Posts Tagged ‘Washtenaw County’

On the chopping block: clean water

***  UPDATE: On August 16, 2017, the EPA and the Army extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of ‘Waters of the U.S.’ to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in. *** The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. ***

While we are working to clean up the Huron River system for a good quality of life, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is working to roll back the Clean Water Act. The current administration is rushing through a repeal of the Clean Water Rule and we have only until September 27th during public comment to try and stop it. It’s critical for your voice to be heard in D.C.

The proposal has been published in the federal register.

You can help by submitting a request to stop the repeal of this important rule on or before Wednesday, Sept. 27, 11:59pm EST.hrwc-clean-water-rule-wetlands

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

Background:

What is the Clean Water Rule? In 2015, the previous administration clarified and finalized protections for streams and wetlands across the country. These safeguards protected the small streams that feed the drinking water sources for nearly 1 in 3 Americans. They protected wetlands throughout the nation that filter pollutants from water, absorb floodwaters, and provide habitat for countless wildlife. In fact, industry and other permittees asked for this clarification as an end to regulatory confusion about which of the country’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. The rule was supported by millions of Americans.

The Clean Water Rule followed a robust public process. Before finalizing the Clean Water Rule in 2015, EPA held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country and published a synthesis of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, which showed that the small streams and wetlands the Rule safeguards are vital to larger downstream waters.

What is this administration proposing? Administrator Pruitt does not want to implement the Clean Water Rule. Instead, he plans to rush through the repeal of the Clean Water Rule this year, then propose and finalize a less protective rule in less than a year. President Trump signed an Executive Order instructing the EPA to propose a new rule based on former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s opinion of which waterways the Clean Water Act protects. A rule following Scalia’s interpretation would result in drastic exclusions of wetlands and streams from protection; fewer than half of wetlands and fewer than 40 percent of streams would receive federal protection. If that scenario comes to pass, then the nation’s waters will be less protected than they were in 1975!

Who is opposing the Clean Water Rule? Lobbyists for oil and gas producers, homebuilders, and farm bureaus.

What’s at stake? Our right to clean drinking water is in jeopardy. Rolling back hrwc-clean-water-rule-at-riskthe rule will result in the same regulatory confusion that resulted in broad-based calls for clarity about which of our nation’s waterways the Clean Water Act protects. Rolling back the rule is bad governance, bad for businesses who rely on regulatory certainty, and bad for our communities that deserve clean water.

Michigan’s rivers play a key role in economic and community building. Here in the Huron River watershed, we know the value of a healthy river system that includes healthy wetlands and smaller feeder streams. The river and water trail are conservatively estimated to have the following economic impact:

  • $53.5 million in annual economic output (direct, indirect, and induced spending)
  • $628 million in added property value
  • $150 million in annual environmental value (such as clean drinking water, wetlands and floodplains that prevent flooding, and forested riverbanks that foster rich fisheries and healthy streams)

Please speak up – send a message to the EPA today. Tell Administrator Pruitt: Hands off our water. We’ve provided a sample public comment letter. We encourage you to add your own description of the value of clean water.

Postscript: Republicans, meanwhile, are targeting the rule on a second front. A section of the Defense Department spending bill (page 277, line 12) allows the administration to revoke the rule with no strings attached — strings being requirements for public consultation.

Get sample comment letter language, links into the Federal eRulemaking Portal, Michigan impacts, and news articles HERE.

 

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

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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!

Registration Open for Full Moon Paddle – July 31st

Friday, July 31st, 7:00 p.m.

Join us for the Full Moon Paddle Trip with bonfire and s’mores: Pickerel Lake to Crooked Lake

Experience the quiet waters of the Huron River with expert paddler Barry Lonik, HRWC staff, and other river enthusiasts.

Complete this form to register. Spaces are limited so registration is necessary by Wednesday, July 29th.

The trip begins at the Pickerel Lake beach, accessible off Hankerd Road, north of N. Territorial Road. We will meet there at 7:00 p.m. Sunset and moonrise are just before 9:00 p.m.. There is a short carry from the parking area to the water. We will paddle around Pickerel Lake, chat about natural history, watersheds and water quality, and gradually make our way down the channel to Crooked Lake. A campfire and s’mores fixings will greet us at Crooked Lake. Then our group will make the return trip hopefully under the light of the Full Moon.

Bring your own watercraft, gear, food, drinking water, and appropriate clothing for the weather. Every paddler must wear a flotation device – bring your own. A flashlight or headlamp also is a good idea.

For a Paddler’s Safety Checklist click HERE.

Huron River Water Trail receives national designation

Uncork the champagne! The Huron River Water Trail is the newest National Water Trail.

Huron River Water Trail is 18th national water trailSecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell designated the Huron River Water Trail as the 18th trail of the National Water Trails System this week. The Huron River Water Trail joins a network of national exemplary water trails from Puget Sound to the Hudson River. The National Water Trails System is an inter-agency collaborative effort administrated by the National Park Service.

In the press release issued by the National Parks Service, Secretary Jewell recognized the achievements of local, state, and federal partners in the ever-growing water trail community. “Expanding water trails nationwide improves the environment and adds value to local economies”, said Secretary Jewell. “The National Water Trail System helps people discover the natural beauty and history of local places and provides fun opportunities for families to explore the world around them.”

The Huron River Water Trail will reap many benefits of designation into the National Water Trails System including:

* national promotion and visibility

* mutual support and knowledge sharing as part of a national network

* opportunities to obtain technical assistance and funding for planning and implementing water trail projects

As a result of designation, the partners to the Water Trail may gain positive economic impact from increased tourism, assistance with stewardship and sustainability projects, assistance with recognition and special events highlighting the trail, and more.

To be considered for designation, HRWC completed a rigorous application to demonstrate that the trail met criteria in seven management practice areas. The application was reviewed at multiple levels including a federal inter-agency panel review and final review by Secretary Jewell.

logo-hrwtThe Huron River Water Trail is a 104-mile inland paddling trail connecting people to the river’s natural environment, its history, and the communities it touches in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. It is a consortium of interested groups and communities committed to providing residents and visitors with a safe, accessible, and enjoyable experience on the Huron River and in the Trail Towns. The Huron River Water Trail is a project of the Huron River Watershed Council and RiverUp!.

 

What Does Adapting to Climate Change Look Like in Cities?

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Touring in style, UM students learn about climate adaptation.

On a dreary Halloween morning a group of 20 intrepid University of Michigan students, boarded a trolly for a whirlwind tour of locations in Ann Arbor that show how one city is preparing for a changing climate. Guided by myself and two colleagues from the City of Ann Arbor, Jen Lawson and Jamie Kidwell, the group heard stories and learned of strategies for protecting homes from flooding, trees from dying, and residents from suffering from heat and cold related health issues and high energy costs.

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Jen Lawson talks about stormwater in West Park

As a society we still need to do everything in our power to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling global climate change. At the same time, we are already experiencing the impacts of a changing climate which are certain to continue into the future even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow.

In the Huron River Watershed, arguably the most potentially damaging trends we are seeing in our weather patterns are larger rainfall events and more frequent and longer high heat events. Larger storm events cause flooding and overburden or damage important infrastructure (stormwater systems, dams, water utilities, roads, homes and businesses). Consecutive high heat days are a significant threat to human health and can cause droughts and brownouts. Actions that reduce the impact of these changes can be considered climate adaptation actions, or actions that build resilience to climate change.

Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County have started making investments now that help prepare for these changes. A few examples:

  • The City has conducted a detailed analysis predicting where flooding is likely to occur which is helping prioritize stormwater management decisions like where pipes need replacing and where green infrastructure (like rain gardens) can help
  • Washtenaw County has recently adopted new rules requiring additional infiltration and detention of rain water for new and re-developments protecting our river from erosion, pollution and risk of damaging floods
  • Ann Arbor’s Green Rental program is helping improve energy efficiency in low income areas making staying cool or warm during extremes more affordable
  • The Urban Forestry and Community Forest Management Plan identifies areas that are in need of shade trees to provide cooling and recommends species likely to survive more climate extremes

The City of Ann Arbor has recently released a series of climate videos that share more about why this work is a priority and what is being done. Here is the one on extreme storms:

Check out all four videos at a2energy.org/climate.

The students learned a lot about what is going on in their own backyard.  I hope these links help you do the same.  All aboard!

 

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.

Rounding Up the River

River and creek sampling

Thanks to 108 volunteers who contributed a total of 643 volunteer hours, the 2014 River Roundup was a great success!  The weather was perfect for our volunteers as they split into 21 teams and traveled to 42 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.  This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.

You can see all the results in April 2014 River Roundup Report.

  • Emily checks out a crayfish! credit: Max Bromley Emily checks out a crayfish! credit: Max Bromley
  • Bruce collects insects in South Ore Creek. credit: Dick Chase Bruce collects insects in South Ore Creek. credit: Dick Chase
  • Picnic tables! Volunteers love these. (Mill Creek at Warrior Park in Dexter) credit: Eric Bassey Picnic tables! Volunteers love these. (Mill Creek at Warrior Park in Dexter) credit: Eric Bassey
  • Sampling the Huron River by Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. credit: Kristen Baumia Sampling the Huron River by Riverside Park in Ypsilanti. credit: Kristen Baumia
  • Hay Creek winds through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto Hay Creek winds through wetlands and forests. credit: David Amamoto
  • Sorting the bugs on ID Day! credit: David Amamoto Sorting the bugs on ID Day! credit: David Amamoto
  • "What the heck is it?"--Paul Steen.  credit: David Amamoto "What the heck is it?"--Paul Steen. credit: David Amamoto
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Current Watershed Healthconditions April 2014

In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.

Fourteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek.  The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County.  Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.

Fourteen sites are significantly improving.  Twelve of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Malletts Creek, and several places on Mill Creek. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).

Highlights

The finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae) had never been seen in Malletts Creek before the spring of 2014. credit: Jude Walton

The finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae) had never been seen in Malletts Creek before the spring of 2014. credit: Jude Walton

1. Malletts Creek is an urban creek in Ann Arbor that has been the focus of restoration efforts for well over a decade. Last fall, we noticed a more diverse insect community in Malletts Creek than had ever been seen before.  We are happy to report that this spring we once again saw a healthier insect community than ever before.  From 1993-2013, volunteers have found an average of 5 insect families in spring samples, but in 2014 volunteers found 9 insect families. One of these insect families is a finger-net caddisfly, which is common in healthy streams but has never been found in Malletts Creek until now. The increase in insect families over time is statistically significant.

Our congratulations go out to all of the partners involved in fixing Malletts Creek! An increase in the diversity of aquatic insects reflects an increase in the overall water quality, water stability, and habitat quality. This is a major accomplishment!

2. The volunteers who sampled in Boyden Creek along Delhi Road pulled in a bonanza of caddisflies! They found 5 different types of caddisflies: the common net-spinner (Hydropsychidae), the square barked case- maker (Lepidostomatidae), the northern caddisfly (Limnephilidae), the finger-net caddisfly (Philopotamidae), and the rock case-maker (Uenoidae).  They also found two families of stoneflies and two families of mayflies.  We have been seeing good changes in Boyden Creek for several years now, and this sample was one of the best taken this spring.

Lowlights

The volunteers who sampled at Greenock Creek near South Lyon were not impressed with the size and abundance of the leeches they pulled out of their trays, nor were they impressed with the total abundance and diversity of the overall insect community.  Greenock Creek was never a very healthy creek, but conditions have significantly worsened here since monitoring began in 1993.  The creek is located downstream of Nichwagh Lake, which is impounded by a dam.  Water exiting the lake and entering the creek is quite warm, regularly reaching 85 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, which is too warm for many types of aquatic life. It is quite possible that dissolved oxygen levels are very low in the creek also (even in the non-summer months when the water is not as warm).  This is something that HRWC will look into.

Looking upstream in Greenock Creek, October 2012.  It looks picturesque, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to water quality! credit: Max Bromley

Looking upstream in Greenock Creek, October 2012. It looks picturesque, but looks can be deceiving when it comes to water quality! credit: Max Bromley

 What’s next?

Consider being a creekwalker this summer!  You can learn more about this experience through our recent blog series. Check it out here: Part 1 and Part 2.  You can register to be a creekwalker here.

Study asks: Is there an easier way to locate at-risk septic systems?

Huron River Watershed Council failing septics MDEQ research

Collapse of a residential septic system tank

Septic systems are essential to rural living.

Communities have standards for their design, search construction, and, increasingly, maintenance. Yet, even with those standards, septic systems can fail. When a septic system fails, the polluted water it releases can pose a human health risk, sales an expensive repair and a water quality problem for groundwater, streams and lakes.

Over the past three years, HRWC led a team of researchers and public health managers in pursuit of a new approach to detect failed septic systems that may reduce pollutants entering the Huron River in Michigan and yield a cost-effective approach for county health departments to monitor and rectify problem septic systems. Pollutants from failing septic systems — pathogens and phosphorus — play a role in the health of the Huron River and its tributary streams located in rural areas.

In fact, one of the more perplexing questions about water pollution in this river has been “how much of a problem are failing septics?”

The overall project goals were to 1) reduce the quantity of phosphorus and bacteria entering the middle Huron River, and 2) develop a cost?effective approach for monitoring and rectifying problems with septic systems for County Health Departments.

Learn more about the study design and our findings.

Master Rain Gardener Training Class Offered in March

New Year’s Resolution #1: Become a Master Rain GardenerResidential Rain Garden

Train as a Master Rain Gardener – add another skill to your portfolio – and become a resource for your neighborhood by keeping river water clean!  Rain Gardens filter and cool storm water so that our streams and rivers run clean.  It is a nonpoint solution for nonpoint source pollution.  Anyone can plant one in their own back yard.  The Washtenaw County Water Resources office has been building rain gardens for 8 years, and has built more than 140 rain gardens – we can pass along what we have learned to you.  Visit the Master Rain Gardener Hall of Fame (photos).

Thursday mornings 9:30am-12:30, February 27 – March 27, 2014.

Attendees must attend all five classes, and plant a rain garden to receive their Master Rain Gardener certificate.  

Location:  705 N. Zeeb, MSU Extension Classroom

Cost:  $90  (Scholarships available)

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

Questions?   Bryans@ewashtenaw.org  or 734-730-9025   www.ewashtenaw.org/raingardens

To register for the class, use the Rec & Ed registration page – click HERE.

Or, register in person/phone/mail by calling Linda Brzezinski 734-994-2300 x53203 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?
  • Residents of Miller Avenue (Newport to Maple), and W. Madison Street receive a discount.  E-mail bryans@ewashtenaw.org for details.

Your New Resource for Water Trail Trip Planning

Welcome to the virtual launch for the new Huron River Water Trail website!

HRWT_newweb_screenshot-300x275The new online tool, seven months in the making, offers a nearly complete Water Trail experience . . . minus the water.

While nothing beats trying out the site for yourself, here’s a sample of what to expect:

  • Clean, user-friendly interactive trip planning maps
  • Extensive trail amenities – where to grab a sandwich? where to pitch a tent? what activities are happening in the Trail Towns?
  • Real-time weather and stream flow information
  • Outfitters with canoe and kayak rentals
  • And much, much more

Are you looking for a lazy float on flat water or a chance to try your whitewater skills? Flat water, flowing river, portages, and other trail features are all mapped with recommended trips to last a few hours to a few days. Investigate the distance, time, level of difficulty, highlights, and more for each recommended trip.

The trail information and graphics complement the new Paddler’s Companion, the indispensable waterproof map book for the Huron River Water Trail. Get your own copy today!

Help us spread the word about the new planning tool for the Huron River Water Trail. Use it to plan your next trip! Tell you friends and family! And become a part of it by sharing your observations and photos.

HRWC acknowledges the planning and design team of The Greenway Collaborative, Inc. and Imageweaver Studio, the Partners of the Huron River Water Trail for their review and recommendations, and the support of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Erb Family Foundation, and the many partners of RiverUp!.


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