Monarch Butterfly Count, Beach Debris Grants

For Friday, Aug. 28, 2015

1 – The federal government is offering money to clean up beaches and waterways.

bowling ball marine beach debris

Credit: NOAA

The Marine Debris Program, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is seeking proposals for community-based marine debris removal projects until Nov. 2. Great Lakes organizations are encouraged to apply.

Up to $2 million is expected to be available for projects across the U.S. Typical awards will range from $50,000 to $150,000.

The program is for the removal of old fishing gear and other debris that have a negative impact on resources and habitat in or along the oceans and the Great Lakes.

Previous awards have gone to the city of Cleveland, to reduce plastic marine debris in Lake Erie, including grocery bags, water bottles and cigar tips

To apply

2 – Populations of monarch butterflies are at critically low levels across the United States.

monarch milkweed butterfly habitat

Credit: USFWS

Only eight monarch butterflies were counted this year at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County.

That’s the second-lowest total ever recorded. The average is about 100. The highest count was 189 monarchs in 2007.

This year’s count was the eighth annual, and conducted in July. The count was one of hundreds coordinated by the North American Butterfly Association in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Monarch numbers have declined across the United States by about 90 percent in recent years. That’s from threats including a loss of milkweed habitat due to agricultural practices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched a campaign earlier this year aimed at saving the butterfly.

Monarchs travel thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, and into Canada.

Save the Monarch

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Prepping Clean Power Plan, Commenting on Water Strategy, Planting Rain Gardens

For Friday, Aug. 21, 2015

1 – Michigan officials are reviewing a new federal rule regulating carbon emissions from power plants.

carbon emissions michigan

One day’s CO2 emissions. Credit: Carbon Visuals

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued the Clean Power Plan earlier this month. It will regulate carbon emissions from utilities for the first time, to help address climate change.

Multiple state agencies are looking at the rule and its implications for Michigan. An official with the Michigan Agency for Energy says the state hopes to find “a reasonable path to compliance,” and the public will have a chance to participate in the development of a plan.

Gov. Rick Snyder has said that, even without the rule, the expected retirement of a number of Michigan coal-fired power plants due to environmental regulations and age, means that up to 40 percent of the state’s power should be coming from cleaner sources by 2025.

State officials hope to have their review and analysis complete shortly after Labor Day.

See also: Michigan is more than halfway toward meeting a clean power goal

2 – There’s still time to comment on a water strategy for Michigan.

A draft of the strategy was released earlier this year, and public meetings have been held in Saginaw and other locations.

The strategy is built around a 30-year vision.

Key recommendations include:

●   Achieving a 40 percent reduction to phosphorus in the western Lake Erie basin

●   Preventing the introduction of new aquatic invasive species and controlling established ones

●   Supporting investments in commercial and recreational harbors and maritime infrastructure

●   Developing a water trails system.

The plan was put together by the state Department of Environmental Quality, along with the state Departments of Natural Resources, and Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., and communities and organizations around the state.

Comments are due by Friday, Aug. 28.

3 – You can use your smartphone to build a rain garden.

garden shovel

Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

You’ll also need a shovel.

A free Rain Garden App, highlighted recently by the Great Lakes Protection Fund, is designed to help a person properly install a rain garden at their home or office.

It includes video tutorials and diagrams, and guides on selecting plants. There also are tools for determining soil type, and measuring the size of the area.

In case you’re not familiar, a rain garden is an area, usually about 6 inches deep, that collects stormwater that runs off of a roof, driveway or yard, and helps filter out pollutants.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Top 11 Michigan Water Trails, Big Birding Event

For Aug. 14, 2015

1 – This list of Michigan water trails goes to 11.

up to 11 spinal tap michigan water trails list

Credit: Wikipedia

The state Department of Natural Resources has released a Top 11 list of Water Trails, as voted on by the public.

The list is a round-up of some of Michigan’s “fantastic paddling opportunities.”

Some area trails on the list: at No. 9, Lake Huron Blueways, which winds up the coastline from Tawas.

At No. 3, Saginaw Bay Blueways, which takes in the southern and western edges of Saginaw Bay.

And No. 1 on the Top 11 list: the mighty Au Sable River, which goes for more than 100 miles from Grayling to Lake Huron.

The Au Sable won the poll based on write-in votes.

2 – The Midwest Birding Symposium is Sept. 10-13 in Bay City.

The symposium will feature programs and performances by North America’s leading bird watchers and naturalists.

There also will be an opportunity for birders to network with fellow enthusiasts, a vendor area, and guided bird walks at area birding spots.

The event will be headquartered at the DoubleTree hotel in downtown Bay City.

The symposium requires registration. A portion of net proceeds will be donated to support conservation organizations and programs. Some events are already sold out.

The nonprofit birding event is held every other year in the Midwest. It was in Ohio in 2013, with more than 800 attendees.

This year’s Bay City event is hosted by Michigan Audubon, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and the Great Lakes Bay Region Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Septic Tanks Don’t Work, Restoration Does

For Friday, Aug, 7, 2015

1 – Great Lakes restoration projects are coming to Northeast Michigan.

Sustain Our Great Lakes, a public-private partnership, is funding 20 projects at a total cost of more than $5.7 million.

That money includes $350,000 to Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord.

Huron Pines will use $115,000 to restore more than 350 acres of wetland and shoreline habitat by controlling invasive species, planting native buffers, and reconnecting upland and wetland habitat.

Another $235,000 will be used in the Au Gres River Watershed, to replace five road–stream crossings, install in-stream habitat structures, and implement agricultural conservation practices.

Other grants went to conservation organizations and public agencies in Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

2 – Researchers at Michigan State University say, bluntly, that “septic tanks aren’t keeping poo out of rivers and lakes.”

poo sign michigan msu septic tanks

Credit: Börkur Sigurbjörnsson

The researchers sampled 64 river systems in Michigan for E. coli and human fecal bacteria as part of largest watershed study of its kind to date.

Sample after sample, bacterial concentrations were highest where there were higher numbers of septic systems in the watershed area.

It has been assumed that soil can filter human sewage, working as a natural treatment system. Unfortunately, such systems do not keep E. coli and other pathogens from water supplies, the researchers say.

The MSU study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers say information from the study is vital for improving management decisions for locating, constructing, and maintaining on-site wastewater treatment systems.

3 – Old habitat is being reopened to Saginaw Bay fish.

A Frankenmuth fish passage project began last week. The work will reconnect fish of the Saginaw Bay to more than 70 miles of historically significant spawning areas.

Construction crews are assembling a “rock rapids” system along the Cass River, which will allow passage of walleye, sturgeon and other fish beyond the a dam to areas that have not been accessible for more than 150 years.

Early work on the project was supported by the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, headquartered in Bay City.

The project should be mostly complete by mid-September.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Saginaw Bay in Report to Congress, Waterfowl Festival

For Friday, July 31, 2015

1 – The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is making lakes healthier and local economies stronger.

epa great lakes initiative report to congress saginaw bay map

– a map from the EPA report

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that, since 2010, the federally funded Initiative has implemented more than 2,500 projects to improve water quality, clean up contaminated shoreline, protect and restore native habitat and species, and prevent and control invasive species.

The work is summarized in a new Report to Congress and the President.

From Fiscal Year 2010 to Fiscal Year 2014, the EPA received about $1.6 billion in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.

The funding has been a catalyst for unprecedented federal agency coordination, EPA officials say. This has produced “unparalleled results.”

That includes work with the agricultural community to reduce phosphorus runoff, which contributes to algal blooms in areas including Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.

Federal agencies also used funding to increase the number of acres of farmland enrolled in agricultural conservation programs in Saginaw Bay and other priority watersheds by more than 70 percent.

More information about the Initiative, including an interactive project map, is available at glri.us.

2 – The Saginaw Bay Waterfowl Festival is this weekend at the Bay City State Recreation Area.

ducks on the go michigan saginaw bay waterfowl festival 2015

Credit: Ducks Unlimited

The state park in Bangor Township will host the festival on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 1 and 2.

This is said to be the park’s most popular special event weekend. This is the 20th anniversary.

Features this year include a State Championship Duck & Goose Calling Tournament, Waterfowl Stamp Competition, Wildlife Arts & Craft Show, Waterfowl Calling Clinic and Waterfowl Carving Contest. New this year is a chainsaw carving contest and live auction.

The festival is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, and headquartered at the park’s Saginaw Bay Visitor Center.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Saginaw Bay Lighthouse for Sale, Land Conservation Stats and Community Solar

For July 17, 2015

1- Three Michigan lighthouses are for sale, including the Gravelly Shoal Light Station in Saginaw Bay.

gravelly shoal lighthouse station light saginaw bay

Gravelly Shoal Light Station, Saginaw Bay. Via gsaauctions.gov

The federal government is taking bids on the lighthouses. The new owners would have to maintain the lights. Bidding is open to nonprofit organizations.

The starting bid for the Gravelly Shoal light is $5,000.

The Gravelly Shoal station features a 65-foot tower and is located on the west side of Saginaw Bay, about 5 miles offshore from Au Gres.

It was constructed in 1939 to mark the shoals around Big Charity Island.

2 – Michigan land conservancies have helped protect almost 600,000 acres in the state.

Heart of the Lakes, a statewide nonprofit based in Bay City, says a survey of member land conservancies shows 597,516 acres of natural, scenic and working farms and forest lands have been protected in Michigan.

That’s an increase of about 10,000 acres since last year, based on data from 27 organizations.

By the way, 600,000 acres is about 938 square miles. Bay County is about 631 square miles.

Conserved land supports a variety of conservation purposes, including improved water quality, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and local foods, according to Heart of the Lakes.

3 – Consumers Energy has a new community solar program, and customers can express interest at the company’s Web site.

solar garden flower

Credit: Nahid V

The company is looking for people interested in subscribing to the Solar Gardens Program.

The subscription program is offered in half-kilowatt increments, called “blocks,” and is limited to a home’s annual electric usage.

Consumers announced the program earlier this year. It’s the first of its kind offered by a regulated electric utility in Michigan.

Consumers says it will determine sites for Solar Gardens projects, and construction will begin after sites are fully subscribed.

Once Solar Gardens are operational, subscribed customers will make a payment with their monthly bill and receive a credit based on the amount of solar energy produced and electric market rates for up to 25 years.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Michigan First to Use New, Faster Beach-Testing Method

For Friday, June 26, 2015

1 – Michigan will become the first state to monitor beaches using a new, rapid testing method.

beach bay city state park recreation area

The beach at the Bay City State Recreation Area, June 8, 2015. Credit: Jeff Kart

The new method quickly identifies E. coli DNA in a beach’s water sample.

The process provides results the same day a sample is taken. That means necessary beach closures will occur more efficiently in locations where bacteria is detected.

Previous testing methods took longer, meaning beaches that tested positive could not be closed until the day after a water sample was drawn.

To implement the new water testing process, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality awarded a half-million dollars to health departments in the state.

Agencies involved with the new testing method include health departments in Bay and Saginaw counties, and Saginaw Valley State University.

Daily beach testing results are be posted on the DEQ’s BeachGuard website.

2 – Information on the environment and other topics is available from a new GIS Open Database.

The site is a part overall efforts to make more information open and available to citizens, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, provide location components to information, allowing data to be represented geographically.

The new site can be used to browse, search, preview and download a variety of geospatial data sets and view them on a map.

Data categories include Fish & Wildlife, Environment and Public Health.

The Environment section includes data on land cover, wetlands and potential wetland restoration sites.

The site can be accessed at www.michigan.gov/openmichigan.

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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.

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

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