Good news . . .
State Attorney General Bill Schuette has weighed in on a constitutional guarantee that the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) can only be used for protecting our natural resources for future generations. Use of the MNRTF for dredging had been threatened and the Attorney General’s opinion is a decisive action to stop this pressure. The largest threat came from a bill that has passed the State Senate that would make dredging a permissible use for the fund.
With great lakes levels at record low levels the State Legislature has already approved an emergency $21 million from the general fund and the Michigan State Waterways Fund.
I applaud the decision. MNRTF monies are intended “to preserve and protect Michigan’s bountiful resources for generations to come” which means the purchase and development of parks and natural areas for the residents of Michigan. Hopefully this will put to rest the regular political tactics to raid the fund . . . at least it’s a strong defense!
There is no Wi-Fi on the river but we promise you a better connection.
As we bid winter a fond farewell, we warmly embrace the upcoming summer months! We are offering a variety of events this summer to get you outside and in-touch with nature. Beginning in May we are proud to have our first event, the Watershed Photo Workshop, which is offered in October as well. Each workshop, in May & October, will consist of two half-day classes. Come prepared to get hands-on experience in the field, and learn basic techniques for taking great nature photos.
We also have two Birding events planned to give a better understanding of the journey that migratory birds take when traveling through our area.
If you are hungry for watershed knowledge, join us for guided nature walks throughout the Huron River. We have three different walks planned to familiarize you with current efforts to protect watershed quality and provide information on the ecology as well.
If you crave a more hands-on summer recreation experience, we have five paddle trips planned to meet your needs. Our paddle trip in July is a special evening paddle in celebration of the Full Moon. Each trip includes discussion regarding the river’s water ecology, history, and unique features.
If paddling isn’t your thing but you still want to enjoy the Huron River, we are proud to welcome back the annual Baseline Lake Swim. If you are up for the challenge, we are offering an optional two-mile swim along with the traditional one-mile swim.
And Attention fishermen of all levels, you won’t be missing out on the fun this summer. We are offering Fly Fishing Lessons that will help to get you started for a summer on the river. You will have the chance to put those Fly Fishing skills to the test at our annual Single Fly Tournament, pick your best fly and fish it till you lose it! As you can see, there are a lot of options to get outside and involved with your community. I hope to see you on the watershed this summer, happy trails!
Registration is required for most of the events, so don’t delay! For more information on each event and how to register for them, visit HERE.
Let’s hear what you think about the future of state public lands……
Governor Snyder has tasked the Department of Natural Resources with developing a public land management strategy which will assist regions in meeting their prosperity goals. The plan is a requirement under a law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year that capped how much land the DNR can own. The DNR has drafted a strategy and wants to hear from you.
I attended a regional meeting last week that provided an interactive discussion on our region’s priority community, economic, and environmental strategies that are impacted and enhanced by public land resources (state parks, recreation areas, access, and game areas). We discussed the main strategies in the draft plan–the pros and cons, what is missing, the challenges to meet them, and how to have better collaboration.
To summarize: “The draft land use strategy calls for improved access on DNR-managed public lands and, for the first time, sets a standard for public access to the Great Lakes and rivers. The draft plan also includes a new strategy for the possible disposal of approximately 250,000 acres of DNR-managed public lands and promotes increased opportunities in southern Michigan. The plan also discusses objectives to grow Michigan’s natural resources-based economy through the use of DNR-managed public lands.”
The highpoints for me are:
1. Improved management and greater collaboration are needed and I welcome the emphasis!
2. Increasing public land opportunities and/or access and recreation in Southern MI, where the greatest population lives, makes sense and supports HRWC RiverUp! efforts.
3. The word BIODIVERSITY is missing and given the current threats (see earlier blog Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan) I worry about an overly strong emphasis on timber and mining where the economic benefits are more easily quantified than biodiversity and habitat protection.
The Huron River Watershed is lucky to have a wealth of state public lands from Highland to Proud Lake State Rec. Areas and from Island Lake to Pinckney State Rec. Areas. If you use these lands and care about the future of them please review the DNR strategy and comment!
This edition of News to Us starts with a success story and we all like success stories. Learn also about the islands of plastic polluting our Great Lakes. We share a few opportunities to attend public events on flooding and fracking. Read also a refreshing perspective on approaching river conservation by finding common ground among individual objectives.
A Tern for the Better: The Detroit River Comeback The common tern has returned to Belle Isle after a 50 year absence. The refuge on Belle Isle is a bright spot showing what can be when we invest in wildlife habitat even in the most urban of places. Read about the successes of our neighbors to the north.
Polluting Plastic Waste Invades Great Lakes: Pacific Garbage Patch May Have a Rival This article brings to light a less often cited, yet major source of pollution in the Great Lakes. Plastics in our waters have implications for birds, fish and other organisms in the food chain. Consider finding ways to keep plastics out of our waterways like switching to reusable bags and cleaning debris and trash away from stormdrains that carry plastics directly to our waterways during rain events.
Ann Arbor kicks off $1.2M study of sewer system, footing drain program and basement sewage backups It is the wet season again. Spring rains rejuvenate our rivers, groundwater, forests and landscaping. But for some households the rains can mean problems when water ends up in basements or sits on roads. Ann Arbor is holding a public meeting to provide updates on ongoing efforts to reduce damaging flooding including an assessment of the sanitary sewer system and footing drain disconnection program.
Sunday Brunch: A tiny trickle turns into a torrent of conservation issues for Michigan This blog from Helen Taylor, State Director of the Nature Conservancy in Michigan, shares a nice perspective on river protection. She encourages individuals and groups to consider the “whole-system” rather than a more personal view of the river with an eye on shared goals rather than win-lose propositions—a healthy lens through which to envision the path to a healthy river serving many purposes for many interests.
University of Michigan to hold town hall on future of fracking in the state For those interested in learning more about the practice of fracking to extract natural gas, University of Michigan is hosting a forum on the topic this evening. As far as we are aware, there are no plans for fracking in the watershed at this time but there is very active debate on this topic at the national and state level.
Your View of the Huron River
HRWC is hosting two Photography Workshops in 2013, May 11-12 & October 19-20. Local professional photographers Michael Seabrook and Marc Akemann will lead the classes. Each workshop, in May & October, will consist of 2 half-day classes. We encourage you to register for both workshops to get the full benefit of what Marc and Mike will be teaching. Come prepared to get hands-on experience in the field, and learn basic techniques for taking great nature photos—obtaining correct exposures, controlling the depth-of-field, making sharper photos, customizing your camera to do what you want it to, and more. All skill levels are welcome.
Special guest speaker: world-renowned photographer and local Ann Arbor resident, Howard Bond will be speaking at both workshops. Maximum registration for both classes is 20 participants.
What to Bring: A camera that allows you to manually set the shutter speed and aperture. All participants will receive a Huron Camera coupon good for 10% off camera bags, memory cards and filters. One time use only but you can purchase multiple items.
Visit HERE to find out more, and see examples of Marc and Mike’s work and to register for the classes.
Photography Workshop Schedule: May 11-12 & October 19-20
2-3:45PM – New Center* – Introductions, class time, Q&A, Howard Bond.
4-6PM – Shooting time in the field (along the Huron somewhere…TBD).
8-9:45AM – Shooting time at Delhi Metropark (tentatively)
10AM-12PM – New Center* – Work on an image or two/project images, Howard Bond.
*New Center is at 1100 N Main St, Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Last week over 500 people from 43 states and two territories gathered in Denver, CO for the inaugural National Adaptation Forum. These 500 represented our national climate adaptation community—folks from around the country helping people and wildlife prepare for a changing climate. I attribute it to the universal nature of the issue that the event was attended by federal, state and local government staff and officials, academics and professionals from the non-profit and private sectors. City planners, public works professionals, wildlife biologists, sustainability directors, climate scientists, insurance and hazard mitigation professionals all exchanged ideas, successes and challenges. Each brought new perspectives and innovations that crossed sectoral silos and built a common fabric upon which all of us can draw and build. I was fortunate to be a part of this seminal event.
The program and presentations were exciting and energizing. Cities and towns throughout the nation are taking action to reduce vulnerabilities to climate change impacts which vary depending on where you are in the country. Out west, water scarcity will worsen as less snow falls on the mountains to replenish their water sources. Wild fires are becoming more frequent and severe. Coastal areas face sea level rise, higher storm surges and salt water intrusion. Here in Michigan, we are expecting more severe droughts in the summer and larger storms in the spring and fall. Many communities are reacting to extreme events that have already occurred such as Superstorm Sandy, the 2012 drought or the Chicago heatwave. The thread running throughout the talks, no matter where a speaker was from or what issue they were focused on, is that communities should be minimizing risk. We cannot know when that big storm will come or how long a drought or heat wave will last. But we can be proactive and ready our communities for these times.
I was proud to speak on behalf of HRWC and the communities in the watershed participating in our Climate Resilient Communities project. Our work is unique in that we are approaching adaptation on a whole systems scale – the watershed. Involving the many municipalities in the watershed is challenging but innovative. And there is power in our numbers. What we can accomplish together is far greater than what any one community can accomplish on its own.
The National Adaptation Forum was the first climate adaptation event of this nature and, exceeding the expectations of the conference organizers, generated tremendous interest. Twice as many presentations were submitted as could be accommodated. Registration closed long before the conference and a long wait list formed. As conference organizer and plenary speaker Lara Hansen of EcoAdapt stated, we are part of the “adaptation vanguard”- a group of forward-thinking individuals at the front lines of a growing movement. This made me feel hopeful. I hope it does the same for you.
Discount rain barrels for sale at two community events this spring!
Save at least 20% off regular prices. Two sales + one great supplier (Great Lakes Rain Barrel) = Water saved, Huron protected
Rain Barrels come with all parts needed for installation and operation and can be used “planter-style.”
Option 1 = Washtenaw County Area
Pre-order your barrel online by Monday May 13 and pick it up on Saturday May 18th.
Go to www.hrwc.org/rainbarrels for more information and to order.
Use promo code HRWC1 or HRWC2, depending on which barrel you want.
Discounted prices on a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (85% recycled RainStation in charcoal), $75, promo code HRWC1; OR a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (Granite Classic Edition), $85, promo code HRWC2. All pre-orders MUST be picked up at the sale location on the day of the event.
Pickup: Saturday, May 18, 9am-2pm
Washtenaw County Road Commission
555 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI
Hosted by Great Lakes Rain Barrel, HRWC, the City of Ann Arbor, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, the Washtenaw County Road Commission, and Barton Hills Village.
Option 2 = Down River
Pre-order your barrel online by Monday May 6 and pick it up on Saturday May 11th.
Go to www.greatlakesrainbarrel.com for more information and to order.
Use promo code SAVEH2O.
Discounted price on a 65-gallon Rain Barrel (85% recycled RainStation in charcoal). The barrels are available for $75.00 (regular $99.99 value) using the promo code SAVEH2O. All pre-orders MUST be picked up at the sale location on the day of the event.
Pick Up: Saturday, May 11th 10am-2pm
Van Buren Township Hall
46425 Tyler Road
Belleville, MI 48111
Hosted by Great Lakes Rain Barrel and the Alliance of Downriver Watersheds.
Questions? Contact Great Lakes Rain Barrel at email@example.com or 248.477.6988
Pledge to conserve water and reduce pollution!
The month of April is the Second Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, a friendly, community-based competition between cities across the nation to see who can be the most “water wise.”
Presented by the Wyland Foundation, the month-long Challenge invites city leaders and their residents to pledge to conserve water. All those who take the pledge are entered into a national competition with other communities to win hundreds of prizes – including a Toyota Prius, water saving fixtures and Never Waste water bottles from the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Last year residents from over 1,000 cities participated and pledged to save a total of 4.7 billion gallons of water.
HRWC Deputy Director Elizabeth Riggs helped pre-launch the campaign with a presentation to 6-8th grades at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor. HRWC and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje were invited to introduce the Wyland Foundation’s mobile learning experience to the Tappan community and talk about HRWC’s work.
HRWC’s Saving Water Saves Energy program has lots of tips, tools and calculators on saving water, as well as a new 60-second PSA that promotes the connection between water and energy. Start your April by joining in the National Mayor’s Challenge and by going to www.h2oheroes.org to tap into the H2O Hero in you!
Sadly, not a lot of good news has come across our desks over the past couple of weeks. Instead, we are hearing of major losses, or potential losses, in the gains we have made with our nation’s waters over the decades since the Clean Water Act. It is a signal that we cannot let up on our efforts to protect our freshwater, and the life it supports and the services it provides.
EPA Declares More than Half of US Rivers Unfit for Aquatic Life – A recently released report from the Environmental Protection Agency identified 55% of US rivers and stream are in poor condition for aquatic life. Major culprits include reduced riparian vegetation, phosphorus, nitrogen, mercury and bacteria. We are losing ground on our high quality rivers. Only 21% of US rivers qualified as “good biological condition compared to the 27% that fell into that category in the 2004 assessment. In the Huron, phosphorus is a big concern, as is bacterial pollution. Learn more about local water quality here or listen to a summary of our water quality monitoring results from 2012.
Judge ends federal court oversight of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department The utility responsible for delivering drinking water and treating wastewater for 4 million customers in Southeast Michigan has been under federal oversight for 35 years. Oversight will now move to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality due to significant improvements in compliance with environmental regulations. The new State permit calls for additional improvements to the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.
Spring Rain, Then Foul Algae in Ailing Lake Erie The Huron’s receiving water, Lake Erie, is in trouble. Toxic algal blooms in the lake are getting worse causing problems for fish populations, tourism and beaches. The lake had seen vast improvements since the Clean Water Act helped halt industrial pollution. Now, we are losing ground primarily due to phosphorus pollution primarily from farming practices. Climate change and zebra mussels are also cited as contributing to the problem.
Hydraulic fracturing in Michigan: Waiting for the boom So far, the Huron River watershed and much of Michigan has not been subject to natural gas extraction via the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process that has many states debating costs versus benefits of the method. The method uses a lot of water and a slurry of chemicals deep into the earth. This article shares why fracking has not yet come to our backyard and under what conditions it may.
The effort to derail ‘Biodiversity Stewardship Areas’ in Michigan Here is another voice in the debate over Senate bill 78. This is a very important issue to us and anyone who values our state’s natural areas and their inhabitants. We will continue to keep you up-to-date on our website. To learn more about the issue and how to voice your opinion see our blog Healthy Forests and Waters At-Risk in Michigan .
As we continue to endure winter-like conditions through the end of March, I am remembering last year at this time – 70 and 80 degree sun, punctuated by a devastating tornado season, including one in our own backyard, in Dexter.
What’s going on?
Surprisingly, this cold spring weather, like last year’s unusually toasty and tempestuous one, can also be traced to changes to our Earth brought by the ever increasing greenhouse gases we are spewing into our atmosphere.
The Weather Underground web site, co-founded by a University of Michigan Meteorologist, publishes a number of blogs and web pages dedicated to the impacts of climate change on the weather. A couple of their recent blogs give good perspectives on how local weather is globally connected.
Surprised by the robust levels of snowfalls this year in the midwest, east, and Michigan’s north? The Weather Underground’s Dr. Ricky Rood gives a good explanation for how climate change can result in larger snowfalls in some areas of the country in his recent blog. It turns out, snow is more likely at temperatures in the low 30′s range than at colder temperatures. So, as northern areas have warmer winters on average, we can expect to see heavier snowfalls. (For all you skiers and other winter sports enthusiastic, don’t get too happy — with the heavier snow events come the higher average temperatures, so that snow is not going to stick around).
How about this meat locker we seem to be trapped in this spring? Dr. Jeff Master’s recent blog explains that, due to arctic sea ice loss, the jet stream has contorted to bring cold weather to the Eastern U.S. and Western Europe and near -record warm weather to Greenland.
Some good news came with Sunday’s New York Times article about the increase in the use of renewal energy all over the world and how it is quite feasible for the U.S. to likewise reduce our dependence of fossil fuels. For instance, countries like Portugal get 40% of their electricity from renewables. In fact, 13 countries got more than 30% of their electricity from renewable energy in 2011. The U.S. number is 12%.
The article goes on to describe a Stanford University study showing that New York State (not known for high winds or sunny days) could easily produce most of its electricity from renewables by 2030.
So, take heart and encourage your state and federal officials to support our transition to clean energy!