

Bucking the conventional feeling this winter, I have been loving all of this snow — this is how every winter should be!  Avid cross country skiers everywhere agree.

Lest the record snow and polar vortexes (vortices?) distract us, or worse, make us wonder how we could be in the grip of global warming, take a look at the latest

New York Times article on the topic.

The article describes the alarming long term trends in snowfall and snowpack worldwide, and it reminds us all that, taken alone, local weather events on any given day or month cannot support or refute global climate change.

Among many alarming trends the article points out is that Europe has lost half its glacial ice since 1850; 2/3′s of Europe’s ski resorts could be closed by 2100; and the American West may lose 25 to 100 percent of its snowpack by then.

In the Great Lakes region, the number of days with snow cover has decreased by 5 days per decade, since 1975. The average snow depth has also decreased.  Future projections predict later arrival of winter and earlier arrival of spring resulting in more precipitation falling as rain than snow  (GLISA, Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region).

Of course, global warming is not just about inconveniencing a bunch of skiers.  Those winter snows provide drinking water for us all and drought protection for farmers and forests.

So, next time you curse the snow delaying your morning commute, think about the likely future if current trends continue, and when you eventually get to the office or other workplace, give your Senator or Representative a call.

Get out and enjoy the snow while it's here!

Get out and enjoy the snow while it’s here!

 



Fostering Resiliency in our Tree Resources

This piece was written by guest blogger Mike Kaminski who worked as a intern at HRWC last summer and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Michigan.

Resiliency is the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance without shifting into a qualitatively different state. In this case, the system we are talking about is the Huron River watershed’s trees and forests, and the disturbance is climate change. Healthy tree communities enhance stormwater infiltration, filter pollutants picked up by rainwater, keep our rivers and streams cool, and help to preserve the overall health of the Huron. Unfortunately, the River’s tree resources may be at risk due to the impacts of climate change and the extreme weather events that are expected to come with it.

With increased temperatures and extreme weather events (especially summer drought), tree species that have long been associated with the beauty of the Huron River watershed will begin shifting their population ranges north to accommodate for the change in climate. Fall foliage characterized by the vibrant reds and golds of sugar maples and beeches will be replaced by the muted browns and yellows of oaks and hickories better suited to these new weather patterns. Even the eastern white pine, the state tree of Michigan, is expected to become more rare in this area.

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

Fall color of a beech maple forest (left) and oak hickory forest (right)

favorability-chart

Table indicating if the future climate in the watershed will likely be favorable (+), neutral (0) or unfavorable (-) to common tree species

Many potential consequences could result from the loss of these long established tree species. High numbers of urban street trees could be lost that are not well adapted. This could mean high replacement costs for local townships. Loss of municipal services such as enhanced stormwater infiltration, air cleansing, and urban heat island mitigation may occur. With fewer native trees able to survive in the changing climate, we could also observe a loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services from our surrounding parks and forests.

So, what can we do about this? Two years ago, HRWC, the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments Center (GLISA), and several local environmental leaders from around the watershed formed the Creating Climate Resilient Communities Project: an effort to address local climate change impacts by building resiliency in the watershed. Among the issues the project chose to focus on were resiliency strategies for natural infrastructure (specifically trees) within the watershed.

Now entering its third year, the Climate Resilient Communities Project has compiled several great resources on improving climate resiliency in the area’s forests and trees. These include a comprehensive report on the state of climate change and its impacts on the local watershed, fact sheets on key tree species of the area, and a report of popular and emerging management strategies for resilience in forest and tree resources. These and many other useful resources have been compiled as a comprehensive toolkit on HRWC’s website.

 



Master Rain Gardener Training Class Offered in March

New Year’s Resolution #1: Become a Master Rain GardenerResidential Rain Garden

Train as a Master Rain Gardener – add another skill to your portfolio – and become a resource for your neighborhood by keeping river water clean!  Rain Gardens filter and cool storm water so that our streams and rivers run clean.  It is a nonpoint solution for nonpoint source pollution.  Anyone can plant one in their own back yard.  The Washtenaw County Water Resources office has been building rain gardens for 8 years, and has built more than 140 rain gardens – we can pass along what we have learned to you.  Visit the Master Rain Gardener Hall of Fame (photos).

Thursday mornings 9:30am-12:30, February 27 – March 27, 2014.

Attendees must attend all five classes, and plant a rain garden to receive their Master Rain Gardener certificate.  

Location:  705 N. Zeeb, MSU Extension Classroom

Cost:  $90  (Scholarships available)

Instructors:  Harry Sheehan, Shannan Gibb-Randall, RLA, Susan Bryan, MLA

Questions?   Bryans@ewashtenaw.org  or 734-730-9025   www.ewashtenaw.org/raingardens

To register for the class, use the Rec & Ed registration page – click HERE.

Or, register in person/phone/mail by calling Linda Brzezinski 734-994-2300 x53203 or mailing your check and this form c/o her to: Rec & Ed, 1515 S. Seventh St, Ann Arbor MI 48103.

  • You will need to write a short paragraph answering these questions:  1) Tell us a little about your gardening experience.  2) Are you a Master Gardener? (not required) 3) Why do you want to become a Master Rain Gardener?
  • Residents of Miller Avenue (Newport to Maple), and W. Madison Street receive a discount.  E-mail bryans@ewashtenaw.org for details.


News to Us

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

Winter scene in Fleming Creek

This edition of News to Us shares several articles on pollution, both where we are losing ground and making some gains.  Two stories provide updates on pending park improvements.  Finally, take a look back at January’s weather in a piece that captures the month in numbers.

Michigan rivers polluted by human, animal waste more than double previous estimates Occurrences of pathogen pollution have more than doubled in Michigan’s rivers and lakes in recent years.  The new numbers are thought to be the result of better monitoring rather than marked changes in water quality.  The problem is, and has been, widespread.  Most of the waters impaired by pathogens (from human and animal waste) are located in southeast Michigan.  Failing septic tanks, manure from farm fields, sewer overflows and polluted runoff are the leading contributors to the problem.

Can sewage treatment plants protect fish from the chemicals in the water? Building on the story we published in the last edition of News to Us on trace chemicals in drinking water, Michigan Radio’s The Environment Report, covers potential impacts to fish from emerging contaminants – pharmaceuticals.

Michigan: Thornapple River. Removing Dam Improves Dissolved Oxygen Levels in River It is not all bad news when it comes to water quality.  Before and after monitoring data showed improved dissolved oxygen (DO) levels at the site of a dam removal. Prior to the removal of the dam, DO levels were so low, the river was listed as impaired under the Clean Water Act.  The river will be delisted for its DO impairment.

By the numbers: See how Ann Arbor’s cold and snowy January stacks up against history  This is a fun look at this month’s weather.  It uses Ann Arbor’s weather stations but similar numbers would apply across the watershed.  Spoiler alert: It’s been coooold!

Milford Village Council Approves Final Submittal for Phase I of AMP Project  Milford is one step closer to making significant improvements its Central Park that includes an amphitheater for their summer concert series. Pettibone Creek, a tributary of the Huron River, runs through this park.  Milford is one of five Huron River Trail Towns.

Next steps for Ann Arbor greenway project uncertain after grant funds denied  A key parcel in the Allen’s Creek Greenway, did not receive state funding for improvements necessary to take it from a retired city maintenance yard to a welcoming civic space.  The Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy and the City of Ann Arbor will be meeting to determine what the next steps for keeping the greenway project moving forward.




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