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.

Saginaw Part of Nationwide ‘Livability’ Project, Invasives Sold at Bait Shops

For Sept. 5, 2014

1 – The Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County has been picked for a national Livability Initiative.

shiawassee refuge livability map

The four communities selected for the initiative. Via The Conservation Fund.

It’s an effort to help Gateway Communities assess and improve natural assets that make them appealing places in which to live, work and play.

Gateway Communities are those adjacent to wildlife refuges and other public lands. In this case, the initiative will look at the cities of Saginaw, Frankenmuth and Birch Run, along with Spaulding, James and Bridgeport townships.

The Livability Initiative is a two-year project by the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other organizations.

From Sept. 9-11, the refuge and its Gateway Communities will take part in an assessment to evaluate key livability factors, including transportation options, affordable housing, employment and business opportunities, and community character.

Another partner, The Conservation Fund, will develop a livability report that outlines key recommendations. A local workshop will follow on ways to advance the proposals.

The Saginaw County refuge and its Gateway Communities are one of only four in the nation chosen for the project.

The others are in Oregon, South Carolina, and Colorado.

2A scientific paper says the bait fish trade represents a serious threat for spreading invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Researchers from Central Michigan University and the University of Notre Dame tested water samples from tanks containing small fish for sale as bait at more than 500 shops around the eight-state region.

Twenty-seven of the samples tested positive for DNA of invasive fish, such as Asian carp.

Andrew Mahon of CMU says the findings suggest that at least some invaders are being spread by anglers who dump unused bait into the water.

A Notre Dame scientist says more consistent bait fish regulation among Michigan and other Great Lakes states is needed.

The scientists say the study is the first systematic effort to document the presence of invasive species in bait supplies using a tool known as “environmental DNA,” in which water samples are examined in a lab for signs of genetic fingerprints from particular fish.

The paper was published in a journal called Conservation Genetics Resources.

- Via AP

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

 

Bay Alerts, a Bigger Beach, and Fall Travel

For Aug. 29, 2014


1 – Do you want to find out first about the next water emergency?

Via Michigan.org

Via Michigan.org

Bay County government is reminding people they can sign up for alerts via text message, voice message or email that are sent out during emergencies.

On Aug. 9, Bay County Central Dispatch was notified by the Bay City Water Treatment Plant that there was a significant leak in the city’s water distribution system.

The leak prompted water use restrictions for users and the declaration of a local state of emergency for Bay County on Aug. 10.

The leak in the water main was finally discovered on the afternoon of Aug. 11, after more than 20 million gallons of water were lost.

To sign-up for Bay Alerts, visit the Bay County website.

You can choose to receive information on items such as emergencies, severe weather, and traffic updates.

 

2Bay County officials are working to remedy a shortage of public access points to Saginaw Bay.

County Executive Tom Hickner and others have been working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

They’re focusing in part on improvements that could be made to allow for greater public access to the shoreline at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bangor Township.

A just-released Lakefront & Beach Access Study Report funded by the county and DNR lists eight action strategies. Public input was received at a meeting at the Doubletree hotel in downtown Bay City.

The strategies include “universal access to an expanded groomed beach,” with a boardwalk and 1,000 feet of additional groomed beach.

The action strategies also include expanding muck removal along the beach.

 

3Have a happy Labor Day Weekend. Fall is almost here.

A new Pure Michigan Fall Travel Guide is rolling off the presses.

The 64-page guide highlights sights to see, places to go and activities including hiking, biking, and fall color tours in the state.

You can order the travel guide online at michigan.org.

A free digital edition is coming out soon, and will be accessible via computer and smartphones.

The first day of fall is Sept. 23.

 

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

Michigan Wind Energy Support, See-Through Solar, and Scrap Tire Roads

For Aug. 22, 2014 -

 

1A majority of Michigan officials support wind energy.

sunset through windows

Credit: Sarah Reid.

And, they support adding wind turbines in their communities to generate renewable energy.

In the fall of 2013, the University of Michigan’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy surveyed local leaders from more than 1,300 Michigan counties, cities, townships, and villages. The questions were about their governments’ experience with and attitudes toward wind energy.

Seventy nine percent of local government officials surveyed said they support additional land-based wind energy in Michigan. Fifty three percent say they would support adding wind turbines in their areas.

Local support for wind energy was highest, at 75 percent, in jurisdictions where large utility-scale turbines are already spinning, according to the Center’s report.

The survey had a margin of error of 1.4 percentage points.

Michigan is nearing a deadline to generate 10 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

 

2These solar panels are clearly better.

A team of researchers at Michigan State University has developed transparent solar panels. That is, a solar concentrator that when placed over a window will still allow you to see through the window.

It’s called a transparent luminescent solar concentrator and can be used on buildings, cell phones and any other device that has a clear surface, according to a news release.

The solar system uses small organic molecules developed by the researchers to absorb specific nonvisible wavelengths of sunlight.

Light is guided to the edge of concentrator where it is converted to electricity by thin strips of photovoltaic solar cells.

While the technology is at an early stage, it has the potential to be scaled to commercial or industrial applications with an affordable cost.

The research was featured in a recent issue of the journal Advanced Optical Materials.

 

3Scrap tires are being reused for Michigan road projects — rather than being buried, burned, or harboring mosquitoes.

Grants for road projects that reuse scrap tires have been awarded to Saginaw County and Vassar.

Saginaw County will receive about $128,000, while Vassar will receive about $35,000.

The grants are part of $2.5 million in funding awarded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The money will go to Rubber Modified Asphalt projects that mix rubber into asphalt. This mix provides advantages over traditional asphalt, including decreased road noise and improved friction. The DEQ says roads using Rubber Modified Asphalt also last longer, reducing future paving costs.

 

— 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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