Posts Tagged ‘Great Lakes’

News to Us

Sandhill Crane. John Lloyd.

Sandhill Crane. John Lloyd.

In this edition of News to Us, learn some of the implications of the proposed federal budget for the Great Lakes, how HRWC is helping prepare the Huron River for climate change, the magnitude of the challenge of aging water infrastructure, and see a short film on the inner workings of a river.


Trump Proposal To Gut Great Lakes Funding Could Allow Pollution To Flourish
The fund which allocates almost $300 million each year to the protection and restoration of our nation’s Great Lakes is proposed to be completely defunded. The new administration’s proposed budget cuts the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) entirely as they seek to reduce EPAs budget by 31%. (This article was written before the official budget was released. Cut went from 97% to 100% at the official budget release this week.) GLRI has been in place since 2010 and has funded critical work from studying Harmful Algal Blooms to supporting cleanup efforts in our most polluted waters and so much more. The implications of this are wide reaching from serious declines in water quality and losing ground on invasive species to significant impacts to the economy of our coastal towns and job losses in tourism and research. HRWC is meeting with and talking to our Senators and Representatives and please do too–call your Senators and Representatives and ask they fight to protect the GLRI.

Issues Of The Environment: Building Resilience Along The Huron River Amidst Changes In Climate HRWC’s Rebecca Esselman is interviewed on the impacts of climate change to the Huron River and the strategies being implemented to help the river adapt to a new climate future. Protecting forests along the river and stream, restoring habitat and improving the management of flow by dams can create conditions that will help the Huron be more resilient to more extreme rainfall events, drought and higher air temperatures. Watch a short film on this topic here.

We have a lot of old water infrastructure, so what do we do about it? Our water infrastructure – the pipes, pumps and plants that deal with stormwater, drinking water and wastewater are old and failing. The price tag associated with necessary upgrades is huge and the source of that money is unknown.

The Secret Life of Rivers
And for a little fun, check out this really cool glimpse at a rarely considered, hyper-important part of a river system- the hyporheic zone. It will only add to your awe and respect for these complex ecosystems. And as an added bonus, a tardigrade makes a guest appearance and if you don’t know about tardigrades, google it. They are astounding.

News to Us

Photo credit: John Lloyd

Photo credit: John Lloyd

HRWC and EPA have taken action recently pertaining to 1,4 dioxane – the chemical contaminating groundwater in the Huron River watershed.  During road salt season, consider alternatives to reduce impacts to our lakes and rivers. Huron River residents and the Great Lakes received good news this week on funding for natural resource protection and recreation. All in this edition of News to Us.

Dioxane makes list of 10 toxic chemicals EPA giving closer look  This past summer the act that governs the regulation of chemicals in the US underwent major reform which arguably reduced barriers to regulate toxic substances. The 30 year old act had made it notoriously difficult to regulate chemicals. Under the reformed act, EPA was tasked with selecting ten substances to evaluate first. 1,4-dioxane is on that list, meaning the chemical that is contaminating groundwater under Scio Township and Ann Arbor will undergo a thorough risk evaluation over the next three years.

Huron River Watershed Council and county take legal action on dioxane Last week, HRWC filed a motion to intervene in the Gelman case that would amend the consent judgement that put cleanup of the 1,4 dioxane plume contaminating local groundwater in the hands of MDEQ and Gelman Sciences.  HRWC and Washtenaw County, who also filed a motion to intervene, argue that cleanup efforts have failed. Should the court choose to open the case again, HRWC would provide a voice for the river, aquatic life and river recreation.

Road Salt Sex Change: How Deicing Messes with Tadpole Biology  In the season of ice and snow, Huron River residents will be bringing out the road salt. There is mounting evidence of negative impacts to rivers and lakes due to high salt concentrations. This article discusses new research findings that implicate road salt in developmental issues in tadpoles, particularly by altering sex ratios. For some alternative practices for safe sidewalks visit our tips page.

Coalition Applauds Great Lakes Investments in Bill Great news for the Great Lakes. The federal government has authorized another round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding. GLRI will provide $1.5 billion in funding over the next five years for projects that help restore our water resources. GLRI has funded projects in the Huron and throughout Southeast Michigan to the benefit of people, businesses and the natural resources.

Gov. Rick Snyder applauds Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommendations Several projects in the watershed were awarded grants from the Michigan Natural Resource Trust fund.  These projects will advance trail systems in our area including the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border (B2B) trail segment from Dexter to Ann Arbor.  Trail projects also build out the Huron Waterloo loop in Lyndon Township and a segment of the Iron Belle trail in Ypsilanti Township.

News to Us

The Waukesha Plan would divert water from Lake Michigan to a location outside of the Great Lakes basin. Image: NASA via Flickr Creative Commons.

The Waukesha Plan would divert water from Lake Michigan to a location outside of the Great Lakes basin. Image: NASA via Flickr Creative Commons.

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.

News to Us


Volunteers installing an osprey nesting platform in the Huron River. Photo credit: 7 Cylinders Studio

Local osprey are being outfitted with tracking devices so you and researches can monitor their travels, a new online learning opportunity will improve your knowledge of lakes, and researchers are predicting another severe algal bloom in Lake Erie this summer.  Oil and gas pipeline accountability has been in the news a lot lately.  Here we pulled together three articles that will catch you up on the latest happenings.  And that is what is News to Us.

DNR monitoring osprey chick migration with GPS. Several osprey chicks have been outfitted with backpacks to help monitor the bird’s movements and growth. Two of the four chicks that will be monitored are from a nest in Kensington Metropark in Milford. There is a site where you can track the birds too at

Introduction to Lakes course coming soon to a computer near you. With over 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is home to many lake enthusiasts. If that describes you and you have always wanted to know more, Michigan State University Extension is now offering an online course providing in introduction to lakes.

‘Severe’ algal blooms forecast this summer on Lake Erie. Researchers are predicting a more significant algal bloom this year than the one last summer that shutdown Toledo’s water supply for several days. The bloom won’t necessarily lead to issues with drinking water but will certainly impact recreation on Lake Erie and the organisms that live in the lake.  Phosphorus runoff and heavy rains in June are two major contributors to the severity of the bloom. Conservationists are targeting large livestock operations for phosphorus reduction.

July has been a big month for news on oil and gas pipelines in Michigan.  Here is a sampling of articles sharing pieces of the larger issue of moving oil through our state’s waterways.

  • Life 5 years after the nation’s worst inland oil spill – NPR’s Environment Report revisits the Kalamazoo River oil spill which is the largest inland oil spill in US history caused by a break in an Enbridge pipeline that traversed this waterway.
  • Report calls for heavy crude oil ban in Straits of Mackinac pipeline – The Michigan DEQ led a special task force that released a report last week on the status and future of pipelines in the state. Of particular focus is the Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac. Some say the recommendations are a big step in the right direction for safety and accountability. Others assert it does not go far enough to protect our freshwater resources.
  • National Wildlife Federation to Sue Dept. of Transportation over Oil Pipeline Oversight Failures  — On the heels of this report, the NWF announced they plan to sue the federal government for failing to uphold the Oil Pollution Act which requires approval of a safety plan for pipelines which travel in, on or under inland waters. This lawsuit comes after much scrutiny and investigation into the safety of the Enbridge pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

News to Us

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek.  Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

Beckwith Preserve on Portage Creek. Photo Credit: Legacy Land Conservancy

This edition of News to Us will let you know how your legislators are doing on environmental issues, introduce a Catch-22 for water conservation, and share some research findings on the impacts of underwater pipeline failures. A recent tour of a preserve in Stockbridge got HRWC and watershed residents out to enjoy what makes our watershed special.  Finally, Michigan Radio has done an excellent series on arsenic in groundwater that may be of particular interest to those of us who draw our drinking water from private wells.

Michigan League of Conservation Voters give local legislators high marks  Several local legislators scored very well on the annual Environmental Scorecard completed by MLCV recently.  In general, however, the report finds the State moving in the wrong direction on environmental issues that impact our land, water and air.  This article shares local legislators opinions on where the State of Michigan is at on important issues such as fracking, alternative energy and biodiversity protection.  A link to MLCV’s full Scorecard report is available at the end of the article.  Check out how your legislators are doing.

Huron River Watershed Council naturalists visit the Beckwith Preserve  Earlier this month, HRWC’s Watershed Ecologist, Kris Olsson, led a walk at the Beckwith Preserve near downtown Stockbridge.   This 30 acre property was donated to Legacy Land Conservancy and has frontage on Portage Creek, a lovely tributary to the Huron River. Private land donations like this play an important role in preserving lands that keep our forests, air and water in good condition.

Drought-Plagued Regions Struggle to Conserve Water and Make Money As infrastructure ages and water availability fluctuates, water utilities struggle with a catch-22. Utilities have operating expenses they need to recoup from consumers and demand they need to meet.  During periods of lower water availability (peak use time, drought) encouraging water conservation is a strategy for prolonging supply and minimizing the burden on water resources.  However, if they are successful and customers use less, less revenue is generated or rates may need to be raised.  This article explores this issue in depth and discusses some innovative ways to promote water conservation while keeping the business of drinking water production viable.

Study: Pipeline break would devastate Great Lakes  We have seen a lot of news lately about oil and gas development, pipelines, waste products from fuel production, and spills in our rivers and lakes. One issue getting a lot of attention is an aging pipeline that transports oil under water in the Straights of Mackinac.  This article shares the outcomes of a recently released study on the impacts of a pipeline failure.  HRWC is urging the US Department of Transportation to evaluate the risks of ruptures and leaks in pipelines crossing Michigan’s rivers, streams and lakes.

Arsenic in Michigan’s Groundwater.  Michigan Radio has done a series of pieces over the past two weeks chronicling the issue of elevated arsenic in Michigan’s groundwater.  The counties in the Huron River watershed do have occurrences of elevated arsenic. This only affects people on private wells as city water is required to remove arsenic from water during treatment. There are not elevated arsenic levels in all wells and there are treatment options for private wells.  If you are in a county that has registered elevated levels in groundwater, consider having your well tested. Here are links to the series:

News to Us

Bat with White-nose Syndrome - a disease recently found in Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Bat with White-nose Syndrome – a disease recently found in Michigan. Credit: Photo courtesy Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation

This edition of News to Us provides a link to a series of meaty articles on global water scarcity.  Closer to home, what is the impact of persisting lake ice on our Great Lakes?  And what does the recent outbreak of white-nosed syndrome mean for bats in Michigan?  Also, read about oil and gas leasing in Scio Township and a locally hosted conference on recycling.

How We Can Save Our Water – Three heavy hitters in publishing science on the natural world have come together to produce an in-depth report chronicling issues associated with freshwater supplies, climate change and the private sector.  Multiple articles and opinion pieces help characterize the issues and potential solutions to global water scarcity.  It is a lot of information.  But for those interested in the issue, this is one of the best compilations of articles we have run across. While we have abundant freshwater in the Great Lakes, freshwater scarcity is a global issue that affects everyone.

Biologists expect the worst for Michigan’s bat population – We have recently received really bad news in the State of Michigan.  White-nose syndrome, a disease that kills bats in astounding numbers, has been found in two locations in the State. Bats play a critical role in our ecosystems, in part as voracious consumers of mosquitos. Not to mention they are adorable, fascinating flying mammals. The disease impacts 5 of the 9 species of bats we have in Michigan and will ultimately kill 90% of the population of those species.

Scio residents voice opposition to oil drilling in area – More than 300 people showed up to an informational meeting on oil and gas leasing activity in the township.  Most of the crowd voiced opposition to any drilling activity citing concerns about pollution and water quality among others.  However several leases have already been signed.   A panel, facilitated by Gretchen Driskoll, included representation from the oil and gas company- West Bay Exploration, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, MSU Extention, Michigan Environmental Council and the Sierra Club. HRWC attended a prior meeting of homeowners providing resources for residents interested in stopping the drilling.

Statewide recycling conference coming to Ann Arbor area this week – One of the country’s largest recycling conferences is happening in Ann Arbor this week.  The City is highlighting some progressive programs including its new curbside compost program.  Michigan’s recycling rate for residential household waste is about 15 percent, lagging behind a national average of 35 percent.  The Governor’s Office will present a new plan to increase residential recycling in Michigan on Thursday.

Why it’s a big deal that half of the Great Lakes are still covered in ice – In regional news, reports continue to discuss the implications of the doozy-of-a-winter we just experienced.  This article shares the implications of the persistence of Great Lakes ice cover longer into the spring than typical. Late lake ice cover has both economic and ecological consequences.

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Maple tree sap being tapped for syrup.  Creative Commons Image by

Sugar maple tapping. Creative Commons Image by

This edition of News to Us shares news stories on how the Great Lakes fared in federal budget negotiations, the status of the debate over the proposed Lyndon Township mine and a couple articles that will hopefully help you “think spring”!

President’s budget cuts Great Lakes programs The federal budget for 2015 is proposing significant cuts for two programs supporting clean water work in the Great Lakes.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative faces a $25 million budget cut.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund which supports wastewater treatment and sewer systems faces $150 million in cuts. Considering the rapidly declining condition of our state’s wastewater infrastructure, this is very bad news.

DEXTER: Annual Maple syrup tree tapping marks first sign of spring It is sugaring season in southeast Michigan.  For a short window of time, as we transition to warmer temperatures, maple syrup can be extracted from local sugar maples.  Many parks in the area provide tours and opportunities to tap trees in the coming weeks.

Neighbors express concerns about proposed sand and gravel mine near Chelsea  More news on the proposed Lyndon Township sand and gravel mine and the growing opposition.

How are robins faring this winter?  Not all robins head south for the winter. The large fruit crop from last year has helped robins weather this hard winter.  Learn more about this bird, their life history and why we see them through the winter even though they are thought of as our local “sign of spring”.

Flushability of Wipes Spawns Class-Action Lawsuit  Take it easy on your local wastewater treatment plant, your septic tank and the Huron River by abstaining from flushing the now widely available “flushable wipes”.  These products are wreaking havoc on systems throughout the U.S, to such a degree that lawsuits are being filed against companies manufacturing the products.

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the michigan hand 2The latest edition of our biweekly news round up provides an update on Great Lakes water levels, highlights a major road construction project in the watershed and shares how Ann Arbor is planning to implement its Climate Action Plan.  Read about potential riverside developments in two of the Huron River Water Trail Trail Towns. Also, how often do you play tourist in your own state?  Take a fun survey to see how many sites you have seen in the Mighty Mitt.

Issues of the Environment: Ann Arbor’s Climate Action Plan  A recent broadcast of WEMU’s Issues of the Environment interviews Ann Arbor’s, Environment Coordinator, Matt Naud.  The interview discusses the City’s Climate Action Plan and the push to implement strategies identified in the plan that will help reduce carbon emissions and prepare the city and its residents for anticipated changes to the local climate.

Great Lakes water levels recover from near-record lows  Water levels in the Great Lakes is an issue many Michiganders are paying attention to.  Much has been debated about the cause(s) of record low levels in the Great Lakes and what can be expected over time pertaining to lake levels.  Here is the latest update that brings some welcome news on the issue.

Environmental group raises concerns about US-23 project north of Ann Arbor  A newly proposed highway project in our watershed is getting some attention from environmental groups wanting to make sure improvements appropriately address potential impacts.  A public meeting is scheduled for December 12, 2013 for those interested in learning more or providing input.

Milford’s AMP in Central Park Nears Fundraising Goal   Community members in Milford have joined forces to raise funds for improvements to its Central Park along the Huron River.  The group is nearing its fundraising goals that will bring an outdoor amphitheater and barrier-free public restroom facilities to the park. Milford is a Trail Town on the Huron River Water Trail.  Read more about the value of riverside amenities and municipal spaces at RiverUp!

Waterfront development with restaurants, a boardwalk and upscale apartments proposed for Ford Lake  Ford Lake, a reservoir of the Huron River, is the location of another proposed riverside development.  The concept plans shows potential amenities such as dining and retail along the water, as well as housing, recreation trails, and a disc golf course. Improving walkability and access to the lake on the north shore of the lake could be assets to Ypsilanti Township and the City of Ypsilanti, a  Trail Town of the Huron River Water Trail.

Michigan Tourist Attractions  And for a little fun, how good of a local tourist are you?  Take a look at these Michigan attractions.  How many have you visited?  Tell us! What tops your list of must-sees?

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Spring bloom along the Huron River

Spring bloom along the Huron River

In the past couple of weeks we have seen some good radio coverage of watershed issues.  A few are highlighted here.  Read also about the idea of a “blue economy” for the Great Lakes and one community’s response to last year’s drought.

DEXTER: Village Council discusses mandatory outdoor watering restrictions which are now in effect
In response to last year’s dry conditions, and Dexter has made a proactive decision to instate water restrictions for the Village.  Conservation efforts like these can help reduce losses to the aquifers we draw water from, the burden on infrastructure needed to pump the water, and the costs associated with pumping or establishing new wells if existing wells should run dry, while still allowing residents to maintain lawns and landscapes.

Great Lakes region pins economic hopes on water
You may have seen the term ‘blue economy’ emerging in the local lexicon.  If you haven’t yet, you soon will.  More and more, communities are seeing the value of harnessing the economic value of living in a water-rich region like the Great Lakes. Learn more about this idea and what it means in our region in this article.

Hidden dangers of underground oil pipelines, and the potential impact on the Huron River
WEMU interviewed HRWC Executive Director Laura Rubin for a recent ‘Issues of the Environment’ piece on the risks to the river from underground oil pipelines in the Huron River watershed.

Spring floods bring bumper crop of mosquitoes
I’ve noticed a lot of mosquitos this year while trying to get my garden in the ground.  Have you? Here is a quick report on why we are seeing a few more of our biting friends this spring.

By law, the state can only own so much land, but that might change
HRWC recently provided comments on a new land acquisition plan for the DNR.  Aspects of the plan may have very positive implications for our region.  The plan proposed more land acquisition in SE Michigan giving more of the State’s urban residents access to public lands. On the other hand, elements of the plan may open more public land to natural resource extraction. While HRWC does not oppose natural resource extraction across the board, how that extraction is accomplished and to what degree has a wide range of implications for public lands.

News to Us

Image credit: TonySutton410/Flicker

Common Tern. Image credit: TonySutton410/Flicker

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, there 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, cheap 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.

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