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News to Us

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The Red Swamp Crayfish is invading Michigan water bodies. Credit: flickr.com/usfwspacific

This edition of News to Us highlights both good and bad news on local algal blooms as well as two stories on non-native species making headlines – one of concern, the other of little concern. News at the federal level is also mixed. Read about the implications of the proposed Clean Water Rule repeal and some hopeful news on the federal allocation of funding supporting Great Lakes restoration.

Improving Water Quality In Ypsilanti Township’s Ford Lake
After decades of trouble with algal blooms in Ford Lake, an impoundment on the Huron River in Ypsilanti Township, researchers and township staff found a solution. Changing operations of the Ford Lake Dam has kept algal blooms at bay in most years and the water quality of the lake is improving.

Potentially toxic algae found in two Oakland County lakes
Two lakes, including Pontiac Lake in the Huron River watershed, are experiencing significant algal blooms this month. It is suspected that the blooms may contain toxic algae. Oakland County health officials recommend avoiding contact with the water at this time and keeping pets out as well. The article has a list of recommended precautions.

Tiny jellyfish reported in Lake Erie
Jellyfish in Michigan? Headlines have been circulating on the invasion of this non-native species recently because of new sightings in Lake Erie and St. Clair. And while it is true that this is a non-native species, it has been in Great Lakes waterways for some time now and has not reached nuisance levels. Also worthy of note is that the tentacles of this jellyfish are too small to sting humans, so swim away. For more on freshwater jellyfish see Huron River Report, Spring 2008.

Tiny lobsters of doom: Why this invasive crayfish is bad news
In other non-native species news, the red swamp crayfish has been confirmed in Michigan. This species has a lot of potential to become invasive and cause disruption to the native ecosystem. Their deep burrowing capacity is known to cause erosion, they out-compete native crayfish for food, and prey on small fish and fish eggs. The DNR is asking people to report potential sightings of this invader.

Trump plans to roll back environmental rule everyone agrees on
This opinion piece is written by former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Ken Kopocis, formerly of EPA’s Office of Water. The article describes what is at stake with the Trump Administrations proposed roll back of the Clean Water Rule. There has bipartisan demand for clarity on the 1972 Clean Water Act which the rule provides. Much work has been done to establish the rule which provides clear criteria for what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. To provide your remarks on the proposed repeal, see our earlier blog On the chopping block: clean water.  Comment period closes September 27th.

House appropriators approve $300 Million for Great Lakes; reject amendment on Clean Water Rule
Some good news coming out of the federal government on the environment front. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, originally scheduled to be zeroed out in the 2018 budget, has been approved at $300 million by U.S. House appropriators. The funding still has to make it through the Senate and White House before final approval.

News to Us

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Children learning about aquatic insects at Huron River Day, 2017.

Updates on local efforts by HRWC are highlighted in this News to Us with articles on the Gelman dioxane contamination, Putnam Township green infrastructure planning and Huron River Day. Also learn how the EPA is changing under Chief Pruitt and a forecast for Lake Erie as algal bloom season draws near.

Court of Appeals rejects polluter’s request in Gelman plume case  The Huron River Watershed Council will continue to have a seat at the table for negotiations around the dioxane contamination of groundwater in Ann Arbor and Scio Township. An appeal by Gelman Sciences, Inc. was rejected by the Michigan Court of Appeals allowing HRWC, the City of Ann Arbor, Scio Township and Washtenaw County to be involved in clean up negotiations with the State and Gelman.

Putnam Township Looks To Establish “Green Infrastructure”  Putnam Township is the latest community to be working with HRWC to plan for development and the protection of valuable natural resources at the same time.  Learn more about HRWC’s Green Infrastructure Planning program here.

37th annual Huron River Day brings thousands to the water  Enjoy a fun gallery of photographs of people enjoying the river on Huron River Day earlier this month.  This annual event brings many to the river, providing an opportunity to teach people about the Huron and how to care for it.

Counseled by Industry, Not Staff, E.P.A. Chief Is Off to a Blazing Start  So much of what HRWC is able to accomplish is supported by the work of the EPA.  The Clean Water Act and associated funding streams help determine standards for water quality and provide money for projects to clean up impaired waters. This article summarizes the ways that EPA Chief Pruitt is undermining all this country has worked for to provide clean and safe air, water and land. The implications are far reaching and potentially devastating.

Forecasters: Lake Erie algae bloom shaping up as big and possibly harmful  Algal bloom season is upon us and predictions don’t look good for Lake Erie. The Huron River’s receiving waters, are expected to experience an algal bloom that rivals those that occurred in 2011 and 2015 which were the two largest blooms since the 1990’s.

News to Us

img_3227The power of local zoning for river protection, how a changing climate affects Huron River flows, Earth Overshoot Day, 2017 and updates on two Michigan pipelines in this edition of News to Us.

Does zoning matter? It does to Michigan’s natural rivers. Like the Huron River, the Flat River is another designated Natural River in Michigan. Learn about the importance of local zoning and ordinances to river protection. Many of the approaches highlighted in this article are those we encourage in Huron River communities. We have lot of power at the local level to protect natural resources.

High Water: Climate change hits home. This article discusses how patterns in rainfall are changing in the Huron River watershed and how that can impact the river system. Learn more in HRWC’s short film.

We Will Soon Be Using More Than The Earth Can Provide.  Every year the Global Footprint Network computes Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day each year that people have used as much of the planet’s resources (water, fertile soils, forest, fish, etc.) that it can regenerate in a year. After that we are borrowing from the future. August 2nd will mark Earth Overshoot day for 2017.  The article innumerates four critical priorities that if acted upon would bring us very close to being in balance with what our planet can provide.

There are two pipelines in different phases of development that are set to run through the Huron River watershed. The Rover Pipeline runs through western Washtenaw County crossing the Huron at Portage Creek and runs near many of that areas lakes. The Nexus pipeline affects Wayne County residents and is currently slated to cross the Huron at Belleville Lake. Here are a couple of the latest news headlines on these pipelines.

Silver Lake Residents File Motion
Opponents of NEXUS Pipeline set town hall meeting

 

Moving the needle on climate adaptation

naf-mississippiriver-panelAfter four days with climate change adaptation professionals from throughout the U.S. it was clear that efforts to prepare both people and ecosystems for the impacts of increasingly altered climate systems have only amplified as the Federal Administration tries to cast doubt and roll back progress. This is heartening at a time in our society where good news is harder to come by.

Over 1000 people convened in May at the third National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minnesota on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Over the 6 years this biennial conference has occurred, I have watched the field of climate adaptation advance at a lightning pace. Cities are upgrading stormwater systems to handle more rain. Coastal towns are utilizing natural shorelines to protect people from rising sea levels. Natural resource managers are considering a new paradigm—transforming ecosystems rather than restoring them. Front line communities are demanding environmental and climate justice and bringing innovative community-based solutions to the task at hand.

I wanafpresentations proud to represent HRWC and the progress we have made to prepare both the river and our towns for a changing climate. I presented our Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change work (that you can learn about in this short film) along with a stellar group of organizations finding climate solutions that benefit both nature and people. Our work was featured in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released during the conference.  And we were honored as a finalist for our Climate Resilient Communities work by the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.

HRWC has the history, relationships, knowledge and trust necessary to help Huron River communities become more prepared. Organizations like HRWC all over the planet are moving the needle on adaptation.  But we need your help. Preparation will only help to a degree. What we need is to rapidly and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for our warming planet.

Here are two immediate opportunities. If you live in Washtenaw County, come to our Solar Power Hour June 6th to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar and get access to discounts. And, no matter where you reside, consider joining HRWC and the Michigan Climate Action Network to help elevate this important issue in our state. It will take all of us.

 

News to Us

Pointe Mouille where the Huron enters Western Lake ErieMany bright spots in local news affecting the Huron River with everything from new parks to better water housekeeping. News from the State and Federal level is a little less heartening. Read a report on the proposed State budget and efforts to get Ohio to take action to improve conditions in Lake Erie.

Brighton city manager: ‘We’re behind in some things’ – The new city manager in Brighton is putting emphasis on several tasks that will benefit the Huron and its residents. The city manager intends to implement a goose control and waste management program that aligns with state best practices. Restoring regular stormwater system maintenance is also on the list of priorities. Both of these initiatives should result in water quality improvements in the Huron.

Environmentalists want western Lake Erie declared impaired – Environmental groups are suing EPA to encourage a decision on whether or not to declare western Lake Erie in Ohio an impaired waterway. The decision, which has dragged on, would give stakeholders a clearer path forward to fix problems with the Huron River receiving waters that have led to significant algal blooms in recent years.

State says Watershed Council shouldn’t be in on Gelman plume legal talks  Gelman has challenged the trial court’s December ruling that the County, Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and HRWC can intervene. Michigan Attorney General’s office filed a response to this appeal supporting Gelman’s position that HRWC should not be granted standing. That challenge is happening while settlement negotiations continue. A decision should be made in May or June whether the challenge is successful. In the negotiations, as in the motion to intervene, HRWC is focused on the system for detecting whether dioxane may reach the surface waters in harmful concentrations, and how Gelman should respond if dioxane were detected at those harmful concentrations

New park amenities abound across Livingston County – Learn about how recreational opportunities are expanding in Livingston County this year including additions at Kensington Metropark, Brighton Mill Pond and along the Lakelands Trail. The weather is beautiful.  Get out and play!

DEQ on losing end of Michigan legislature’s 2018 budget drafts – Earlier this month, the Michigan legislature submitted its draft budget for 2018. In this budget millions are cut for toxic site clean-up and mitigation of basement vapor intrusions. Neither the House nor Senate supported the Governor’s proposal to continue the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) by shifting a portion of the gas tax revenue to the CMI. Other cuts include the proposed expansion of lead and copper rule drinking water systems, training for Flint water utility staff, and funds for the DEQ Air Quality Division. This is in addition to the potential loss of up to 200 positions from DEQ if the current administration does follow through on its proposal to slash EPA funding by a third.

Stop dumping your exotic fish in Michigan waters – Just a reminder that release into local water ways is not an appropriate way to deal with an unwanted fish. These fish can become a nuisance or worse. The article shares some appropriate ways to get rid of problem fish pets.

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.

 

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

The Huron. Credit: John Lloyd.

The Huron. Credit: John Lloyd.

This month in News to Us we cover some of the ongoing discussions about the impact of the new federal administration on water protection, a study that reveals we could be doing better on funding research on chemicals,  a couple of stories on Michigan fish and a Michigan dam removal success story.

Uh oh. Studies find little U.S. money to study ecological impacts of chemicals The number of chemicals being introduced to the environment are mind boggling both in number and quantity. At HRWC we are considering which of them are of most concern in the Huron. This article summarizes two studies that found steep declines in funding for research on the impacts of chemicals to our natural systems. Without this critical research our understanding of the problems affecting ecosystems and the solutions necessary to protect them is limited.

Scott Pruitt Is Seen Cutting the E.P.A. With a Scalpel, Not a Cleaver The EPA plays an incredibly valuable role in protecting our country’s freshwater. The agency administers the Clean Water Act, provides tools and resources for water protection, and funds an irreplaceable portion of freshwater restoration and protection efforts. Speculation about the nominee to head the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is that he will be more of a foe to the agency he leads than a friend. Here is one piece that describes how Pruitt may undermine the ability of the EPA to protect our air and water.

Panelists discuss the future of environmental sustainability under Trump adminstration  HRWC Executive Director, Laura Rubin was one of several panelists invited to discuss sustainability in the new federal administration at the University of Michigan. One key take home message was that state and local action are critical. And as for the average citizen concerned about the direction this administration is taking on the environment, advice from the panel is to ‘engage, engage, engage’. See the full forum here.

In Michigan, a Fight Over the Future of a Fabled Trout River  Conflict continues over the fate of a fish hatchery expansion that could negatively impact one of Michigan’s most prized rivers, the Au Sable.  The river supports one of the best trout populations this side of the Rocky Mountains. Those opposing the expansion are worried about added nutrients to the river from the hatchery. The New York Times covered the ongoing debate.

Walleye run could start earlier than normal; now is time to prepare An unseasonably warm winter has anglers gearing up for an early walleye run. Walleye use water temperature to queue their annual migration up into the Great Lakes tributaries where they spawn. The Huron sees a walleye run up to Flat Rock where the dam there halts further movement of the fish.

By 2020, 90% of Michigan’s dams will meet or exceed their design life  There are 2600 dams in our state. Listen in on a Stateside interview with Patrick Ertel from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division who shares the story of Michigan’s Boardman River. It is one of the most comprehensive dam removal and restoration projects in Michigan’s history and one of the largest such projects in the Great Lakes Basin. Our own restoration efforts on Mill Creek here in the Huron show that dam removals can have big community benefits and cost a lot less.

Preparing the Huron for Climate Change

Given the noticeably mild weather this fall and winter, it may come as no surprise that 2016 was just declared the hottest year on record. 2015 held the same title as did 2014.  In other words, we have broken the record for “hottest year on record” for three consecutive years. Climate Change is a threat that affects everyone and everything in some way. We must aggressively continue global efforts to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted. At the same time, communities everywhere are preparing for new weather extremes.  We are one of them. Here’s a new film about our work to help prepare the Huron River for climate change. Please share this with friends to get the word out on how we are protecting the future of our local water.

HRWC would like to thank the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund made possible by funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation for the support of this project and the creation of the film. To learn more about climate change in southeast Michigan and what HRWC is doing to address this threat visit http://www.hrwc.org/the-watershed/threats/climate-change/

News to US

30158738441_16b87bda57_oNews to Us this month provides an update on the dioxane contamination case. Also, two new projects bring money to improve water quality in the Huron. Finally, read articles on two widespread water quality issues – PAH contamination due to coaltar pavement sealers and bacterial pollution from failing septic systems.

Judge grants local intervention in Ann Arbor dioxane pollution case In a precedent setting decision, Judge Connors granted intervention on legal negotiations associated with the Gelman dioxane plume to HRWC. Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor were also granted intervention. As the Attorney General’s counsel stated, “…. in our experience we’ve never seen a circumstance where an environmental policy group or a public interest group basically has intervened and been a participant in the negotiation of a consent judgment, whether it’s the very first negotiation of a consent judgment, or in this case the fourth amendment to a consent judgment.” HRWC will represent the needs of the river ecosystem and recreational users.

$1.8M in federal funds to help protect Huron River watershed A significant award through a federal Farm Bill program is coming to the Huron. These funds will be used to protect natural and farmed lands and support farming practices that protect water quality. Efforts led by the Legacy Land Conservancy will be focused on the headwaters of the Huron in Oakland, Livingston and western Washtenaw counties. HRWC is one of many local groups involved in this unique partnership.

$675K design contract for new tunnel to Ann Arbor riverfront approved A major stormwater management and river access project in Ann Arbor now has the funding it needs to move forward. A tunnel will be built underneath the railroad tracks connecting pedestrians from Depot Street to the Border-to-Border trail and Argo park. This tunnel will also act as a release valve for stormwater which tends to back up and flood land and property in this low lying area where Allen Creek meets the Huron River.

Coal tar main source of toxicity in streams A recent study found that up to 94% of PAHs found in sediments in Milwaukee-area creeks and streams came from coaltar pavement sealants and that 78% of all samples had enough PAH content to be considered toxic. PAHs are a toxic class of chemicals that impact aquatic life and human health. HRWC has been working, in the face of mounting evidence, to ban the use of coaltar and other high PAH sealcoats to reduce the impacts of this unnecessary contaminant. Learn more about area bans at hrwc.org/coaltar

Aging septic systems fouling Michigan waters Did you know that Michigan is the only state that does not regulate septic systems? As many as 1.4 million of these systems exist within our state, very few are under any inspection and maintenance requirements. Sixty four rivers sampled in Michigan had bacterial contamination that was traced back to human sources. This is one of the biggest threats to Michigan waterways. HRWC has more information on this issue and how you can maintain your septic system here and will be investing in septic system education in Honey Creek, a tributary of the Huron considering impaired by the State for bacterial contamination.


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