State level policy changes and budget developments are the focus of our August News to Us. We also included articles on statewide fish consumption education, aquatic invasive plant control, and the role of community science in environmental justice advocacy. Read more below!

“No stricter than federal” repeal signed into Michigan law
In late July, lawmakers acted to repeal Michigan’s “no stricter than federal” policy from 2018. The repeal enables state agencies to better respond to the state’s unique environmental threats and, as needed, set regulations that are tougher than those of the federal government. The previous policy required agencies to prove a “clear and convincing need” for stricter-than-federal polices, which was a largely uphill battle for getting new environmental regulation on the books.

Michigan ‘river walker’ program warns anglers on eating contaminated fish
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ River Walkers program educates and warns anglers across the state about the potential health risks associated with eating contaminated fish. 96 percent of the state’s rivers and streams are considered impaired for fish consumption, due to mercury, PCBs, PFAS, dioxins, or other contaminants. To help notify anglers about these issues, River Walkers directly communicate with anglers across the state, including those in the Huron River watershed. As a reminder, the Huron is still under a “do not eat” fish consumption advisory due to PFAS contamination.

Huron River Watershed Council Executive Director Rebecca Esselman speaks at an August 4th press conference on the clean water initiatives in the newly signed Michigan state budget. Photo credit: Kyle Davidson, Michigan Advance

Lawmakers celebrate clean water funding alongside the Huron River
Following the recent signage of the $57.4 billion Fiscal Year 2024 state budget, lawmakers and local advocates joined to celebrate the new environmental and water investments. State Senator Sue Shink and U.S Representative Debbie Dingell as well as HRWC staff applauded the promising investments for clean water, recreation, and water infrastructure, including over $500,000 in funding for improving the Huron River Water Trail. The budget also included $9 million for land conservation, $40 million to address PFAS, and nearly $280 million to improve water infrastructure.

Hamburg Township awarded state grant for park renovations
In early August, Hamburg Township was awarded $300,000 in grant funding from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) to renovate Manly W. Bennett Memorial Park and Huron River Water Trail access. In total, this year’s MNRTF awards provide over $23 million in funding to improve outdoor recreation and protect land. At Bennett Park funds will be used to replace pathways, a playground, and the park’s canoe/kayak launch for access to the Huron River Water Trail.

Control for frog-bit and water soldiers
European frog-bit is one of many aquatic invasive species across Southeast Michigan that has become a nuisance to the state’s rivers and streams. Frog-bit reduces dissolved oxygen levels and makes it challenging for residents to recreate. Over the past few years, HRWC has worked with partners in Oakland County to monitor frog-bit and identify target areas for its control. Click here to read about how to mitigate the spread of frog-bit across the Huron River watershed and other waterways.

Community science is changing how people can fight pollution
Across the country, residents are spearheading their own pollution monitoring. Via community-driven science initiatives, residents to independently collect and monitor pollution patterns and sourcing to protect their health and safeguard their communities. This data empowers communities to hold polluters accountable and advocate for environmental justice. This article from the Natural Resources Defense Council spotlights community science initiatives in Houston, St. Louis, and Chicago focused on air quality.