Posts Tagged ‘flooding’

News to Us

High flows on the Huron River in Dexter Township

High flows on the Huron River in Dexter Township

Read a sample of local to national news pieces that caught the eyes of HRWC staff over the past month.  Water quality, local flooding, recycling water and summer recreation are topics covered in this edition of News to Us.

Caution urged along swollen rivers, streams  Water levels are still high throughout the watershed.  Please use extra caution if on or near the rivers until water levels have subsided after recent record rainfalls.

The Huron River Water Trail  As we gear up for another warm weather recreation season here Michigan, HRWC’s Elizabeth Riggs blogs on how to optimize your experience on the Huron River.

In US, Water Pollution Worries Highest Since 2001  Results from a recent Gallup poll show that water is on the minds of the American Public.  Take a look at this year’s numbers and how it compares to other years.

Beer Brewers Test A Taboo, Recycling Water After It Was Used In Homes  Companies are innovating water use and conservation, especially in areas where water scarcity concerns are growing.  Water can be safely reclaimed, for example, and a group of brewers in the West are helping to debunk taboos associated with this practice.

What’s at Stake in Trump’s Proposed E.P.A. Cuts  The Environmental Protection Agency has been the subject of much attention since the proposed White House budget was released last month. This article does a good job of digging into the weeds of what is likely to be affected by the proposed cuts. You may be surprised with breadth of responsibilities the EPA has and what we stand to lose should the cuts make it through budget negotiations. The loss of nonpoint source grant funding will directly impact the work of HRWC as will a number of other cuts. Nonpoint source grants provide funding for a significant number of our projects.

 

Engage, Engage, Engage

In the last 2 months I’ve been asked a lot about my thoughts on sustainability and climate going forward. At a recent climate rally I shared what we do best at HRWC—the climate science and trends, and what people can do.

Here is a synopsis of my comments:

For 50 years our job has been to study and protect the Huron River, which runs right through many communities, including Ann Arbor. We have 25 years of data about this ecosystem. And the data confirms what we’ve seen this February. We have a migrating climate. Days like this are what we would have expected to see in Kentucky 20 years ago. Within 50 years our seasons will feel more like Oklahoma. This has massive implications for our natural ecosystems and our economy, and our quality of life!

Ann Arbor floodingSo let me tell you about what our science shows us about Michigan today:

  • It’s warmer. Annually by 2 degrees F; by 2070 an increase of 3.5 to 6 degrees.
  • Today, the growing season, or the frost-free season, has gotten longer by 9 days. In the future, it could increase by 1-2 months.
  • Today, Michigan gets more rain and snow—an 11% increase. In Ann Arbor 24% more.
  • The strongest storms have become more intense and more frequent. These rain storms are so heavy they overwhelm our storm sewers, our dams, and our wastewater treatment plants.

But, that’s facts and figures, let me tell you a couple of stories about how that affects us all.

  • People might remember that three years ago, a rain caused flooding in our watershed and in particular, on the UM campus. It was so intense and with so much water, students kayaked down the East University Street.
  • HRWC researches the river. Every January, we send about 100 volunteers out, up and down the river, to collect Stoneflies. Stoneflies are little bugs that are sensitive to changes and pollution, so they tell us how healthy the river is. Two years ago we had to cancel because of the extreme cold. The volunteers couldn’t break the thick ice to get in to the river. This year, we had the opposite problem: our volunteers could not get in the river in certain places due to high flows from a 50 degree thaw. We heard from volunteers that they were already seeing stoneflies that had hatched rather than in their larval stage. This means that when the fish start spawning in April, they won’t have as many stoneflies to eat….that damages the entire aquatic ecosystem.

So we’ve had an extremely warm February, but these unexpected extremes should now be expected.

So what can we do about this? Engage, engage, engage. I hear from people day in and out that they are frustrated and yearning to take action. We need big change; to change the way we operate major infrastructure systems of this country—transportation, energy, stormwater, housing, waste, and food.

As somebody who has spent my career working on environmental issues, here’s what I find effective: 1. Take individual steps on your own and with your family; 2. Build connections with people (your colleagues, elected officials, friends, neighbors) to work on issues at a larger scale.

Stand up against the things you don’t want (a weaker EPA, the Dakota pipeline, Line 5), but at the same time take actions to create the things you do.

There’s lots of things we can do as individuals. We also have elected officials, business, and government employees, and it’s important to do things collectively and scale them up.

  • To change our transportation systems, Take the bus—and advocate for robust public transit;
  • To change our stormwater systems, Put in a rain garden or rain barrel—and work with neighbors to push your university or town to install better rain capture systems on roads, parks, and rooftops;
  • To change our energy system, Put in solar—and help your elected officials pass tax incentives and ease of permitting for alternative energy; and
  • To improve our housing system, Live near your work or school—and encourage affordable housing so others can too.

Finally, it’s important to volunteer—engage in your community, sit on a board or commission. This is tough but necessary work. This is where change is made.

In my work as Director of HRWC, I bring very different people together to protect something we all love, the Huron River. I do that by talking to everyone who plays a part—farmers, drain commissioners, hunters, anglers, politicians, scientists, and homeowners. We’re all really different people with different political perspectives. We don’t always agree, but we find ways to make real change. Because all these people work together, the river is cleaner than it’s been in 50 years. It’s that steady engaged work that makes a difference and gives me hope.

Go get involved, take up the challenge, and let’s get to work!

Here are some of our projects that exemplify how our partnerships address climate change.

 

News to Us

mudsnail

New Zealand mudsnails are a new invasive species in Michigan Rivers. Photo credit: USGS

In this edition of News to Us: a new invasive affects inland waterways of Michigan, Green Oak tries to resolve flooding issues, a new report quantifies the gap between what we are spending and what we need to spend on our water infrastructure, and a new House Bill threatens to reduce Michigan’s power to protect our natural resources.

Invasive New Zealand mudsnail reaches Au Sable River
One of Michigan’s most recent aquatic invasives is on the move.  While we have not found it in the Huron River yet, we are concerned about the damage the mudsnail can cause. Your diligence can help avoid its further spread. Cleaning boats, waders and even shoes as you move from one waterbody to the next can reduce the chance of spreading the mudsnail to new rivers (especially if you have been on the Pere Marquette or Au Sable). For more information, and to report new sightings of New Zealand mudsnails to the DEQ and DNR, go to www.michigan.gov/invasives.

Flooded or forced out of their homes?
Repetitive flooding has plagued one corner of Green Oak Township for some time now.  And the problem is getting worse. The Township recently applied for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help acquire homes at fair market value and allowing the land to function as a floodway without risk to personal property or human health.

Q&A: PSC’s Jon Beard discusses how much Michigan should be spending on its water infrastructure
This is an interesting interview about a study that estimated the amount of money Michigan needs to spend on drinking water, stormwater and wastewater in order to meet the growing demands of aging infrastructure.  The research found Michiganders should be spending between $284 and $563 million more each year on water infrastructure.  While this is a lot of money, with about 10 million residents in the state, the gap could be filled by increasing water bills by as little as $3 to $6 each month.

‘No stricter than federal’ bill aims to make Michigan mediocre again
This blog put out by the Michigan Environmental Council provides commentary on House Bill 5613 which attempts to bar Michigan from passing rules stricter than an established federal standard. Read this blogger’s opinion on the implications of the bill to Michigan’s water and other natural resources. Since the writing of the blog, the House has passed the bill.  It is awaiting a vote by the Senate.

News to Us

High water on the Huron

High water on the Huron

Oops, we goofed. Find our most recent News to Us, May 16, HERE.

Each of the articles highlighted in this edition of News to Us touch on the conflicts that can arise between development and water resources. From piping our rivers underground, to living with legacy pollution. From building in floodways to problems associated with aging infrastructure. There is much to be done, and there is much we are doing.

Great Lakes cities swallow streams
A recently published study set out to identify buried streams in cities throughout the Great Lakes.  In our urban areas, rivers and streams were commonly buried and constrained in pipes. The practice of daylighting is bringing some of these streams back but this is a costly endeavor. Look at maps from Detroit and Ann Arbor to see how much of our rivers are now lost beneath the pavement.

Gov. Rick Snyder makes appointments to new 21stCentury Infrastructure Commission
Several representatives from the Huron River watershed have been appointed to a commission tasked with developing strategies to insure Michigan’s infrastructure remains safe and efficient.  The group will serve in an advisory role to the Executive Office and will put forward recommendations by November, 2016.

Cleaning up the past for a brighter, ‘bluer’ economic future in Michigan
This article discusses how we are cleaning up the pollution legacy left in the Great Lakes left behind from an era of industry where not much thought was given to toxins and waste.  Learn about the role of the Clean Water Act, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement Areas of Concern designations and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that have helped restore some of the most polluted areas in the State.

City releases new details about sewage spill in Malletts Creek
Last week, Ann Arbor city staff found a leaking sewer pipe in the Malletts Creek area of the city. The pipe had a relatively slow leak with volumes that could be diluted significantly by flow in the creek. A crew was able to fix the pipe immediately.  The water remained safe for recreation and no drinking water is taken below where the spill occurred.

Green Oak Township To Apply For FEMA Grant
Sometimes water and development don’t mix.  This is the case for a neighborhood in Green Oak Township where 19 homes along Nichwagh Lake experience flooding every year.  The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides funding to help property owners get out of harm’s way. If funding is received, these homes can be purchased and demolished, restoring this area to serve as open space and a floodway in high water times.

The Power of Water

So far we have had a pretty wet summer. I am sure that is not news to you. The river levels are well above average all along the Huron. Generally this is a good thing, viagra as it keeps the tributaries flowing, provides new habitat for critters to populate or feed at, and allows more of the river to be floated by us all.

Sometimes these higher flows can be bad. The current is more rapid making it difficult for fish and other wildlife to move against it to find food or shelter. Strong currents can also be dangerous for paddlers.

In some places, sales our actions as humans, interacting with and changing the structure of our environment, exacerbates the consequences of heavy rains, which are occurring more frequently due to climate change. In natural environments, heavy rains slowly collect (after saturating the soil) and flood lowlands and eventually the river after a long period (days, even). In built up environments with lots of hard, impervious surfaces, and straightened channels or underground pipes, the rain does not even have a chance to soak into the ground, let alone move out into a flood plain. The result can be a rapid rise in water level and velocity that can be destructive or even deadly to wildlife and humans alike. A good example of a built-up area like this is Allens Creek in Ann Arbor. Over 90% of the stream in this tributary watershed is piped underground, and over 40% of the land cover in the watershed is impervious.

During a 3-inch rain storm on June 14, the top video here was recorded at the outfall of Allens Creek to the Huron River, just downstream of Argo Dam. The flow out of Allens Creek exceeded 1,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) on two separate occasions during the storm, and hit a peak flow of 1,350 cfs. The flow returned to its usual trickle within a matter of hours. The second/bottom video shows what it looked like the next day.

Nothing could survive, human or otherwise, in a concentrated flow with such a velocity. The flow is strong enough to send logs and boulders downstream and scour the river bed of any finer materials or living plants. Note how the downstream river condition following the blast looks more like a Rocky Mountain gorge river than the Midwestern meander the Huron usually is. Such “flashy” flows are not natural, and HRWC is working with partner municipalities to change the way stormwater is managed. New approaches utilize green infrastructure to capture and infiltrate rains into the groundwater before they hit the pipes or streams. Other, larger storage projects, like the one under Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor or in Mary Beth Doyle Park are being installed to hold storm flows back. It all makes a difference, but more is needed to overcome past actions and return our streams and the river to a more natural state.

News to Us

Many breweries in the area rely on Huron River water.  Credit: John Lloyd

Many breweries in the area rely on Huron River water. Credit: John Lloyd

In local news, listen to radio interviews with two HRWC staff  on our environmental education work and the addition of a new dock at Peninsular Park.  A new report identifies nature as a best defense against severe storms and flooding.  Also, land and water conservation is on the ballot throughout the nation and craft brewers are uniting around clean water.

Mother Nature Offers Best Defense From Floods and Storms Mother Nature is one of the best defenses against damage from large storms and flooding.  Protecting our forests and wetlands provides benefits far beyond beauty and biodiversity.  A recent National Wildlife Federation report explores the benefits of land protection as a flood control strategy. HRWC’s Bioreserve Program, Green Infrastructure initiatives and riparian buffer protections work all contribute to the watershed’s natural ability to lessen the impacts of storms in our area.

Freshwater Health: Caring for our rivers, lakes and streams and their aquatic inhabitants and surrounding communities WCBN’s It’s Hot in Here program this week includes three interviews on freshwater issues affecting the Great Lakes.  HRWC’s Volunteer and Stewardship Coordinator Jason Frenzel discusses our education programs and community engagement beginning around the 45 minute mark.

Craft brewers join the fight against natural gas pipelines Craft brewers understand the importance of clean water. After all, beer is 90% water.  Brewers in the Huron River watershed have been great partners to HRWC over the years. This article highlights a national initiative to unite craft brewers around water quality issues. This article is an interesting read and highlights one of the many less obvious benefits of clean, plentiful water.

Voters Will Decide On Billions For Land Conservation  On Election Day, voters will be deciding whether or not to support land and water conservation throughout the nation. Some of the biggest initiatives are in California, Florida and New Jersey.  Many local level initiatives to support the preservation of open space are being put in front of voters as well. In fact, Washtenaw County residents will vote on a millage renewal for county parks.  The Washtenaw County Parks system has contributed parks, preserves and trails that improve recreational opportunities, erosion and stormwater control, pollution prevention and the beauty of our watershed. You can learn more about the county parks system in The History of Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission video.

New Dock For Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park As part of the RiverUp! program, a new dock has been installed at Ypsilanti’s Peninsular Park replacing a dock that had fallen into disrepair making river access and recreation difficult. This is part of a larger initiative to encourage river and trail recreation in the Huron River watershed, particularly in five “Trail Towns” along the Huron River Water Trail including Ypsilanti.

News to Us

Fall color in the Huron

Fall color in the Huron

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.

News to Us

Rain GardenThis edition of News to Us shares articles on rainfall — how to use rain gardens to manage it, site 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, remedy 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, sildenafil 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.

News to Us

Milford Asset Mapping. Photo: Oakland County PEDs

Milford Asset Mapping. Image credit: Oakland County PEDs

News to Us today highlights a couple of local stories from Milford and Scio Township.  Several climate-related articles came across our desks recently including a press release on a new report connecting climate change to pest outbreaks and some promising bi-partisan legislation in New York. Finally, more fall out from the recent flooding in Detroit — raw sewage in local rivers and ultimately Lake Erie.

Milford activists aim to integrate river, downtown Recently, interested community members met in Milford to discuss the Huron River.  As one of the Huron River Trail Towns, Milford is looking for ways to connect all the downtown assets available to people from the river, to parks to downtown businesses. Improved canoe landing areas, signage, and new development opportunities were among the topics discussed.  Trail towns are part of HRWC’s RiverUp! program.

Scio Township imposes moratorium on oil and gas operations  Following the installation of the first drilling operation in Scio Township on Miller Rd and W. Delhi, the township has established a 6-month moratorium on further oil and natural gas developments. This will give the township time to consider existing protections related to oil and gas activities such as ordinances on noise, odor, and hours of operation.

Warming Climate Brings Greater Numbers of Bugs and Outdoor Pests  A new report is linking factors related to climate change are responsible, in part, for high populations of mosquitoes and ticks as well as the toxicity of poison ivy. Read the full report: Ticked Off: America’s Outdoor Experience and Climate Change.

Legislature sends climate change bill to Cuomo Across the nation, from the federal to local levels, people are planning and taking action to prepare communities for a changing climate.  Last month, New York took a significant leap by bring legislation to Governor Cuomo that would require all state-funded projects to address climate change and extreme weather into planning and implementation of these projects. Legislation passed a democratic controlled Assembly and Republican controlled Senate and awaits the Governer’s approval expected sometime late this summer.

Metro Detroit’s sewage overflow feeds Lake Erie algae growth  The historic flooding that occurred in the Detroit area this August caused trouble beyond flooded roadways and basements. Many areas affected by the flood have combined stormwater and sewer systems that, when overwhelmed, deliver raw sewage directly to rivers, streams and ultimately Lake Erie further exacerbating recent water quality issues in the lake. We are fortunate in the Huron River Watershed not to have combined sewer systems.  However, stormwater and sewer infrastructure failures affect us all.  Improving this infrastructure to handle large rainfall events will help protect against future failures.

News to Us

White Oak

White Oak

This edition of News to Us has several articles focused on some lingering impacts of this winter’s high snowfall as we face some increased flood risk and consider the impacts of added salt to the environment. Learn about the mark green building is making on Michigan’s real estate market, treat and about an ecosystem once common in southeast Michigan – Oak Openings.

Hamburg Twp. prepares for worst as flood risk varies Hamburg Township is being commendably proactive in response to elevated flood risk this spring.  Oscillating warm and cold temperatures have helped slow the melt of a record snow pack but flood risk still ranges from 40-90% in Hamburg.  Because of major flooding experienced in the township in 2004, the community knows where the challenges are and has plans in place to manage what may come.

Flood insurance rates rising: Database shows impact on Michigan communities  Changes in federal policy is resulting in large rate increases in flood insurance.  Rates will increase steadily in the coming years to levels that more accurately reflect true flooding risk rather than the subsidized rates currently in place.  This will impact a significant number of properties in Michigan.  The article allows you to see data by county.

Issues of the Environment: The Impact of Road Salt in the Huron River Watershed  Listen to a piece on the fate of road salt during an interview with HRWC’s Ric Lawson.  With 50% more salt distributed this winter, it is worth considering the impacts of this practice, where it is essential and where alternatives may be sufficient.

Oak openings from Ohio to Highland Oaks  This is a nice natural history piece giving a nod to the mighty oak tree, the namesake for Oakland County and many of the parks and natural areas in Southeast Michigan.  Once expansive, oak openings are now an extremely rare oak dominated system in the area.  Some remaining oak openings can be found in the Toledo area.  In the Huron River watershed you can still find some examples of similar systems such as oak barrens and oak savannahs.

The ‘411’ on the ‘greening’ of the real estate industry  This is an interesting article on the current real estate market.  ‘Green’ upgrades to homes are seeing the highest return on investment of all home improvements.  More and more people are prioritizing energy efficiency when house hunting. Good for the environment and the pocket book it is great to see this gaining momentum among home buyers.

Mockingjay spotted in Pinckney Recreation Area  Previously unknown in this part of the world, this non native bird was said to be screaming “sspprriiiiiing is coming, sspprriiiiing is coming”. Researchers are currently searching for a breeding pair to see if this harbinger needs to be placed on the invasive species list.

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