Battleground: Smartphone App Fights Invasive Species, Groups Fight for Rivers and Lakes

For Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

1If you see a crime, call 911. If you see an invasive critter, use the app.

A smartphone application developed by a scientist at Michigan State University lets folks snap a photo, log a few quick notes, and send an alert to the invasive species police.

These critter cops are a growing network of scientists and state officials who can use the information to respond to threats from invasives.

The free app is part of the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network, a regional effort to enhance early detection, rapid response, and better manage invasive species.

Developers of the app say reports logged by smartphone users will help map the spread of invasives, and help state agencies deploy more effective management plans.

Invasives to look out for in Michigan include the killer shrimp, sea lamprey, Japanese knotweed, and the emerald ash borer.

Teachers in the Chicago area are already using the app, teaming up with local foresters.


2Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, has a story to tell about its accomplishments in 2014.

The organization is holding its annual meeting on Saturday, where it will be sharing its annual report.

According to a copy of the report, Northeast Michigan’s environment saw many improvement last year as a result of Huron Pine projects.

That includes the Northern Saginaw Bay Restoration Initiative.

That intiative aims to improve water quality in the Rifle, Au Gres and Tawas river watersheds. In 2014, Huron Pines improved five road and stream crossings to reconnect more than 17 upstream miles of aquatic habitat.

The nonprofit also worked with private landowners and agricultural producers to reduce streambank erosion and runoff from farms.

An additional 20 acres were treated for invasive phragmites along the Lake Huron coast.

 

3Advocates have been busy this week, urging members of Congress to protect the Great Lakes.

The effort is known as Great Lakes Day. Members of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition were among those involved. Programs on the radar include the federally funded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

This is a special year for Great Lakes Day. The Joyce Foundation this week launched a new website called Great Lakes Great Impact.

The coalition spent time showing videos from the site to members of Congress about the impact of Great Lakes restoration around the region.

You can view the videos online at GreatLakesGreatImpact.org.

#GreatLakesDay

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

 

More Waste Landfilled, Clean Energy Obstacles, and a New Statewide Trail

For Friday, Feb. 13, 2015

1 – Michiganders sent more waste to landfills last year.

That’s according to the Department of Environmental Quality’s 19th annual solid waste report for fiscal year 2014.

Residents increased waste sent to landfills by more than 2 million cubic yards, or 5.6 percent.

Officials say the jump can be seen as a sign of the state’s economic resurgence. It also underscores the importance of efforts to increase residential recycling.

Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to double Michigan’s residential recycling rate in the next two years.

Plans include developing new markets for recyclable metals, plastics and wood.

The DEQ also is working with cities and townships to increase access to recycling, measure progress, and provide technical assistance and education.

At this time, Michigan landfills have about 26 years left of remaining disposal capacity.

- Report of Solid Waste Landfilled in Michigan: Oct. 1, 2013-Sept. 30, 2014

 

2 – The Great Lakes state faces obstacles when it comes to getting more of its energy from cleaner sources.

A new report, produced by 5 Lakes Energy and funded by the Mott Foundation, includes 40 recommendations to enable Michigan to accelerate its progress.

The recommendations include reducing energy waste by expanding financing options for energy upgrades.

We also could modernize our electric generation and delivery, such as increasing our 10 percent renewable standard for regulated utilities, due to expire this year.

Another recommendation is to electrify our transportation sector, including incentives to get more electric vehicles on the road.

Credit: Incase

Credit: Incase

 3 – Iron Belle Trail is the newly picked name for Michigan’s planned, statewide hiking and bicycling trail.

The trail is due to stretch from Belle Isle Park in Detroit to Ironwood in the western Upper Peninsula.

The state Department of Natural Resources recently announced the name, after sifting through almost 9,000 suggestions.

Iron Belle Trail is a work in progress, but portions of the trail already exist, and are open for public recreation.

The Iron Belle Trail will stretch across Michigan and link numerous existing trails to provide hiking and bicycling routes. A map of the plans shows proposed bicycle trails running through Northeast Michigan.

The DNR is seeking private and public funding to secure and develop trail corridors for the cross-state trail. The agency says temporary connectors are in place along much of the trail and will be made permanent as resources become available.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

 

Trail Towns and Urban Farming in Michigan

For Jan. 23, 2015

1 – The East Coast concept of Trail Towns is coming to Michigan.

Trail Town committees have sprouted up in areas including the Thumb. It’s the result of a year-long Coastal Zone Management grant, according to the Michigan State University Extension, and aimed at promoting sustainable tourism.

Leaders in the Thumb, which includes Huron and Tuscola counties, have been active in outfitting their downtown areas and trail networks to attract visitors.

In 2014, the governor signed legislation that established the Pure Michigan Trail Network.

Communities can establish a Trail Town by developing their own strategy or look at adopting a “Four Point Approach” that includes organization, promotion, design and economics.

 

2 -Delta College is teaching people about urban farming.

 

The college, along with an area group called the Wildroot Food Collective, is offering an Urban Farming series of workshops.

The series is geared toward backyard gardeners, chicken enthusiasts and others interested in local foods.

Sessions will include demonstrations, discussions, and hands-on activities led by local experts.

The Wildroot Food Collective is a farm-to-table operation that hopes to transform the region into a hub of local eateries, growers, and consumers.

The benefits of urban farming include growing what you need, where you live, and decreasing the miles associated with the long-distance transportation of foods.

Six topics will be explored during the sessions, including soil health, growing in small spaces, raising chickens, and taking your goods to market.

The series starts Monday, Jan. 26, and runs through March 28. The cost for all six sessions is $149.

For more information, see delta.edu/urbanfarming.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

$10 Million for Saginaw Bay, and the (Low) Cost of Wind Power

For Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

1 – A total of $10 million in federal funding is coming to Saginaw Bay.

saginaw bay

Credit: Matt Stehouwer

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership has been selected to receive the money under a new program created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The initiative will help farmers improve the water quality and wildlife habitat in the Saginaw Bay watershed, which has problems with phosphorus and nutrient sediment runoff.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association and Nature Conservancy will lead 35 local partners to restore acres of wetlands, reduce excessive sediments and nutrients in the watershed, and monitor long-term trends in the fish population and habitat, according to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

The funding is part of $40 million going to conservation projects across Michigan and the Great Lakes region. The others are in western Lake Erie and the St. Joseph River.

Farm runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms, beach closings and unsafe drinking water.

 

2Leaders will discuss the future of wind power in Michigan next week.

The American Wind Energy Association is holding its State Wind Energy Forum in East Lansing on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Business, community and political leaders will attend, including representatives from Consumers Energy and Huron County.

The forum will take place at Michigan State University.

The agenda includes a panel discussion on proposed federal rules for reducing carbon pollution at existing coal-fired power plants.

An upcoming federal Wind Vision report also will be discussed. The report says American wind power is on track to double by 2020 and double again by 2030.

Michigan has 1,350 megawatts of installed wind capacity, enough to power more than 230,000 homes.

The American Wind Energy Association says wind power has the potential to meet 163 percent of the state’s current electricity needs.

 

3Can you spare $2.60 a month?

That’s how much it would cost the average household to expand Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 25 percent over the next 10 years.

A report from the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute says the price tag could even be cut in half if key federal tax credits are extended.

Michigan utilities are on pace to meet a 10 percent goal for renewable energy generation by the end of this year.

The report follows a failed 2012 ballot initiative to expand the state’s standard to 25 percent by 2025. A utility-backed group claimed a higher standard would be too expensive.

Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are expected to propose policy changes this year, since the current 10 percent standard is due to expire.

– via Midwest Energy News

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

EPA to Coal Plants: Get Your Ash in Order

For Jan. 9, 2015

1 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first national regulations on the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals, also called coal ash, from coal-fired power plants.

tva coal ash spill 2008

View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill. Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

The final rule includes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.

The EPA assessed more than 500 facilities across the country after the failure in 2008 of a TVA coal ash pond in Kingston, Tennessee. Those assessments included the Karn-Weadock complex run by Consumers Energy in Bay County’s Hampton Township. The EPA rated the condition of disposal facilities at the local complex as “satisfactory.”

Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have been linked to nearly 160 cases of harm to surface water, groundwater, and air, the EPA says.

These first federal requirements include regular inspections of surface impoundments, and restrictions on the location of new impoundments and landfills so that they can’t be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands.

The rule also requires facilities to post information online, including annual groundwater monitoring results and corrective action reports.

2 – Information on Great Lakes currents is currently available.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor is posting the visualizations online.

The flow patterns depicted in the visualizations are based on simulations from the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System operated by the lab.

The lab is arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Online, you can see snapshots of water motion at the present time and from three hours ago, including conditions on Saginaw Bay.

The maps use the same technology developed for mapping winds, and the potential for wind energy generation.

 

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

Where Does Your Christmas Tree Come From? And Grading Michigan’s Renewable and Efficiency Programs

For Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

1Where does your Christmas tree come from?

christmas trees oregon

Credit: Wonderlane

If it’s a real tree, it’s mostly likely to come from North Carolina or Oregon. That’s nationally.

According to The Washington Post and federal data, American tree farmers harvest at least 17 million Christmas trees each year, and nearly half come from North Carolina and Oregon.

What about Michigan?

Our state, along with New England, the mid-Atlantic and Wisconsin are near the top for Christmas tree harvests in the U.S.

In 2012, just over 3,900 Christmas trees were harvested in Bay County. There were just over 2,200 harvested in Saginaw County, and just 128 in Midland County.

In Michigan, about 1.7 million trees were cut from from more than 700 farms.

In case you wondered, artificial trees are still king when it comes to sales.

2Michigan has received passing grades for its solar energy policies, but there’s room for improvement.

The state gets a B for net metering and a C for interconnection in a report from Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, both advocacy groups.

At least it’s better than the F received for net metering and a D for interconnection, both in 2008.

Net metering and interconnection are policies that allow energy customers to use rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables to meet their own electricity needs.

States at the top of the class this year include Ohio, along with California, Massachusetts, Oregon and Utah.

The report is designed as a resource for policymakers, regulators and stakeholders to build upon clean energy progress that many states have achieved to date.

The groups say net metering and interconnection are some of the primary state policies driving growth in the American clean energy field.

3Energy efficiency is cost effective.

Michigan funding for energy optimization programs in 2013 was $253 million, which will result in savings of $948 million for electric and natural gas utility customers.

That means that for every dollar spent on energy optimization programs in Michigan in 2013, customers saw benefits of about $3.75 by eliminating energy waste.

The figures are according to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s annual report on a 2008 law.

The report shows that overall, the programs saved 132 percent of what they were targeted for by electric utilities, and 121 percent for natural gas utilities.

The savings equate to the annual electric usage of about 121,000 households and the annual natural gas usage of about 58,000 households.

-30-

The Detroit Lions Won’t Win the Great Lakes Bowl, But Water Levels Will Flood Beaches

For Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

1 – Registration is open for Great Lakes Bowl.

The Great Lakes Bowl is part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, an academic competition where teams of high school students compete for the regional and national title.

The matches feature quiz-bowl style rounds and challenge questions that test a team’s ocean and Great Lakes knowledge.

The questions focus on math and science related to biology, chemistry, geology, physics, technology, history and economics.

Regional competitions are held throughout the nation in February and March.

The next Great Lakes Bowl is set for Feb. 7 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The national competition is in April in Ocean Springs, Mississippi.

The Great Lakes Bowl will award cash, trophies, medals and other prizes to top finishers.

There’s a limit of 16 teams, approved on a first-come, first-served basis. The deadline is Dec. 19.

The last bowl featured schools from around the state, including Standish-Sterling Central High School in Standish. The first-place trophy went to a team from Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, which placed sixth nationally. The national champions were from Boise High School in Idaho.


2 – How will lake level changes affect a shoreline? You can see visualizations for the Saginaw Bay area and other parts of Michigan using a Lake Level Viewer from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

pinconning great lakes water levels noaa viewer

High water levels in Pinconning, Michigan. Via the Lake Level Viewer.

The tool is intended to help communities along the U.S. Great Lakes plan for, and adapt to, climate change and changes in lake water levels.

You can use it to zoom in on places like Pinconning, and see how the area would be affected by changes in water levels.

You can compare the levels ranging from zero to six feet above and below average lake level.

The amount of  beach and other land under water quickly changes depending on the levels you choose.

More than 4,900 miles of U.S. shoreline ring the Great Lakes, of which 3,800 miles are currently mapped on the Lake Level Viewer.

The tool also covers areas in Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

— Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

-30-

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 91 other followers

%d bloggers like this: