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.
HRWC’s longtime Board Member, Eunice L. Burns, peacefully passed away on October 20, 2016 at the age of 93. Eunice is the longest serving member of the HRWC board and the co-founder of Ann Arbor’s Huron River Day with her friend Shirley Axon. Eunice’s commitment to clean water and a healthy Huron River began with her service on the Ann Arbor City Council in 1962. She became involved with HRWC in the early 1970s and served as Chairwoman 3 times. “Eunice cared deeply about the Huron River and the Watershed Council” said Laura Rubin, HRWC’s Executive Director, “She was always there to help out, stand up and let her opinion be known, and offer a big smile of encouragement”.
Eunice was the embodiment of a good citizen. She never backed away from what she thought was right no matter the opposition and was courageous and dedicated in her actions. Her love for her community has stood as a shining example for her children, grandchildren, and those who knew her, of a vibrant, purposeful life rich in impact and meaning. Eunice liked to say that she had multiple careers, starting as a physical education teacher, and then entering political life in 1962 as a member of Ann Arbor City Council from the First Ward. She served three terms and went on to run for Mayor in 1965, the second woman in the city’s history to do so. In 1971, she began working for the University of Michigan as Executive Assistant to the Dean in the School of Education, and Chair of the Commission for Women. After ten years at the university, she became Manager of the historic Kerrytown Market, and in 1983, obtained her real estate license and worked as a realtor with Charles Reinhart Company until she was 85.
Her family asks for donations in her memory to the Huron River Watershed Council or the Eunice Burns Fund for Water Policy Education in the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy.
Greetings from the Membership Department and your friendly HRWC Membership Coordinator!
Did you know that membership support is critical to HRWC’s ongoing research and education efforts? Our membership has been growing each year, with most members contributing at the $35-$100 “invertebrate” levels (Mayfly, Crayfish, Dragonfly). Just like in the watershed, the invertebrates are leading indicators of the health of HRWC and contributions at these levels provide over 60% of our annual membership income.
And what do we do with your money? The steady income from memberships allows HRWC to launch new programs in response to issues in the watershed – programs that do not initially have identified funding sources. When our efforts to ban the use of coal tar pavement sealants were just beginning, it was membership dollars that supported the initial research into the problem and how best to address it, which then led to our coal tar campaign to fund a broader effort to help local municipalities implement ordinance restrictions to reduce the use of this toxic material.
Some of our Green Infrastructure planning and Natural Rivers District work is also funded through membership support, which allows HRWC to send key staff members to local governments to assist in land use planning, ordinances and policies designed to protect the natural stretches of the Huron through several of our townships.
Membership also funds the little things, like when you call to let us know about an issue in the watershed. It might not seem like it takes much to respond to a call about clear-cutting property all the way to the riverbank, but once we get off the phone with you, we are making calls and sending emails to make sure the proper agencies are notified, and that they respond (so, yeah, members are funding our pestering abilities!). Often, one of our staff members will travel out to the property in question.
As a member, you can be proud of your connection to HRWC and your role in the important work we do every day in support of the Huron River and its watershed. Not a member? Consider getting in touch with your inner Mayfly and join our hundreds of other membership invertebrates! It’s easy to join online today.
To the nearly 150 volunteers that braved the wonderful weather at our October 8 River Roundup, as well as the 40 volunteers who joined us on Sunday’s bug ID Day. A special thanks to groups from Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan, Notre Dame Alumni Club, Huron River Fly Fishing Club, Fowlerville High School, and Huron High. Joining us were also a record number of families. Because when you volunteer with HRWC it’s fun, the work benefits our local communities, and we nearly always have good weather!
Breaking news here at HRWC headquarters: we have been awarded a grant to implement our Honey Creek Watershed Management Plan! In 2012 -2013 we researched within the Honey Creek watershed to identify problems. Primarily, we scoured the watershed looking at bacteria levels and fingerprinting their sources. Honey Creek’s poor water quality is due to high bacteria levels, which can threaten human health.
Our research led us to some recommendations on how to protect and restore the area in ways that address the most critical issues. We are pleased to report that the Department of Environmental Quality has provided funding for this work within the Honey Creek watershed. Our Honey Creek project starts this autumn and will end in autumn 2019.
With this grant, we will:
- Hire canine teams (dogs!) to sniff out sources of human sewage waste in 2 key areas of the watershed. Once the dogs help us identify specific areas with septic issues, we will work with Washtenaw County and property owners to help them address problems. We will also do homeowner outreach on ways to maintain septic systems.
- Scoop that poop! We will raise awareness of the importance of removing pet waste from yards and parks, and install pet waste pick-up stations. Pet waste is one of the predominant sources of bacteria in Honey Creek.
- Mark 1,000 storm drains and hand out door-to-door flyers to raise awareness of their direct connection to Honey Creek and what people can do to capture and reduce runoff pollution.
- Identify farmers in the Middle Huron watershed for a Farmer Advisory Council (FAC). The FAC will advise HRWC and project partners on future plans to address bacteria and nutrient reduction from agriculture including innovative approaches such as “pay for performance” subsidies for nutrient and bacteria reduction practices.
For questions about our new project, contact Ric here.
This project has been funded wholly or in part through Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Nonpoint Source Program by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Reports of dishonest companies indicate we need to do our homework.
There are at least four cases under investigation in Scio Township where a company allegedly applied coal tar sealcoat on driveways after telling homeowners they were applying the safer asphalt based sealcoat. Scio Township passed an ordinance banning the use of coal tar sealcoats in June, 2016. Not only is this practice deceitful, it is illegal in areas with bans. Communities in the Huron River watershed passing similar ordinances now include, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Dexter and the Townships of Hamburg, Scio and Van Buren.
If you are planning to seal your driveway or other asphalt surface, consider taking the following steps to ensure you are getting what you pay for.
- Choose a local company.
- Collect several competitive bids.
- Be wary of anyone knocking on your door and offering to sealcoat unsolicited.
- Check out the company you are considering on sites like the Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie’s List.
One homeowner described the incident:
They are operating in our area as we speak… offering no estimates, overcharging citizens by upwards of 500% of what it actually costs and using an illegal, banned and harmful product and lying about it to customers…The name that he gave me was Father and Sons Sealcoating but it’s not a real company. The brochure that he gave me of a real and safe product is not what he used either… They were driving a green Dodge pickup with camouflage on the wheel rudders, probably a Ram.
We are nearing the end of the pavement sealing season, but if you are still hoping to seal yet this fall, do your homework and work with a reputable company.
For more information on the human and environmental health impacts of coal tar and other high PAH sealcoats visit www.hrwc.org/coaltar.
Please help HRWC better serve the communities of the Huron River watershed by completing this survey. Good will and possibly a $20 Amazon Gift Card are in it for you.
HRWC research partners are surveying residents in our watershed and the results of this research will be very helpful to HRWC. The survey is intended to help us understand how people and communities perceive their risk associated with impacts from climate change, how prepared people feel and their willingness to prepare.
Your participation in this study is voluntary and greatly appreciated. Your information will be anonymous. The findings will be shared with stakeholders to inform community planning toward resiliency and sustainability. The results of this study may be used in reports, presentations, or publications but your name will not be used.
Please take 10 to 15 minutes to complete the survey by October 31st. Also, consider sharing this blog or survey link via community websites or other appropriate locations to help increase our response rate.
Thank you for all the ways you help to make the Huron the best it can be!