First of all, PLEASE VOTE! So many issues in Lansing and Washington, D.C. affect our watershed. Every person who can vote and who has any concern for the environment and the Huron River should take the time on November 4th to go to your precinct and vote.
Michigan House, Senate, and Governor
Half of the State House and Senate districts in our watershed are in play this election season. These representatives and senators will make important decisions about water quality and the environment in the coming years. The Governor plays a pivotal role in not only producing and signing legislation, but in implementing state laws. Here are some issues you will want your candidates to address:
- Energy – climate change is one of the biggest threats to watershed health, and we need legislation that supports renewable energy and encourages energy conservation. Vote for candidates who support energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
- Biodiversity – the state legislature has been acting to limit the Department of Natural Resources’s ability to manage for and promote biodiversity in State parks. Find out which of your candidates supports Michigan ecosystems.
- Hydraulic fracturing – commonly referred to as “fracking,” this practice is increasingly utilized to obtain natural gas from deep beneath Michigan lands. No statute exists that requires the contents and volume of potentially hazardous chemicals used in fracking to be publicly disclosed. Additionally, no statute exists that requires oil and gas drilling to use Michigan’s water withdrawal reporting requirements. Find out how your candidate stands on requiring full disclosure of fracking chemicals and measures to ensure fracking will not result in depletion of Michigan’s most precious resource – our water.
- The Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Quality have suffered severe budget cuts in the past, leaving them both understaffed and underfunded, thus compromising the departments’ abilities to adequately protect our natural resources, communities, Great Lakes, and recreation areas. Vote for candidates who strongly supports funding these agencies.
U.S. House and Senate
I’m sure you’ve seen the ads (yuk) for the race to replace Senator Carl Levin, who is retiring. In addition to that race, all 6 House seats in the watershed are in play this year.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed two major measures this year that will require legislative support for successful implementation:
- Waters of the U.S. As HRWC’s blog from last week details, the EPA is proposing rules to clarify which tributaries and wetlands qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. The rules would restore protections to 60% of the nation’s waterways.
- Climate Change. The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan proposal would cut carbon emissions by power plants 30% by 2030. This proposal is the United States’s biggest effort so far to limit greenhouse gases.
Ask your House and Senate candidates if they support these two initiatives.
Some environmental groups do endorse candidates and provide more guidance on elections, such as Michigan League of Conservation Voters and The Sierra Club. Also, this issue of Earth Island Journal provides a roundup of electoral races nationally.
More information about U.S. and State Districts and Candidates
Your congressional districts (including a map) and current representatives
To find your state house district
In News to Us this edition, HRWC receives a grant to teach students about the river and a new app allows citizen scientist to record invasive species locations. Also, Great Lakes Echo produces a podcast reviewing the month in Great Lakes environmental news. Finally, the oil and gas industry makes headlines again in our area.
Grant Will Help Huron River Watershed Council Take Classroom Learning Outdoors HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator, Jason Frenzel contributes to a piece highlighting a recent grant we received to work with K-12 students throughout the watershed to get them out in the rivers, learning how to sample and building an understanding of the condition of our creeks and streams.
To catch a predator: Citizens enlisted to track invasive species Here at HRWC we are proud of our citizen scientists. They do much to help support our mission and protect the natural resources of our area. Now there is another way you can contribute right through your smartphone. MISIN, or the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, has developed an app that lets you report locations of non-native species. With a lot of eyes on the ground (and in the water), MISIN can gain insights into the spread of invasives and how to stop them.
Great Lakes in review: mayors on algae, restoration update This great podcast series recently came to our attention. Great Lakes Echo is producing monthly podcasts summarizing the month in environmental stories from around the Great Lakes. If you want to stay up to date on regional environmental issues, tune into this series. The most recent podcast covers September including the Summit on Water Resources lead by the region’s mayors and spurred on by the Toledo drinking water ban, and updates to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative which now require projects incorporate climate change adaptation.
We continue to see a lot of news on oil and gas issues both within the Huron River watershed and the broader Great Lakes region. Here are two recent articles on a proposed pipeline that would be built through Washtenaw and Livingston Counties and how local communities are responding.
- Washtenaw County board to discuss proposed oil and gas pipelines at working session
- Pinckney moves to oppose pipeline
Fly fishing in Ypsilanti.
Three short films are being released by the Huron River Watershed Council that share stories of the renaissance happening along the Huron River.
“Fly Fishing the Huron” is the first and features small business owner Mike Schultz and his Ypsilanti-based Schultz Outfitters: Fly Fishing Guides & Destination Travel. The film revolves around the Single Fly Tournament, hosted by Schultz Outfitters on July 20, 2014. Schultz’s enthusiasm and commitment have contributed to the revitalization of the local Ypsilanti business community and have helped sparked the popularity of fly fishing along the Huron River.
7 Cylinders Studio of Ann Arbor worked with HRWC over the summer producing “Fly Fishing the Huron” to share the vision of RiverUp!, a plan for the Huron River’s future. RiverUp! is a strategy to realize the goal of a vibrant, robust, and restored river as a destination for residents, visitors, and businesses. Additional films to be released in the RiverUp! series include Dexter’s transformation of its waterfront and the creation of the Huron River Water Trail.
HRWC leads RiverUp! in partnership with the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Office, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, and the Wolfpack, a group of 75 business and community leaders and organizations.
Bring out your friends! Your family! Your coworkers! (We’re happy to supply some too!)
Enjoy a lovely autumn day while giving the Huron a hand. Participants will enjoy seeing unique locations throughout the watershed, learning about the Huron and water quality.
Start times at 9:00 and 10:30 on October 18. Lots of details here:www.hrwc.org/roundup
What is news to us this week? Browse the most recent newsletter from MiCorp for articles on water quality and monitoring. Enjoy the change in season through a fall color tour. An official disaster declaration will bring more support to parts of southeast Michigan still recovering from major flooding last month. In national news, emerging contaminates pose unknown threats to our rivers. And a global index ranks the United States among the lowest when it comes to willingness of individuals to engage in behaviors delicate on the environment. Not good.
The MiCorps Monitor: Fall 2014 The Fall newsletter produced by the Michigan Clean Water Corps is chock full of good articles on water quality, monitoring and invasive species that may be of interest to you. HRWC administers the statewide MiCorps program which uses volunteers to collect data to monitor the condition of rivers and lakes throughout the state.
Fall colors changing fast in Michigan: Here are the peak color areas right now Autumn is upon us bringing with it the beauty of our state’s fall color change. See where fall color is peaking now and when to expect peak color in southeast Michigan. Leaf drop is an important event for aquatic ecosystems bringing high quality nutrients and organic matter to our rivers and streams.
Obama OKs flood disaster aid for metro Detroit Michigan has now received an official disaster declaration from the Obama administration after severe rainfall led to extensive flood damage in the Detroit area on August 11th. This declaration makes additional financial assistance to households affected by the rains and to help municipalities rebuild affected infrastructure such as road and stormwater pipes. Damages from this annual 0.1% chance (or often referred to as the 100 year storm) rain event is estimated at more than $1.1 billion.
A Rising Tide of Contaminants New chemicals and compounds are being developed and produced at a break neck pace, leaving regulators way behind on the evaluation of the human and environmental impacts of these substances. The federal regulation governing these substances, the Toxic Substances Control Act, has not been updated since going into effect in 1976. Contaminants are making their way into our waterways with unknown ecosystem health effects.
8 Surprising, Depressing, and Hopeful Findings From Global Survey of Environmental Attitudes A recent survey gaged the environmental attitudes and behaviors of individuals in 18 nations. Sadly, American’s are not doing so well. The worst, actually, among the eighteen. And people in emerging economies such as Brazil and India are far more likely to adopt green behaviors than those in established economies such as England and Germany.
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.”
While doing a habitat assessment on the Huron River, I was lucky enough to see a pocketbook mussel in the process of attracting a fish host and managed to get some pictures and a video of it.
Please excuse the poor video quality- it looks like a bubble got trapped on our underwater camera lens! But you can make it out. The mussel is buried in the sediment, positioned so that its opening is facing up. The mussel is extending a part of its mantle into the current to use it in its reproduction process.
Mussels reproduce by releasing their glochidia (microscopic larvae) in the presence of fish. The glochidia latch onto the fish’s gills and fins where they dwell for days or weeks, depending on the species and water conditions. During this time the glochidia develop into microscopic juveniles and eventually drop off the fish. If they land in a suitable place, they can create a new mussel bed.
Therefore, since fish are integral to a mussel’s life cycle, the mussels have developed ways to get a fish’s attention. By extending the colorful mantel into the current, the mussel acts like an angler’s fish lure! When a fish gets closer- the mussel shoots out the glochidia!
Special acknowledgments go to Ryan and Marty of ECT, for experiencing this really cool find with me.
On August 2nd, Mayor of Toledo Michael Collins, issued a ban on drinking water. Microcystis, a bacteria*, reached toxic levels in the City’s drinking water supply in western Lake Erie. The ban lasted two days and left nearly half a million people without water including residents of Monroe County, Michigan. During that time there was much media coverage discussing cause, response, extent of the impacts and who was to blame.
What you may not have read is that this event is not unique. Increasingly, and across the globe, our lakes and oceans are experiencing booms of algae and bacteria populations that are reaching levels toxic to both wildlife and people. The question I want to explore here is how may climate change be contributing to this issue that is plaguing Lake Erie and many other coastal waterways?
Lake Erie has seen an increase in the frequency and size of blooms since the 1990’s. A harmful bloom of algae and bacteria occurs when waters are warm and nutrients are high. Lake Erie is shallow and therefore warmer than other Great Lakes. Additionally, there is extensive agricultural and urban development in the watersheds that drain to the lake. Nitrogen and phosphorus reach our rivers from farm fields, leaking septic systems and discharge pipes from industry.
Climate change can make conditions worse in two major ways. As air temperatures increase, water temperatures increase. In our area we have already experienced a 1.1° F increase in average annual temperature in the past 30 years.** Models predict an additional increase of 4-12° F (depending on what carbon emissions values are used) over the course of this century. Additionally, not all rains are created equal. More nutrients run off of land and through pipes during large rain events. These nutrients are carried from the source, to a river, which eventually delivers the “food” to Lake Erie where it is used to fuel a bloom. In Southeast Michigan we are already experiencing an average of 2.9 inches more precipitation (much falling as rain) each year than we were 30 years ago. Models predict further increases to our average annual rainfall, and more importantly to this story, that rain is expected to fall in larger events. An analysis of Toledo rainfall records revealed that they have experienced a 40% increase in the number of strongest storms in the last 30 years when compared to the previous 30 years. This is typical for the entire Midwest region of the US.
So, while harmful algal blooms have occurred in Lake Erie for decades, there is reason to believe that climate change is an additional, and increasingly important, factor leading to the uptick in frequency and severity of these events.
You can read more about microcystis and the Huron River watershed in our upcoming newsletter scheduled for release in December. If you do not receive our newsletter, you can subscribe here.
________*Point of clarification — Microcystis is a bacteria, not an algae, though the two tend to bloom simultaneously under the right conditions. ** All climate data was provided by the Great Lakes Integrated Science and Assessments Center www.glisa.umich.edu
We have a paddle trip for people looking for adventure and an interest in trying their skills at biking and paddling. This Sunday, September 21st, at 1:00 we are hosting a paddle trip from Hudson Mill Metropark to Dexter-Huron Metropark with a bike to the beginning along the recently completed border to border trail.
Ron Sell and Barry Lonik, experienced paddlers (and bikers), will be leading this trip down a beautiful stretch of the river in the Natural River’s zone. Elizabeth Riggs, HRWC’s River-Up Manager will be on the trip too, adding her expertise and knowledge of RiverUp! and Huron River Water Trail improvement projects within this section of the river. Join the fun and learn about the river and try your skill with paddling and pedaling! Register here.
This edition of News to Us shares articles on rainfall — how to use rain gardens to manage it, how it carries nutrients to our waterways causing issues with algae and microcystin blooms and when extreme, how much damage it can cause. Learn also about efforts in Ann Arbor to revitalize the riverfront and how communities throughout the nation are building climate resilience.
Washtenaw County Rain Garden Program To Be Shared Across Michigan Listen to a brief story aired on WEMU about the Washtenaw County Rain Garden program and how to learn more. Rain gardens help keep pollution and stormwater out of the Huron River increasing the health of the system. Washtenaw County is a leader in this area and can serve as a great resource for anyone interested in installing a rain garden.
Manchester-area farmers finding ways to reduce waste run-off after Lake Erie scare A group of local farmers from the Raisin River watershed to our south, spent time touring Lake Erie and discussing ways to reduce nutrient contributions from farms to the Great Lakes. Excess nutrients in the lakes contributed to the microcystin contamination of Toledo’s drinking water last month. This tour provided a unique opportunity to learn about nutrient management practices and exchange ideas among farmers.
The Green Room: River Renaissance In a recent WEMU Green Room story, Laura Rubin and others are interviewed to discuss the river and riverside revitalization efforts underway in the Argo area of the Huron River in Ann Arbor. Highlighting Argo Cascades and the MichCon brownfield redevelopment site, interviewees tell a story of the ups and downs associated with the river’s new found popularity.
Facing Climate Change, Cities Embrace Resiliency This article discusses community resilience – a concept emerging in cities and towns throughout the United States in response to the increased number and severity of extreme weather events. Building resilience entails anything that improves the preparedness of a community to literally, weather the storm, minimizing damage and the threat to public health and safety. Several communities within the Huron River watershed are working to build resilience to changes we are seeing here.
Deadly Once-in-1,000-Years Rains Wipe Out Roads in Arizona, Nevada Many places across the globe are experiencing extreme rainfall events. While the Detroit area recently experienced a 100-year rain (1 % chance of occurring in any given year) parts of Arizona and Nevada experienced a rainfall event with even lower probability of occurring – some areas experience the 1000 year event (0.1% chance)! These larger evens cause extensive damage to infrastructure and personal property. Many communities are working to prepare for these larger events which are predicted to occur more frequently as the global climate warms.