Superstorm Research May Save Your Life, New Sugar Trails For Your Bike

For Friday, Nov. 21, 2014

1 – Wow. Central Michigan University meteorologist Leigh Orf has created a spectacular 3-D simulation of a tornado and the supercell thunderstorm that spawned it.

The monster storm visualization was presented recently at the 27th Conference on Severe Local Storms in Madison, Wisconsin.

Determining which storms will generate monster tornadoes remains a challenge for weather forecasters. The goal of the research is to help meteorologists better understand the mechanics of devastating storms, and provide earlier warnings to people in the storm’s path. The current average lead time for tornado warnings is 13 minutes.

The simulated storm features winds exceeding 300 mph, remains on the ground for 65 miles, was “grown” in the same environment as an actual storm that produced a long-track EF5 tornado in Oklahoma on May 24, 2011.

When CMU researchers examined the inner structure of the simulated thunderstorm, they discovered storm-generated cooled air that had never been seen in previous simulations.

As far as CMU researchers know, this is first time a supercell producing a long-track EF5 tornado has ever been simulated.

2Some sweet mountain bike trails are being created in Bay City.

Michigan Sugar Trails is transforming 26 acres of vacant land into the community’s first trails for mountain bikes and outdoor activity, according to the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

The Conservancy has partnered with the Michigan Sugar Co., who owns this property, to make the project a reality. The trails will be located on the Middlegrounds Island in the Saginaw River. These will be natural surface, single-track trails.

Michigan Sugar Trails is a part of the Conservancy’s Outdoor Urban Recreation Bay City Project.

The Conservancy will be hosting a volunteer event at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, in cooperation with Ray’s Bike Shop, to clean trash and debris from the site.

You can find out more on Facebook by searching for the Michigan Sugar Trails Clean-Up event.
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Group Restoring Au Sable, Windows Killing Birds

For Friday, Nov. 7, 2014

 

1A nonprofit is making progress on restoring the Au Sable River watershed in Northern Michigan.

au sable river restoration

Via Huron Pines

Huron Pines in Gaylord reports that it’s still trying to raise an additional $140,000 for the work, but much has been accomplished this year.

The group has received more than $1.1 million in funding from government and private sources, and has removed 11 barriers to fish passage to reconnect 35 upstream miles.

Large woody material also was installed along one and a quarter miles of the river to provide more diverse habitat.

To fight invasive species and restore native plants, 150 acres were treated, including 5,000 feet of riverbank.

Nine streambank sites were stabilized, and are expected prevent the erosion of 300 tons of sediment per year.

The Au Sable River watershed covers more than 1,900 square miles.


2Thud. That’s the sound of a bird hitting a window.

Windows kill hundreds of millions birds a year in the United States, according to a recent national study.

A student chapter of The Wildlife Society at Michigan Technological University in Houghton is participating in an international research project on the issue.

The project involves 41 college and university campuses from Mexico to Canada.

Ten buildings are being studied on Michigan Tech’s campus, including the Dow Environmental Sciences and Engineering Building.

Seventeen students, faculty and staff have observed the buildings and recorded the number of dead birds, according to Michigan Tech.

Some of the same windows are hit most frequently. So far, the local study has found that how much a window reflects surrounding trees or how transparent it is makes a difference.

Two buildings have suffered the vast majority of the collisions, with the Dow building accounting for at least 75 percent of them, Michigan Tech says. Most of the dead birds found at Michigan Tech were migrating species.

The Wildlife Society chapter plans to work with the school’s Department of Visual and Performing Arts to design window treatments that help reduce the collisions.

A 2014 study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and others say the most bird deaths by windows occur at low-rise buildings that are four to 11 stories tall. Skyscrapers make up less than 1 percent.

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

Suggest Water Monitoring Sites, Beware of Toxic Halloween Stuff

For Friday, Oct, 31, 2014

 

1 – Where should water quality be monitored in Michigan?

Credit: Lee Cannon

Credit: Lee Cannon

The state Department of Environmental Quality is seeking suggestions for water quality monitoring locations.

The effort is in support of a Strategic Environmental Quality Monitoring Program for Michigan’s Surface Waters.

The DEQ is soliciting the recommendations from municipalities, nonprofits and citizens for fiscal year 2015.

Primary goals of the strategy including detecting new and emerging water quality problems.

The DEQ is welcoming suggestions for monitoring water or sediment chemistry, fish contamination, nuisance aquatic plant or algae growth, and E. coli bacteria.

Monitoring for Fiscal Year 2015 is planned for locations including the Kawkawlin River in Bay County.

A monitoring request form is online.

2Trick or treat. There may be toxic substances lurking in your halloween candy bag, or your store-bought Halloween costume.

Via HealthyStuff.org

Via HealthyStuff.org

A study released by the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor has found elevated levels of toxic chemicals in some popular Halloween costumes, accessories and party supplies.

The nonprofit tested 106 Halloween products for substances linked to asthma, birth defects, learning disabilities, reproductive problems, liver toxicity and cancer. The products were purchased from top national retailers.

Halloween products were tested for chemicals based on their toxicity or tendency to build up in people and the environment.

The results of the study are available online at HealthyStuff.org.

In conjunction with the release of the study, advocates have launched a national online petition calling on major retailers to eliminate hazardous chemicals in consumer products such as Halloween costumes and accessories.

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

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Michigan Tech Part of Cellulosic Ethanol Milestone, US at Bottom of Sustainable List

For Oct. 10, 2014

 

1 – You may have heard of cellulosic ethanol, or biofuel made from trees and woody plants, instead of corn.

It’s been talked about for years, but progress has been slow. A Michigan University can now take credit for what’s being called a milestone.

Michigan Technological University in Houghton reports that the first commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol that meets federal standards have gone to market.

This is a big deal because U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuels Standard mandates that cellulosic ethanol be blended into gasoline for use in vehicles.

American Process Inc., an Atlanta-based company, is producing the cellulosic ethanol at a demonstration plant in Alpena.

The ethanol is being produced by converting the wastewater stream from a nearby hardboard panel plant into biofuel.

The process was developed with help from scientists and engineers at Michigan Tech, using funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of Michigan.

The company says this production is only a start; about 2,000 to 3,000 gallons, or half of each ethanol shipment, is qualified as cellulosic ethanol under EPA standards.

At full capacity, the biorefinery is designed to produce about 894,000 gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually, using forest residue woodchips as a feedstock.

2 – People are more concerned about the environment these days, but the United States is at the bottom of the list when it comes to sustainable behavior.

greendex 2014 americans us

We’re 18th! Via the Greendex 2014 report.

A new global Greendex study released by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan finds that concern about environmental problems has increased in most countries surveyed.

For instance, more people now expect global warming will negatively affect them during their lifetime than in 2012.

Still, the study says sustainable consumer behavior related to housing, transportation, food and consumer goods has only grown slowly.

Among the top findings this year:

  • Sixty-one percent of consumers globally say they are very concerned about environmental problems, 5 percent higher than in 2012.
  • Environmentally friendly behavior has increased in nine of the 17 countries that were surveyed in 2012. But sustainable behavior has decreased among consumers in five countries: the United States, Canada, China, Germany, and Japan.
  • U.S. consumer behavior also still ranks as the least sustainable of all countries surveyed since the inception of the study in 2008.
  • Top-scoring consumers in the 2014 study were in India and China, followed by consumers in South Korea, Brazil and Argentina.

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

Echo Wind Park Spins, WIN Grants Available, and Septic Tips

For Oct. 3, 2014

 

1 – A new wind park is spinning in Huron County.

echo-wind-park-construction-dte

Echo Wind Park construction. Credit: DTE.

DTE Energy says its Echo Wind Park has reached commercial operation. There are 70 turbines in the park, located in Oliver and Chandler townships in Michigan’s Thumb.

The Echo Wind Park adds 112 megawatts to DTE Energy’s renewable energy portfolio, or enough to power more than 50,000 homes.

The wind park is sited on nearly 16,000 acres. It’s the fourth to be owned and operated by DTE Energy.

The project is the first to tie into a new 345,000-volt transmission system built to handle all the renewable energy flowing onto the electric grid in the Thumb.

The wind park will be operated and maintained by a team of seven employees. As many as 170 workers were on site during peak construction activity.

With the commissioning of the Echo Wind Park, DTE’s renewable energy portfolio is at 9.6 percent. Under state law, Michigan utilities have to meet a 10 percent standard by 2015.

- via GLREA

 

2The leaves are falling, and fall funding is available from Saginaw Bay WIN.

Saginaw Bay WIN, which stands for Watershed Initiative Network, is funded by area foundations. It’s offering Fall Community Action Mini Grants.

They’re available to organizations working to make improvements in their neighborhoods, communities, and watersheds within the framework of “sustainability.” That is, projects that have economic, environmental and community impacts.

WIN will award matching grants of up to $1,000 to successful applicants whose projects show creativity and address an important and demonstrated need.

Past grants have gone to environmental education initiatives, public access projects, watershed signage, tree plantings, and community gardens.

Eligible organizations include nonprofit groups, local governments and educational institutions. Organizations can apply online at SaginawBayWIN.org. The deadline is Oct. 17.

 

3Faulty septic systems can pollute local waterways and contribute to harmful algal blooms.

commode toilet septic

Don’t overload the commode. Credit: Glenn Beltz.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging homeowners to maintain their septic systems as part of a public information campaign.

Nearly 25 percent of all American households use septic systems to treat their wastewater. Faulty septic systems have been blamed for beach closures in Bay County and other parts of Michigan.

Data collected by states attribute septic systems and other onsite wastewater treatment methods to water quality impairments in almost 23,000 miles of rivers and streams; about 200,000 acres of lakes, reservoirs and ponds; and more than 72,000 acres of wetlands, according to EPA.

EPA tips for septic system maintenance include:

  • Protect It and Inspect It
  • Think at the Sink, and
  • Don’t Overload the Commode.

The average household septic system should be inspected at least every three years. Household septic tanks are typically pumped every three to five years.

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

Great Lakes Action Plan 2, a New Midland Preserve, and a Larger Marine Sanctuary

For Sept. 26, 2014

 

1A new federal plan for the Great Lakes will focus on protecting water quality, controlling invasive species and restoring habitat over the next five years.

The Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan II.

The Great Lakes Restoration Action Plan II.

The new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan was released this week in Chicago. It lays out steps that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and other departments will take during Fiscal Years 2015 through 2019.

A federally funded Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the lakes.

The new action plan will focus on cleaning up additional Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes, preventing and controlling invasive species, reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful and nuisance algal blooms, and restoring habitat to protect native species.

Money from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been used in recent years to double the acreage enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in watersheds where phosphorous runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms. That includes western Lake Erie, Saginaw Bay and Green Bay.

Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since 2009 for the restoration effort.

 

2A new nature preserve is opening in Midland County.

forestview little forks dedication

A boardwalk built by an Eagle Scout candidate leads visitors through wetlands at Forestview Natural Area. Credit: Little Forks Conservancy.

The 70-acre Forestview Natural Area will be opened to the public next month.

The Little Forks Conservancy is hosting an event at 1 p.m. Oct. 12 to mark the opening, and guests will be invited to explore the preserve’s 1.25-mile trail loop.

The Conservancy purchased Forestview Natural Area in 2012.

The new preserve is located directly across the Tittabawassee River from the Conservancy’s 419-acre Riverview Natural Area.

The trail was constructed last fall by volunteers from CPI Engineering.

Local Boy Scouts led projects to place boardwalks along the trail, and a bridge over a small waterway on the property. The preserve is home to many species of reptiles and other amphibians. The riverbank is a roosting spot for bald eagles.

For more information, see littleforks.org.

 

3 – Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is a whole lot larger.

thunder bay expansion marine conservation area

Via NOAA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has expanded the boundaries of the sanctuary from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles. The area now includes the waters of Lake Huron adjacent to Michigan’s Alcona, Alpena and Presque Isle counties.

The expansion is based on several years of research, and protects an additional 100 known and suspected historic shipwreck sites.

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, headquartered in Alpena, is one of 14 national sites and the only one in the Great Lakes.

Thunder Bay features some of the world’s best-preserved shipwrecks, and visitors can explore the underwater sites through diving, snorkeling and kayaking.

The sanctuary’s Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, also in Alpena, draws more than 80,000 visitors annually, and features more than 10,000 square feet of exhibits.

See Also: Saginaw Kids Hunt for Shipwreck

 

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

Consumers Energy Cuts Pollution, Huron Pines Reconnects Rivers, and Saginaw Bay Charters Hook More Walleye

For Sept. 19, 2014

 

1 – Consumers Energy has reached a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Credit: Jerry 'Woody'

Credit: Jerry ‘Woody’

The agreement will reduce emissions at coal-fired power plants in Bay County and other parts of Michigan, and fund projects to benefit the environment and communities.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Consumers has agreed to install pollution control technology to reduce harmful air pollution from the company’s five coal-fired power plants, including the Karn-Weadock complex in Bay County’s Hampton Township.

The settlement with EPA resolves claims that the company violated the Clean Air Act by modifying their facilities and releasing excess sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

EPA expects the actions required by the settlement will reduce harmful emissions by more than 46,500 tons per year. The company estimates that it will spend more than $1 billion to implement the required measures.

The settlement requires the company to pay a civil penalty of $2.75 million and at least $7.7 million on environmental efforts to help mitigate the harmful effects of air pollution and benefit local communities. The new spending will include up to $4 million on the development or installation of renewable energy projects.

Consumers officials say the agreement does not include any admission of wrongdoing.

Consumers says its operation and those of many U.S. energy providers were reviewed as part of an EPA enforcement initiative that began in 1999. That initiative has resulted in more than 25 settlements nationwide.

2Several areas in Michigan will benefit from $12 million in grants for Great Lakes restoration.

The money comes from Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership that includes the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and ArcelorMittal, a steel and mining company.

The grants cover 31 projects to restore and enhanced wetlands in the basin, restore fish passage and improve habitat, and control invasive species.

Ten of those projects are in Michigan.

Huron Pines in Gaylord received money to replace three culverts and reconnect nine miles of the Black River with Lake Huron and provide stream access for coaster brook trout and other fish. The nonprofit also will conduct work in the Cheyboygan River watershed to reconnect 20 upstream miles, reduce sediment inputs, and improve fish habitat.

3Lake Huron is back, especially when it comes to fishing.

A recent report from the state Department of Natural Resources says the number of charter fishing trips taken on the lake in 2013 was the second-highest in the past five years.

There has been continued improvement in the lake’s walleye fishery.

The average Lake Huron charter fishing party targeting walleye could expect to come home with nine walleye in the cooler in 2010 and release another three. In 2013, the average walleye charter trip produced 14 fish for the table and another eight that were released.

Most of the lake’s walleye fishing is concentrated in Saginaw Bay.

According to calculations by Michigan State University and other partners, more than $671,000 in personal income was generated by Michigan’s charter fishing industry at Lake Huron ports in 2013; with a total economic output of $1.82 million.

 

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

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