Archive for the ‘Rain Gardens’ Category

Top ten things I am thankful for . . .

As we head in to Thanksgiving I am reflecting on the many things that I am grateful for.  I am lucky that I find so much to be grateful for in my work.  Just in the past few months, I have a dozen or so things that come to mind:

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

Pinckney Recreation Area by John Lloyd.

  1. The excitement of our partners and donors to the spotting of an osprey on a platform we installed on the river.
  2. Stopping a new wastewater treatment plant from discharging more phosphorus and nitrogen in to the Middle Huron.
  3. The finalization of a new and lower 1,4 Dioxane standard for the drinking water in Michigan that will result in additional clean-up.
  4. My memories of Suds on the River, where over 400 of our community gathered to support HRWC and celebrate clean water.
  5. Achieving a growing number of municipalities to ban cancer-causing pavement sealants with 11 in the watershed and 14 total in the state.
  6. Quantifying the annual economic activity of the river at over $78.6 million!
  7. The joy of kids in the pictures and cards we receive from hundreds of them who participate in our summer snorkeling, rain garden, paddle trips, school field trips, and creek walking programs.
  8. The new commitment of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to fund comprehensive lake monitoring in 100 of the 562 lakes in the county.
  9. After the removal of the Mill pond dam in Dexter, the increasing number of macroinvertebrates and brown trout enjoying a cleaner and faster moving creek, along with the increasing number of people discovering and enjoying the new trails, outdoor features and restaurants near the creek.
  10. You! In my work I interact with bright, passionate, and fun partners, staff, board, and volunteers. I am inspired by your commitment to our river and your love of everything Huron River.

Powerful Tools for Your Clean Water Toolkit

New resources and training for waterfront (river and lake) property owners.

Pleasant Lake, Freedom Township, by Lon Nordeen

Pleasant Lake, Freedom Township, by Lon Nordeen

Michigan Shoreland Stewards provides recognition for lakefront property owners who are protecting the waterquality and ecosystems of inland lakes through best practices. These include reducing fertilizer use, maintaining septic systems, creating fish habitat with woody debris and native aquatic plants, and using native trees, shrubs and wildflowers to capture runoff and prevent erosion. The free web-based questionnaire is designed to guide you through the practices and help you determine how to achieve Gold, Silver or Bronze status. Qualifying properties get a certificate and a sign. Many of the practices can be adapted for riverfront properties.

Wisconsin’s Healthy Lakes website includes five simple and inexpensive best practices that improve habitat and water quality on your lakeshore property. Factsheets, technical guidance and detailed how-to information for creating fish habitat at the water’s edge and on using native plant buffers, diversion, rock infiltration and rain gardens to capture and clean runoff. Most practices apply to riverfront properties.

Upcoming Workshops

Sat, March 25, 2017. Protecting Your Shoreline: A Workshop for Inland Lakefront Property Owners, Michigan State University 3-25-17_natural_shoreline_workshopExtension, Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center, Waterford, Michigan. For property owners interested in creating, restoring and managing natural shorelines. This workshop is designed to educate on natural erosion control methods and will discuss techniques for using natural landscaping along the shoreline for erosion control and habitat while maintaining the aesthetic value of the lakefront. Register by March 22.

Fri-Sat, April 21-22, 2017. 56th Michigan Lake and Stream Associations Annual Conference, “Bridging the Resource Gaps: Enhancing the Ability of Lakefront Communities to Prevent and Manage Aquatic Invasive Species,” Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville, Michigan. The conference will provide participants with the knowledge, information, and ideas to improve their lakefront community’s ability to prevent and/or manage aquatic invasive species. Learn more about the latest efforts to control invasive mussel populations, the status of starry stonewort in Michigan waters, purple loosestrife management initiatives, and the efforts of the Michigan Swimmers Itch Partnership. MiCorps Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program will also hold its annual volunteer training at the MLSA Conference, on Friday.

 

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.

 

Working for the Huron at Home

In addition to being the director at HRWC, I own a home. As a homeowner we’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint and save water and energy.IMG_0104

My work in the environmental field makes me familiar with the many things we can do at home to protect the environment. But it takes money and time to act on these tips. This past year we were finally able to work on a few “greening” home improvements, shared here for inspiration . . .

Rain Gardens

Last year we reached out to the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner’s Office to help develop a plan to capture and infiltrate more of the runoff from our roof.  Years ago we installed a rain barrel but it is limited to 50 gallons per rain, with use in between rains.  I live in Ann Arbor on a pretty small parcel and there is not much room for rain storage and infiltration…or a garden.  But we were able to identify 2 different rain garden locations—one a swale along one side of the house and another in the front of the house.

After choosing plants and a design we installed the rain garden last spring—digging, mulching, and placing rocks and native plants strategically for rain water capture and aesthetics.

At first it didn’t look like much but as the summer and fall wore on the plants blossomed and grew.  We enjoyed running outside when it was raining to see the water gushing out of the gutter/downspout and in to the rain garden where it soaked in to the ground.  We found out that we have pretty sandy soils, unusual for this area, so the water soaked in quickly.  If anything, we can divert more runoff to this garden it was so “thirsty”.  I also learned, through trial and error, what was a weed and what wasn’t.  Staying on top of the weeding is the biggest challenge now that the rain garden is in.

Solar Panels

Last summer we also decided to install solar panels.  Since we had last looked in to solar panels the cost has come down substantially.  There are also substantial tax incentives in place this year that help with the price of the panels. We got quotes, talked with colleagues and friends who had installed panels and chose an installer, Homeland.  It took over 4 months until the system was up and running but in early November we were generating electricity!  We’re still getting familiar with how it all works but we have a nice looking box in the basement that hums when we are generating energy and a website to track our power generation.  We’re looking forward to the summer when the sun really shines to see how much energy we can generate and reduce our carbon.

For You!

If you are considering home improvements, or even smaller actions that help protect the environment, HRWC promotes many of them at our Take Action pages. Our booth at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 18-20, will feature two sustainable landscaping experts providing free information on rain gardens and native plants: Susan Bryan leader of Washtenaw County’s Rain Garden Program (Saturday) and Drew Laithin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Friday/Sunday).

Susan also wrote the cover story for the Spring 2016 Huron River Report, sharing success installing private rain gardens in our Swift Run Project and offering some great tips for those considering DIY rain gardens. Take a look, its a good read and will inspire you to start a rain garden movement in your neighborhood.

Become a Master Rain Gardener!

You can help keep the Huron clean from your own backyard!

Catie Wytychak, Susan Bryan, Mary Sheaffer-Manthey and Frank Commisky planting a new rain garden at Thurston Elementary

Don’t miss this great opportunity offered by the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner! Sign up for the February/March Master Rain Gardener Training to become an expert on these beautiful landscape features that filter and cool storm water before it enters our streams and rivers.

Attend all five classes and plant your own garden to become a certified Master Rain Gardener.

Thursday mornings 9:30am-12:30, February 25 – March 24, 2016. 

Location:  705 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor. MSU Extension Classroom.

Cost:  $90  (Scholarships available)

REGISTER ONLINE

Questions?   bryans@ewashtenaw.org  or 734-730-9025; or visit www.ewashtenaw.org/MRG

image002

Can’t attend in February? Stay tuned for the free webinar classes, August 11-September 8, 2016, Thursdays Noon-1:30pm. Login via your work or home computer, or smartphone for this live, online class.

If you would like to be sent a registration link when it becomes available for the next class, e-mail bryans@ewashtenaw.org to be put on the list.

LEARN MORE ways to Capture Rainwater at Home with native plants and rain barrels!

News to Us

DSC_2362

Volunteers collecting water quality data in Swift Run

Read articles on issues with water infrastructure in our watershed and Michigan-wide. Earlier this month the US Federal Court of Appeals made a ruling on a pesticide known to kill pollinators. Our water trail continues to make headlines. And the Swift Run creekshed is getting some special attention these days.


Ten surprising facts in Michigan’s new water strategy
In July, Michigan released a draft 30-year water strategy.  Much public discussion on the strategy has occurred since then. This is a blog written by Brad Garmon at the Michigan Environmental Commission that takes a little different look at the strategy.  Brad captures some startling statistics on the water assets Michigan owns and must steward.

Supervisor: Overuse causing discolored water in system
Lyon Township residents have been experiencing trouble with their drinking water. While the water remains safe to drink, some people are finding their water discolored. The township Supervisor attributes the color to iron in the water that occurs when backup wells are used to meet increased demand. The article highlights the issue of aging infrastructure with population growth and increasing water demand common throughout our watershed.

Michigan’s top 11 water trails named
The Huron River Water Trail was named one of the top water trails in Michigan by a public vote conducted by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. But we knew that already didn’t we? Click through to see other awesome river destinations throughout the state.

Court: EPA Should Not Have Approved Bee-Killing Pesticide
A step in the right direction for the honeybee crisis. Bees and other pollinators have be in rapid decline. An agricultural chemical, sulfoxaflor, has been found to be one contributor to these declines. The lawsuit shines a spotlight on the role of federal regulators in this complex problem and will hopefully encourage more extensive testing of new chemicals before receiving EPA approval.

Swift Creek Improvements
HRWC’s Ric Lawson talks about a project we have underway to improve stormwater management and water quality in the Swift Run tributary of the Huron River.   Learn about the problems in Swift Run and the solutions HRWC, Washtenaw County and the City of Ann Arbor are supporting to improve the river.

Green Infrastructure for Bees

BeeOnConeflowerByMisko

Photo: Misko

A recent HRWC Green Infrastructure Workshop has spurred a Northfield Township resident to promote native landscapes to help our struggling bee populations. Cecilia Infante has begun a campaign to increase backyard habitat for honey bees and other pollinators. “Anyone can participate by planting pollinator friendly plants in gardens or just window boxes (you don’t even need a yard). We also want to educate residents and business owners about this environmental emergency, and encourage them to make small changes that have a big impact on the environment, such as considering alternatives to pesticides (especially neonicotinoids) and to the manicured lawns that are “food deserts” for honey bees and monarchs. Landscapes of native flowers and grasses would provide forage for pollinators while requiring far less maintenance and cost than a green lawn.”

On May 19, the White House announced its National Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators (Pollinator Health Strategy 2015 (pdf)). Michigan is one of the five states slated to receive a portion of the $11 million designated to support this national cause (USDA Provides $8 Million to Help Boost Declining Honey Bee Population). While the deadline to apply for the initial $3 million has passed, there are myriad other opportunities available for those interested in participating in the recovery of the honey bee and monarch populations through the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and the DNR’s Wildlife Habitat Development Efforts.

In addition to forming a network of residents creating habitats, green infrastructure and applying for conservation support, Cecilia’s group hopes Northfield Township residents will consider promoting Whitmore Lake as one of the first “Bee Cities” in Michigan (Ypsilanti is currently exploring this certification–see http://www.beecityusa.org/ ).

HRWC has long advocated for native landscapes, including installation of rain gardens as stormwater-control green infrastructure – rain gardens provide great habitat and refuge for pollinators of all kinds, including honey bees and they help protect water quality by infiltrating stormwater runoff.

Other resources:

The Xerces Society

DNR Guide to Backyard Wildlife Management 

Michigan State University Extension

If you would like to learn more about enhancing habitat for pollinators, or want to connect with the newly-formed “MI Pollinator Project,”  email Cecilia at writing4all@aol.com.

Thinking About A Rain Garden This Summer?

“Ask the Experts” at the Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show, March 20-22

Residential Rain Garden

This rain garden captures and infiltrates rooftop runoff from a nearby home.

Rain gardens are beautiful landscaping features that capture, hold and soak in runoff from storms. They are specifically designed for areas where rain water habitually pools or to which it is deliberately channeled. Their loose, deep soils and deep-rooted native plants absorb water and filter pollutants.

Get information and advice from local experts  Drew Lathin of Creating Sustainable Landscapes (Sat 10am-7pm) and  Susan Bryan (Sun 1:30-3:30pm) of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Rain Garden Design Program. They’ll be on hand at the HRWC-WCWRC booth to share some “deep-rooted” know-how including tips on site and plant selection, garden layout, installation, and maintenance.

Home, Garden & Lifestyle Show
Fri, March 20, 2-8pm;
Sat, March 21, 10am-7pm;
Sun, March 22, 11am-5pm
Building E, Booth 169
Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds
5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road

Admission is $5, children ages 12 and under are admitted for free.

For FREE tickets, HRWC members can contact Pam Labadie, plabadie@hrwc.org, (734)769-5123 x 602.

Rain water infiltration projects like this rain garden capture and help clean stormwater.

Rain water infiltration projects like this rain garden capture and help clean stormwater.

Rain Gardens are low maintenance, drought tolerant and environmentally friendly. They beautify your property and your neighborhood. They help keep water away from your home’s foundation. They can be designed as a manicured formal garden or you can create a more natural look. You can choose plants that purposely attract butterflies and other wildlife.

Make this the summer you commit to protecting water quality with a rain garden in your yard!

Learn to Plant a Rain Garden

You can help keep our water resources clean, and right from your own backyard!

Catie Wytychak, Susan Bryan, Mary Sheaffer-Manthey and Frank Commisky planting a new rain garden at Thurston Elementary

Catie Wytychak, Susan Bryan, Mary Sheaffer-Manthey and Frank Commisky planting a new rain garden at Thurston Elementary

Sign up for the February/March Master Rain Gardener Training to become an expert on these beautiful landscape features that filter and cool storm water before it enters our streams and rivers. This valuable program is hosted by the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner and taught by local experts.

Attend all five classes and plant your own garden to become a certified Washtenaw County Master Rain Gardener!

Thursdays 9:30am-12:30pm, February 26 to March 26, 2015.

Location: 705 N Zeeb Rd, Ann Arbor, MSU Extension Classroom

Cost: 90$ (scholarships are available)

Instructors: Harry Sheehan, Shannan Gibb-Randall, RLA, Susan Bryan, MLA

Questions? bryans@ewashtenaw.org or (734) 730-9025;  www.ewashtenaw.org/raingardens

REGISTER ONLINE.

Or, register in person/phone/mail by calling Linda Brzezinski (734) 994-2300 x 53203 or mailing your check and this form c/o her to Rec & Ed, 1515 S Seventh St, Ann Arbor MI 48103.

  • You will need to write a short paragraph answering these questions: 1) Tell us a little about your gardening experience. 2) Are you a Master Gardener? (not required) 3) Why do you want to become a Master Rain Gardener?
  • There is a special discount for residents along Miller Avenue (Newport to Maple), Mitchell neighborhood (between Packard, Platt, Charing Cross and Lorraine Streets), W. Madison Street, Stone School Road, and Easy Street. E-mail bryans@ewashtenaw.org for details.

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.


Donate to HRWC
Calendar
2018PrintCalendar
Huron River Water Trail
Coal Tar Sealers
RiverUp
Donate to HRWC
SwiftRun
rss .FaceBook-Logo.twitter-logo Youtubelogo