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.

 

Scooping up Dioxins and Mapping Coastal Wetlands

For Aug. 15, 2014

Update, Aug. 18: A comment link has been posted http://www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/pubcomment-201408.html

1The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a plan to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil in frequently flooded areas along the Tittabawassee River.

The floodplain includes about 4,500 acres and extends along 21 miles of the river below the Dow Chemical Co. plant in Midland.

The proposed plan calls for a combination of steps, according to EPA:

If tests show a high-enough contamination level in homeowners’ yards, workers will dig up and remove contaminated soil, replace it with clean soil, and restore grasses and plants.

In other areas, such as farms, parks, and the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, contaminated soil will be trucked away for disposal or covered with clean material. Some areas will be replanted.

EPA is accepting comments on the proposed cleanup plan through Oct. 14. (As of 2 p.m. Eastern on Aug. 15, a comment link was not available at www.epa.gov/region5/cleanup/dowchemical/). A public meeting is planned for Sept. 24 in Freeland.

2- A Central Michigan University helicopter is on the job.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The tiny, six-foot-long chopper is being used by Central Michigan University researchers to study Great Lakes coastal wetlands.

The craft is fitted with a high-resolution digital camera. It was recently in the sky at Wilderness State Park near Carp Lake, along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

The ‘copter’s onboard camera took thousands of aerial photos that researchers will use to map locations of Pitcher’s thistle, a threatened native plant that grows on beaches and grassland dunes along the shorelines of Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.

The CMU researchers hope data from the helicopter, along with ground sampling efforts, will allow scientists to cover larger areas and get a better understanding of how ecosystems around the Great Lakes are changing.

The project has research support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The helicopter’s aerial method of data collection and mapping is relatively new technology.

Pitcher’s thistle, an important food source for certain birds and small mammals, was once fairly common in sand dune ecosystems of Michigan. Its numbers have declined in recent decades due to habitat destruction associated with shoreline development, recreational use, and  invasive plant species.

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

Making Your Own Power and Watching the Perseid Meteor Shower

For Aug. 8, 2014

 

1More people are generating their own power in Michigan.

The latest annual net metering and solar pilot program report from the Michigan Public Service Commission shows an 18 percent increase in the program’s size compared to 2012.

Under a net metering program, customers receive a credit when they produce electric energy in excess of their needs.

Since 2008, net metering has increased by almost 1,500 customers.

In 2013, the number of net metering customers increased by almost 200, going from 1,330 to 1,527.

Solar was the most popular, with 221 customer installations totaling 1,674 kilowatts in 2013. Some customers have multiple installations.

The state’s two largest utilities — Consumers Energy and DTE Electric — host 83 percent of the total net metering program capacity in Michigan, according to the PSC.

 

2 – The night sky is worth watching.

perseid meteor shower michigan

Credit: Dominic Alves.

One of the biggest and most-visible astronomical events of the year is happening this month.

It’s the Perseid meteor shower.

Some state parks in Michigan are staying open late and hosting “Meteors and S’Mores” events from Aug. 9-16 in honor of this natural light show.

Many of the events include astronomy presentations — along with chocolate, marshmellows and graham crackers.

Parks that are hosting meteor shower gatherings include the Rifle River Recreation Area in Ogemaw County, at 10 p.m. on Aug. 12; and North Higgins Lake State Park in Crawford County, at 9 p.m. on Aug. 12.

On Saturday, Aug. 16, Hartwick Pines State Park in Crawford County will host an event at 8 p.m.

More information is available online at michigan.gov/GoGetOutdoors.

 

3Speaking of the outdoors, the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is putting kids in nature.

Kids in Nature events are planned for the Discovery Preserve at Euclid Park in coming months.

All the events are at the park in Bay City, and open to the public. But you’re asked to register in advance at sblc-mi.org.

There’s a butterfly walk on Tuesday, Aug. 19, from 2-4 p.m.

On Sept. 16, there’s a twilight hike from 6-8 p.m.

On Nov. 16, you can bring the kids to look for Mammal Tracks from 2-4 p.m.

The tours, again, will be at the Discovery Preserve at Euclid Park, formerly known as Euclid Linear Park, at 1701 S. Euclid Avenue in Bay City.

 

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

Conservation in Saginaw, Michigan Beaches are 7th Best, and Where Your Rec Money Goes

For Aug. 1, 2014

 

1“Taking Root in Saginaw” is the name of a new effort by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy.

beaches, michigan, usa

A look at all the beaches examined in the 2014 Testing the Waters report, from NRDC.

The Bay City-based conservancy is partnering with The Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square, Ducks Unlimited, and Saginaw County Parks.

A grant for the project comes from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, also based in Bay City.

The idea is to connect people with nature in the city of Saginaw.

Through the project, the Conservancy and its partners will identify land use within the city limits, and determine how the Conservancy can improve access, education, and conservation in the community.

Then, Taking Root will welcome local groups to play an active role in enhancing their community through conservation.

There are hundreds of acres of vacant land in Saginaw, and the Conservancy hopes to make conservation and restoration a realistic, attainable option for some of those properties.

 

2Michigan beaches are in the Top 10 nationally when it comes to water quality.

But being No. 7 still has its challenges.

The Natural Resources Defense Council recently released a Testing the Waters report.

The report looks at the results of government-funded water quality testing at beaches throughout the Great Lakes.

Michigan ranked seventh in beach water quality out of data from 30 states.

Six percent of samples in Michigan exceeded a national Beach Action Value for E. coli bacteria in 2013.

The beaches with the highest percent exceedance rates were Singing Bridge Beach, Hammel Beach Road Access, Bessinger Road Beach, and Whites Beach, all in Arenac County.

Representatives from Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, say they’re working with partners to see how specific projects may be able to help address the Arenac County beach problems.

 

3To enter a state park, you need to buy a recreation passport.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has been using the money from those passports to make improvements at parks throughout the state.

The DNR says more than a dozen of Michigan’s 102 state parks have recently completed infrastructure upgrades to campgrounds and day-use areas.

The improvements were made with revenue from the passports, and a State Parks Endowment Fund.

The work has ranged from overhauling outdated electrical and sewer systems to the construction of new showers, along with campsites with access for the disabled.

The upgrades have included South Higgins Lake State Park in Roscommon.

That park has received new roadways, a boat launch and a boat wash.

Boaters are encouraged to use the boat wash to clean, drain and dry their boats before and after launching. This can help curb the spread of invasive species. The boat wash will be free and available to the public on a seasonal basis.

— 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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