Celebrate Earth Day! Watch inspiring award-winning films like “eXXpedition” and meet local non-profits working together to protect the environment.
Wild & Scenic Film Festival
Date: Thursday, April 21, 2016
Location: Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor
Time: Doors open at 6pm; films start at 6:30pm
Tickets are available online through the Michigan Theater.
$8—students and seniors and donors to any of the presenting organizations
$7.50—Michigan Theater members (Gold members will not be admitted for free) and host organization members
Motivation to take on the world’s most pressing environmental challenges often stems from a personal connection to nature and the resources involved. Wild & Scenic films speak to the environmental concerns and celebrations of our planet telling stories about the environment and outdoor adventure.
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival On Tour is a collection of films specially chosen by local hosts from the annual festival held the third week of January in Nevada City, California. Now in its 14th year, the 5-day event features over 150 award-winning films, guest speakers, celebrities, and activists. The home festival kicks-off an international tour to over 150 communities around the globe.
The Wild & Scenic Film Festival Ann Arbor is hosted by a unique partnership of six locally based environment and nature organizations – The Ecology Center, Huron River Watershed Council, Legacy Land Conservancy, Leslie Science & Nature Center, School of Natural Resources and Environment through the University of Michigan, and The Stewardship Network.
My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .
Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof. Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains. I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden. But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.
After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.
At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew. We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground. We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly. If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”. I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t. Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.
Last summer we also decided to install solar panels. Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially. There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland. It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity! We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation. We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.
If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).
Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.
This edition of News to Us shares updates on Ann Arbor’s Dioxane contamination, climate change and coal tar sealcoat advocacy in the watershed. Also see the Huron making headlines as a retreat from the city and how one township is taking stock of its natural resources.
DEQ proposes tougher cleanup standard to protect residents from dioxane A large plume of groundwater under Ann Arbor and Scio Township is contaminated with 1,4-dioxane originating from the Pall Corporation. After years of pressure and mounting attention over the past few months, DEQ announced a proposed change to the dioxane drinking water standard in Michigan from 85 parts per billion to 7.2 ppb. There is still a 6 to 9 month process ahead of the proposed standard where it could change or be vetoed. Read more about the decades-long story in this piece from The Ann; Bearing Witness: Decades of dioxane. Or hear more from the acting director of the MDEQ at a Town Hall Meeting, April 18, 6-8:30pm at Eberwhite Elementary, Ann Arbor.
City and country: How metro Detroiters enjoy the best of both worlds We are blessed in southeast Michigan to have incredible natural resources nearby. The Huron River is cited as a destination for Detroit area residents to get away from it all. Four interviews show the diverse ways metro Detroiters access nature to relax and recreate.
Freedom Township Takes First Steps Toward Shaping Future Development to Protect Watershed Freedom Township is the most recent of several communities in the watershed to participate in HRWC’s Green Infrastructure project to map and prioritize natural areas. The Township intends to use the map to help inform future growth and development.
Record-breaking heat shows world ‘losing battle’ against climate change, Alan Finkel tells Q&A No one in southeast Michigan would argue we have had a typical winter. Warmer temperatures and limited snow events made it a little easier on all of us. It seems we were not alone. The climate has been making headlines again as February registered as the hottest February on record (global average) and by a huge margin. It is expected that temperatures will remain well above average for at least the next couple of months. Particularly worrisome about data from recent months is it shows the planet moving much more rapidly toward the maximum of 2.0°C warming agreed to by nations under the Paris Climate Agreement.
Watershed group wants ban on coal tar sealants HRWC Board Member Mary Bajcz has been championing efforts in Milford Township to increase awareness about the hazards of coal tar sealcoat products commonly used to maintain asphalt surfaces like driveways and parking lots. These sealcoats contain high levels of PAHs that can be harmful to people and river ecosystems. HRWC presented to Milford Township’s Board of Trustees who are now considering next steps.
Here at our office, we call them “Swifties.” But really we are referring to Mitchell Neighborhood Ann Arbor residents. HRWC is working with these neighbors on a project to capture polluted runoff from rain and melting snow before it can flow into the Swift Run Creek.
We began this project by assessing the health of the creek in 2015. Results give us a baseline so we can return to evaluate the stream’s health after rain gardens are installed and are actively soaking up stormwater.
This pre-project check-up is complete and we have begun phase two, which is to build rain gardens in parks, schools, and street bump-outs in partnership with the City of Ann Arbor. Free assessments are also available to Mitchell neighbors to help them identify ways to capture rain water on their property. Examples include planting rain gardens, trees, and other deep-rooted native plants, using rain barrels, and changing the direction of their roof gutters. The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner is providing discounts to Mitchell residents who take classes from the County Master Rain Gardener Program, and the project will subsidize rain garden installation.
While this project will beautify the neighborhood and protect its creek, some neighbors have raised concerns about the bump outs, anticipating that they could reduce parking availability and impact traffic. That’s why project partners are using proven methods for choosing criteria for the bump out locations. HRWC will present the plans to the neighborhood for input before they are finalized.
The Swifties are enthusiastic. Six have already taken the County’s master rain gardener classes. As a result, five private rain gardens have been created — see them featured in our Huron River Report, Spring 2016. And we’ve been getting thoughtful feedback and questions from neighbors, like these:
What about flooding? The existing stormwater drainage system is NOT being removed, so if it works for the neighborhood currently, it will continue to do so. The proposed rain gardens will be designed to capture and infiltrate the first inch of runoff. The rest of the overflow will go into the existing stormwater system. This design will improve water quality by filtering the initial runoff from small storms. There currently is no water quality treatment of stormwater runoff from the neighborhood.
Won’t the bump outs take away street parking? Once a preliminary design is drafted, we will present the proposed design and gather input from the neighborhood at a public meeting in April. Streets in the neighborhood are currently much wider than current design standards. However, if there are serious concerns about the loss of on-street parking, the design team will relocate rain gardens. There is quite a bit of flexibility in the placement of street-side rain gardens within the project.
Will they cause traffic congestion? The design team has many years of experience with street projects, including residential road bump outs. Maintaining efficient traffic flow is one of a number of design criteria that are being considered in drafting the plans. The team would like to hear about concerns at specific locations following the initial draft design so that they might alter the design.
Rain gardens seem complicated unless you are a gardener. Do I have to maintain the rain garden if it is on the street in front of my house? Once the gardens are built, they will be incorporated into the City’s Green Infrastructure Maintenance Program, which ensures that all Rain Gardens installed on City property (including the right-of-way area) are maintained, either by residents, volunteers, City/County staff or a contractor.
As this project picks up speed we will update our project page. Here are links to more information:
Swift Run Creek Report (great information on why the creek needs protection)
Learn more about using native plants and creating rain gardens at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, Saline. HRWC and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office will feature information and experts on rain gardens, native plants and shoreline best practices at our booth (E-169). Admission is $5. HRWC has a limited number of complimentary tickets available–please contact Pam Labadie, email@example.com.
A new resource provides technical guidance to municipalities on how stormwater management is impacted by climate change.
HRWC brought together stormwater managers from throughout the watershed and climate scientists to create a resource that provides a very usable quantification of how patterns in precipitation are changing in the Huron and what the implications of these changes are for managing the rain that falls on our communities.
This series of seven fact sheets takes the reader through the full story from the problem to the solutions.
Did you know that:
- Total annual precipitation has increased by 15% across Southeast Michigan and 44% in Ann Arbor.
- Heavy storms have become stronger and more frequent throughout the region.
- A new analysis of historical rainfall data has been updated and we are seeing increases in the amount of rain falling in nearly every design storm.* For example, the 1% storm (aka, 100-year storm) is 17% larger than what we have planned for.
This means current stormwater infrastructure like pipes, pumps, detention ponds and other storage systems may reach capacity more frequently than expected which can result in more flooding, more pollution in runoff and potentially costly damage.
But there are solutions. Recommendations to municipalities outlined in the fact sheets include:
- Use the new NOAA Atlas 14 rainfall frequency data for sizing new stormwater infrastructure which has more accurate design storms than other commonly used sources.
- Revisit floodplain management, detention and conveyance systems and look for weaknesses in light of changing rainfall patterns.
- Plan for a future with more rainfall and more severe storm events.
- Utilize multiple strategies to protect people and infrastructure from harm including revised standards, improved design, green infrastructure, and appropriately sized grey infrastructure.
View, download and share Stormwater Management and Climate Change.
Implications of precipitation changes in Southeast Michigan and options for response: A guide for municipalities at hrwc.org/stormwater-and-climate.
*A design storm is a rainfall event of specified size and probability of occurrence. Design storms are used regularly by stormwater managers to design stormwater systems.
Plan your summer paddling adventures!
Algonquin canoe routes, the Georgian Bay coastline, the Grand Traverse Islands, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Canada’s Yukon and Teslin Rivers, Lake Superior, the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, the Huron River and more will be featured by over 30 presenters at the 21st Annual Quiet Water Symposium.
Join the Huron River Water Trail for “RiverUp! in Moving Pictures,” a screening of 4 short films, produced by HRWC with 7 Cylinders Studio that tell the story of our river’s revitalization. Talks from outdoor recreation experts on camping secrets, top backpacking treks and kayaking college campuses in Michigan, packing, portaging, safety, cycling and nature photography along with demonstrations and exhibits round out the day.
Date: Saturday, March 5, 2016
Location: The Pavilion for Livestock and Agriculture Education
(Farm Lane, south of Mt Hope – on the campus of MSU)
Time: 9am to 5:30pm
(RiverUp! in Moving Pictures, 2pm in the Betsie Room)
Admission: Adults $10.00; Students (with ID) $5.00; Under 12 Free
Exhibitors include clubs and nature centers, handcrafted and historic watercraft, conservation and watershed groups, outfitters, liveries, and biking, hiking and water trails.
Come to QWS to plan your summer paddling adventures!
FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.quietwatersymposium.org
The Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the Huron’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
This Friday evening HRWC will be at the Michigan Theater for the Fly Fishing Film Tour (www.flyfilmtour.com).
We’ll be hanging out with some of the Huron’s biggest supporters (and HRWC’s too!). This is an amazing event for those new to the sport as well as long-time enthusiasts. I especially love that the movies tell amazing stories of beautiful places and inspiring people. They’re each a quick journey into far away adventures, this year’s list is amazing – Guyana, Scandinavia, BC, Zambia – I’m excited!
If you haven’t seen our fly fishing video yet, check it out here.
Michigan’s water has had the attention of the national news for months now. While Flint dominates the headlines, there have been other news worthy water issues in this state including the Waukesha water withdrawal request hearing for a diversion of Great Lakes water to a location outside of the basin, and the very local issue of the spreading dioxane plume under Ann Arbor and Scio Township. The Huron also gets a nod in a national recreational magazine as a source of inspiration for one rising musician.
Dioxane in Ann Arbor’s groundwater: a slow-motion environmental disaster The dioxane contamination of the groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township has been making headlines recently. The Pall Corporation is responsible for the contamination and the cleanup. The City has been pushing the Department of Environmental Quality to set stricter limits on dioxane levels for some time now without success. Current standards allow 85 parts per billion of dioxane. Ann Arbor would like to see standards require concentrations in the single digits, consistent with recent research on cancer risk.
Michigan Holds Hearing On Waukesha Plan To Divert Great Lakes Water – A hearing was held last week on what would be the first inter-basin transfer of Great Lakes water. The 2008 Great Lakes Compact is an agreement among Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces that requires strict criteria be met before permitting a diversion. HRWC’s Laura Rubin was on hand to provide comment along with several other water and policy experts from throughout the state. This will be a precedent setting ruling as it has the potential to open the door to more requests for Great Lakes water outside of the Great Lakes basin.
Why didn’t state officials heed the warnings in Flint? The Flint water crisis is all over the news. One storyline HRWC has been shining a light on is highlighted in this piece. The state’s environmental regulatory agency, the Department of Environmental Quality, has seen a steady decline in political support. The agency, along with other regulatory agencies, suffers under a culture that discourages staff from speaking up when issues are identified. Financial support, political backing and a culture that promotes adherence to regulations and transparency are necessary to avoid future Flints. Read more about Laura Rubin’s thoughts on this issue in her recent blog.
Chris Bathgate Goes Back to Nature Huron River watershed native Chris Bathgate is featured in Outside magazine. The acclaimed musician named the Huron River as one of his sources of inspiration. Imagine that! Bathgate talks about the importance of nature and quiet to his wellbeing and creative process. You may even “hear” the Huron on his latest album.
January 23rd was a beautiful day for the annual Stonefly event. The weather hovered around 30 degrees and the sun shone nicely throughout the volunteers’ time outside. They were searching for stoneflies, an insect that only lives in the healthiest creeks and rivers. The absence and presence of stoneflies, and the trends in their population that we see after visiting a location over and over again, give us clues as to how the water is changing over time.
Unfortunately for the purposes of data analysis and clear-cut answers, stoneflies are affected by more than water quality, however. Strange weather can also play havok on their ecosystems, causing populations to drop off. Our volunteers came back with very low amounts of stoneflies this year, and while we can’t be certain, it is possible that our variable Michigan weather is to blame. You may recall that December was unseasonably warm in 2015, and wonder how that might affect the insects. However, in this case, it wasn’t a warm December that hurt the stoneflies, but instead February 2015, a month that was extremely cold. In fact, it was one of the coldest February’s on record. When streams and rivers are covered by thick ice, oxygen levels decline, which is bad for all aquatic life but particularly bad for stoneflies, who have high oxygen requirements. Also, February and early March are when winter stonefly adults are emerging, mating, and depositing eggs; all activities hampered by extreme cold and ice cover. In summary, the cold 2015 winter had direct consequences for the stoneflies in 2016.
Volunteers did not find stoneflies at many places this year, but five locations in particular that did not have stoneflies were noteworthy as all of them have a long (10+ years) history of always holding stoneflies. In addition, all of these locations have great insect populations at our other events and there are no indications of water quality issues, further strengthening the argument that this year was a weather-related population decline. These five locations were three places on the main branch of the Huron (White Lake, Zeeb, and Bell Roads), Arms Creek at Walsh Road, and Boyden Creek at Delhi Road. Many other locations had reduced numbers or family counts.
Those interested in all results can see them here: PDF report.
Prior to the event, I laid out several examples of things that we would watch for this year:
Davis Creek at Pontiac Trail: Stoneflies have been dropping off here for the past decade. Volunteers did come back with stoneflies this year, though not the winter stoneflies but rather a family that is more widely available. Still, this is good news.
Honey Creek at Wagner Road: Stoneflies were missing here in 2014 for the first time, and unfortunately volunteers did not find them this year either.
Woods Creek at Lower Huron Metropark: Just like Honey Creek at Wagner Road, stoneflies were not found here for the second year in a row.
Insect populations are resilient and can bounce back with good water quality and suitable weather conditions. While this year was disappointing, the mild winter we are experiencing right now may result in a bumper crop in 2017. Come next January, HRWC and its volunteers will be ready to check it out!
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.
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.
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!