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.
New benches at Barton Pond offer peaceful waterfront viewing
Visitors to the dam at Ann Arbor’s Barton Nature Area are in for a pleasant surprise. This fall, the Huron River Watershed Council with funding from the DTE Energy Foundation installed a set of three unique riverside viewing benches along Barton Pond.
The benches are the result of an artistic collaboration between Rizzolo Brown Design and local contractor IronWoodStone. The benches are inspired by nature and designed to be beautiful in form and innovative in function. HRWC engaged Rizzolo Brown Design to survey the river corridor from Milford to Lake Erie for places that could feature inspired design or art as part of the Huron River Water Trail project. HRWC, which in 2015 earned the Huron a National Water Trail designation, seeks to bring people to the river for enjoyment and recreation. Rizzolo Brown developed an “ideas book” based on site visits to numerous park locations along the river that HRWC has shared with communities all along the Water Trail for potential projects.
We hope you will visit and enjoy the benches!
Aquatic insect sampling on the Huron River and its creeks
Thanks to 154 volunteers who contributed approximately 600 volunteer hours, the October 2016 River Roundup was a great success! As always, HRWC 100% guarantees good weather for its volunteer events or your money back. We were once again able to fulfill that promise!
It was a very full house here in the HRWC conference rooms before the 18 teams split up and traveled to 36 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community. This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see a summary below, or detailed results in the October 10 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
HRWC gives a rating to each site that we monitor (Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor). The graph above shows this breakdown for the 61 locations that HRWC considers representative for the watershed. The detailed River Roundup report gives the site condition for each location.
Overall, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady, though there are particular areas getting worse or better. 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 4 sites are too new to make this judgment.
Fifteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Norton Creek, Horseshoe Creek, and Honey Creek (Washtenaw Co). Ten of the declining sites are in Livingston County, 3 are in Washtenaw, 1 is in Oakland, and 1 is in Wayne.
Twelve sites are significantly improving. Eleven of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including locations on Mill Creek, Malletts Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).
There were a lot of highly diverse samples collected this season. The team at Pettibone Creek: Commerce Road in Milford collected the most diverse sample ever taken at the site (sampling started here in 2001).
Two sites on South Ore Creek were diverse enough to pull these creeks out of a statistically significant decline and into the “declining but not significantly so” range.
The sample taken at Davis Creek off of Silver Road was the best sample taken in about 8 years.
For some teams, sampling conditions were difficult. The Huron River was running fast and deep after the area received heavy rain just a few days before the event started. The sample taken at the Huron River at Zeeb Road was particularly bad and far outside the range of normal variation. Based on the volunteer’s feedback and the difficulty of sampling the river, this sample was marked as an outlier and will not be included in the long-term record for the site.
Want to learn more about the data that HRWC collected this past year? On January 19th at 6 pm at our office on 1100 N. Main Street, HRWC staff will present results and interpretation for all of the field projects conducted within the past year. Good indoor weather guaranteed!
Do you consider yourself a Michigander, or aspire to be one? Then you should brave the cold and join the Winter Stonefly Search on January 21. It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier and usually colder. Good weather guaranteed or your money back… but of course these events are always free! You can register for the event here.
Earlier this year, 20 hardy paddlers stepped up to serve as the first class of HRWC’s new volunteer-led program to monitor the river for recreation. Huron River Water Trail Ambassadors adopt sections of the river to check conditions for safe and accessible paddling. This class covered 17 sections of the water trail ranging in length from 3.5 to nearly 10 miles.
Ambassadors check river conditions in the early spring before most paddlers are out on the river, as well as at the end of the paddling season in the fall. Their efforts make the river more enjoyable, protect its health and scenic beauty, and assist HRWC and the water trail partners with prioritizing improvements.
What does an Ambassador do?
1. Paddles a section of the Huron River once in early spring and a second time in the fall, at a minimum.
2. Makes general observations about the conditions of water trail launches, signs and portages, the shoreline, woody debris, spills and how people are using the river.
3. Represents HRWC by answering questions from the public, helping people out on the river and teaching responsible river use.
4. Takes photos of areas of interest or concern.
5. Submits information and photos to HRWC.
Some Ambassadors also clean-up trash and measure water temperature and conductivity with HRWC equipment.
How do you spot an Ambassador?
Check their hat! All Ambassadors are outfitted in brimmed hats with the water trail logo and the “Ambassador” title.
Contact Jason Frenzel if you’d like more information on becoming an Ambassador.
Short stories from four of our members on what giving to HRWC means to them.
On this Giving Tuesday, November 29th, a global day of giving, we hope to inspire and encourage you to stand strong for clean water with us. All gifts to HRWC and our local home waters — the Huron, will be matched dollar for dollar. Click HERE to donate today.
Thank you to our videographer and editor David Brown and our storytellers, Dieter Bouma, Chatura Vaidya and Jeremy and Aubrey Lopatin of Arbor Teas for your gracious contribution to our cause.
Dear HRWC Family,
Given the uncertainty of future environmental protection, I want to assure you that HRWC will stand strong to protect clean water. In this past presidential election, we saw a lack of conversation or priority placed on environmental issues. We saw a denigration and disregard for environmental agencies and regulations. And we saw a discrediting of science. All things that deeply concern us at HRWC.
Our strength has been and will continue to be making progress on environmental policy, science, and citizen stewardship and engagement at the local level. We are the crucial link between environmental problems and effective solutions. We educate the public, businesses, and decision makers on the problems and the solutions. We secure funds for these solutions. We advocate for policy changes. We identify emerging threats and demand action. We get out in the rivers, lakes, and woods to monitor the conditions and measure progress.
Our programs start small and local. They are built around volunteer monitoring and science, local government leadership and citizen stewards, and political advocacy. They grow from collaboration with a slew of partners and funders who share our commitment to clean water. They are based on the belief that individuals can make a difference and small changes can lead to large impacts. From local ordinances that protect us from coal tar to fish habitat improvements, from pollution reduction partnerships to building a Huron River Water Trail, we believe that our future is one of clean and plentiful water for people and nature where we all are effective and courageous champions for the Huron River and its watershed.
In the next 6 months, we will learn more about the direction of our federal and state government’s environmental agenda. I want to assure you that HRWC will be there to face any new challenges coming and will continue our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.
With your support, we will stand strong and focus on our core values to generate sound science to ensure reliable supplies of clean water and a resilient natural system, to work collaboratively with all partners to engage an inclusive community of river guardians, and to passionately advocate for the health of the river and lands around it.
As I go in to the holiday season I am I am thankful that we — this community that calls the Huron its home waters — have the courage to protect the river for current and future generations. Your donation helps us stand strong. Thank you.
For the river,
Laura Rubin, Executive Director
The 2016 Water Quality Monitoring Program season wrapped up at the end of September, and now I spend time compiling the data for analysis. With the help of 60 volunteers between April and September, we gathered water samples for chemistry analysis at 37 sites throughout Washtenaw, Wayne, and Livingston Counties. Flow measurements were also taken at several of those sites. Monitoring sites are visited up to 12 times during the season, and it would be impossible to gather this much information, or visit as many sites, without the help of volunteers. We are able to gather critical watershed data, as well as keep eyes on the Huron River and its tributaries for potential problems and risks such as erosion and pollution. I am proud of this program, it allows citizens to become actively involved in protecting the Huron River watershed and the water we rely on for so much. Thank you, volunteers, for helping us.
Mark your calendar for January 19, 2017 at 6:00pm and come to our Volunteer Appreciation and 2016 Field Season Results Presentation.
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.
Every year I think is the best “color year” for our beautiful Southeast Michigan trees. This year was not only colorful, but the colors just kept coming — just when I thought, “well, there go the golden hickories, it won’t be long and all the leaves will fall and we’ll be into November and bare branches,” well here we are in November and now the oaks are finally turning — a deep dark crimson.
Then I came upon this New York Times article – yes, the late colors have climate change to blame. And, while this may be a pleasant outcome for now, it bodes ill for the future, as warmer temperatures will push our more colorful trees like red and sugar maples further north, leaving us with less colorful oaks and hickories (though they happen to be my favorites).
Faye Stoner, Washtenaw County Natural Areas Stewardship Coordinator, agrees. “Colors are definitely lasting longer this fall – I can remember doing school programs and losing all colored leaves (that came in handy on those walks with kids) sometimes before the school programs were finished up for October/before Halloween!
“To have several trees, including maples out “in the wild” still almost glowing with color on Nov. 3, to me, is ‘out of ordinary’.”
Other naturalists have noticed the fall tick season has lengthened.
Read more about climate changes impacts on our watershed and HRWC’s efforts in climate adaptations.
Check out HRWC’s fact sheet about climate change impacts on the watershed’s natural resources.
In 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.