White-Nose Syndrome in Michigan, Birds in Tawas, and Earth Day in Bay City

1 – White-nose syndrome has been confirmed in Michigan bats. 

Credit: USFWS.

Little brown bat; close-up of nose with fungus, New York, October 2008. Credit: USFWS.

The Department of Natural Resources says the serious disease has been detected for the first time within state borders.

White-nose syndrome has been found in three Michigan counties: Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac. The fungus is known to cause significant rates of illness and death in North American bats.

The DNR and partner organizations are now shifting gears from surveillance to working to stop the spread.

Five little brown bats showing disease characteristics were collected in February and March by researchers from Eastern Michigan University.

The disease was first documented in 2006 in a cave in upstate New York. Eleven species of bats have been infected and more than 6 million have died.

There are no known harmful effects to humans from White-nose syndrome.

But the DNR says the loss of bats due to the disease could be economically significant for agriculture and commercial forestry, leading to an increase in pests that are harmful to crops and trees.

Bat die-offs can be reported through an observation report on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/wildlife or by calling the DNR at 517-336-5030.

2 – The Tawas Point Birding Festival is May 15-18 in Iosco County.

The ninth annual festival will be based at the Tawas Bay Beach Resort in East Tawas. The Michigan Audubon Annual Conference will be held at the same time.

The Tawas Point festival will feature guided birding walks at area hotspots, along with programs and talks by some of Michigan’s leading wildlife experts. Some events are already sold out.

Tawas Point is a spring destination for birders from around the country and the world.

The “Point” is well known for high concentrations of migrating warblers during the month of May. More than 200 species of birds were recorded during the festival weekend in 2013.


3 – The city of Bay City has plans for Earth Day.

The 20th annual Ed Golson compost event is Saturday, April 26, at Veterans Memorial Park. It starts at 8 a.m., and ends when the compost is gone.

Little League teams will be collecting donations to offset their utility expenses. The compost can be shoveled, and it’s known as “black gold” for the benefits it brings to gardens.

There’s also a “Clean Up Bay City” event on April 26, sponsored by the mayor and city neighborhood groups. That’s from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with opportunities for residents to recycle and reduce their excess bulk trash.

ReLeaf Michigan also will have a pick-up location at Bay City Electric Light & Power for people who that have purchased trees for planting.

More information is available on the city’s website, at baycitymi.org.

Manure Runoff, Lake Huron Summit, and Solar Panel Glare

1A broad coalition is calling for an end to the use of manure as fertilizer in the winter.

A furry moth eye. Credit: Andrew Magill.

A furry moth eye. Credit: Andrew Magill.

The groups have called on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to end the application of manure on frozen ground, or ground covered by snow.

A general permit for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, is currently being revised by the DEQ.

The coalition includes the Alliance for the Great Lakes, Michigan Clean Water Action, Michigan Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.

The groups say the problem is runoff from snowmelt and thaw that pollutes lakes and streams. That runoff contains phosphorus, which feeds harmful algal blooms in waters like Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay.

The groups say the practice of applying manure in the winter has damaged beaches, fisheries and drinking-water supplies. They say intakes in Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron also are at risk.

2Success stories from citizens will be featured at a Lake Huron Watershed Summit.

The event is on Friday, April 25, at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Alpena. It’s being put on by Huron Pines and the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG).

The Summit will feature a series of citizen presenters, breakout sessions to share lessons learned, and a State of the Lake panel of natural resource experts.

Topics covered throughout the day will include waterfront practices, local planning, habitat projects, and invasive species removal

For more information, visit VolunteerNorthernMichigan.org.

3Glare from solar panels has been an issue in places like Midland County’s Homer Township, where residents have complained about solar fields next to the Rose Glen subdivision.

It’s also come up in places like California, which has a lot more solar panels than Michigan.

Now, researchers at the University of California in Irvine have developed a gold coating that they say dims the glare from solar panels.

They say the light-absorbing, water-repellant material was inspired by the eyeballs of moths.

Scientists found that a simple process and a tiny bit of gold can turn a transparent film black.

The new coating also could allow people to read cellphone displays in bright light.

The university has patented the work and is exploring ways to bring the product to market.

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

Bay City-Midland Earth Day Events, and More Solar for Michigan

1 – The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is hosting an Arbor Day party.

winterberries flickr

Via Flickr


The event is at Discovery Preserve, across from Monitor Lanes in Bay City.

They’re calling it the Arbor Day Winterberry Blitz.

The conservancy will be planting 50-75 American Winterberries for Arbor Day, on Friday, April 25, from 3-6 p.m.

The shrubs are great for bird and other wildlife because they provide shelter and a food source during the winter months.

People of all ages are welcome to come out and help.

The Blitz is sponsored by ITC Holdings. There will be snacks, refreshments and work gear available.

Discovery Preserve was formerly known as Euclid Linear Park.

The Conservancy took votes from the public earlier this year to decide on a new nickname.

2 – Earth Day is April 22, and Chippewa Nature Center in Midland is hosting a bunch of activities to celebrate.

The Experience Earth Day event is from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, April 26.

Children and adults will be able to plant a young tree or bush to help enrich the biodiversity at the center, as well as learn about invasive exotic plants, and help pull invasive garlic mustard.

There also will be tours of the center’s LEED-certified Nature Preschool Building.

You can take home native wildflower seeds and also learn about native Michigan plants, recycling programs, and ways your family can live a “green” lifestyle.

Chippewa Nature Center is on Badour Road in Midland.

3 – DTE Energy has expanded its SolarCurrents program for the third time.

The pilot program allows DTE Energy electric customers to purchase and install solar photovoltaic systems at their home or business by offering financial incentives to help offset out-of-pocket costs. In return, DTE Energy receives renewable energy credits to help it meet the state’s renewable energy standard.

The utility recently selected a third round of projects for SolarCurrents.

The expansion will add 2 megawatts by the end of 2015. DTE had to hold a random drawing for the program because customers submitted 219 applications.

A total of 122 projects were chosen. There were 103 residential awards and 19 small business projects.

A fourth offering is planned for later this year. The deadline is July 23.

You can find out more at DTEEnergy.com/solar.



Energy Attitudes, Spring Migration, and Clean Water Rules

1 – When it comes to energy, what’s more important – the cost, or environmental impact?

On average, consumers believe home energy bills would have to nearly double before they’d be forced to make lifestyle changes to save on costs, according to a new University of Michigan survey.

The U-M Energy Survey was conducted for the first time in October 2013. It also found that consumers believe home energy bills will rise more than the cost of gasoline over the next five years.

According to federal data, the average U.S. household spent about $2,000 last year on home energy, including electricity and other household fuels. The average household spent about $900 more per year on gasoline.

In the survey, more people also expressed concern about environmental damage from energy than they did about the cost of energy.

sandhill crane flickr kates

A sandhill crane. Credit: Phil Kates.

2 – Spring is here, but you wouldn’t know it based on the weather.

However, recent sightings at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge indicate that the spring migration has started.

Several types of birds have arrived at the refuge in Saginaw County, including the Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Song Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, and Common Grackle.

The songs of the Red-winged Blackbird have even been heard, and several waterbird species have arrived, including more than 40 Sandhill Cranes.

You can find bird sighting reports on the refuge’s Facebook page.

3 – A long-awaited federal rule would help protect the Great Lakes.

The Obama Administration has released a proposed rule to clarify which waters of the United States are protected from pollution and destruction by the Clean Water Act.

The National Wildlife Federation says the rule would be a big step forward in the effort to restore the overall health of the lakes, along with its streams and wetlands.

The rule, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would give the federal government regulatory authority over millions of acres of wetlands, and about 2 million miles of streams, according to The Washington Post.

Read more at the EPA’s website.

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

Saginaw Bay Algae Events, WIN Earth Day Contest, and Warblers in Ogemaw

1Two upcoming events will focus on environmental issues in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.


The first is a speaker series being hosted by the Partnership for the Saginaw Bay Watershed, to discuss nutrient levels and nuisance algae in the bay. The event is from 1-3 p.m. on April 24 at the Wirt Public Library in downtown Bay City. It also will discuss ongoing projects by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey to better understand and manage the bay’s algae problems.

And, a Wayne State University researcher will present “An Integrated Assessment of Beach Muck and  Public Perception at the Bay City State Recreation Area.”

The second event is a Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference, being coordinated by the Michigan State Land Policy Institute and groups throughout the watershed. That event is on June 12 at Saginaw Valley State University’s Curtiss Hall.

The day-long conference will focus on “tools and strategies for protecting water quality, the critical need for action and the development of local policies to protect and restore the Saginaw Bay.”

2Fifty words or less could be worth $1,000 to a local nonprofit.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network is looking for short descriptions of projects for an Earth Day Contest.

The ideas need to be related to conservation, public access to natural resources, natural resource-based recreation and education, or energy efficiency.

If you can describe the project in 50 words or less, your favorite nonprofit can win a grant to help support it.

Ideas will be posted to the Saginaw Watershed Initiative Network’s Facebook page, and the one with most votes will receive the grant.

The deadline is April 9. The award is to be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

3Which Michigan county is home to the largest number of nesting Kirtland’s warblers?

The answer: Ogemaw County. The endangered birds nest in 12 counties in Northern Michigan. Out of more than 2,000 singing males counted in a 2013 census, 26 percent were found in Ogemaw.

Why Ogemaw? Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, notes that conservation programs which help the warbler also also help protect other natural resources in the region.

Ogemaw contains the headwaters of the Rifle River, which flows for 60 miles and empties into Saginaw Bay.

The group is looking for volunteers to help keep the river clean. You can find out more at Huron Pine’s website.

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


A Cleaner Kawkawlin, Installing Home Solar Systems, and Sewage $ for Saginaw Bay

1 - The Kawkawlin River is getting a little cleaner.

A group of more than 18 organizations have teamed up to help improve the river’s water quality through continued research, public education, land protection, improved farming practices, septic system maintenance, and recreation, according to a news release.

The group includes Delta College, Saginaw Valley State University ,the Kawkawlin River Watershed Property Owners Association, the Little Forks Conservancy in Midland, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy in Bay City, the Bay Conservation District, and departments and offices in Bay County government. The project is supported by state and federal grants.

As one example, the Bay Conservation District is working with growers to change farming practices and protect soil health, reduce soil erosion, and nutrient pollution. Technical and financial assistance is available to those who qualify.

So far, more than 2,700 acres of cover crops and other practices are in place, and have been verified to be reducing sediment and nutrient runoff. Twelve grade stabilization structures are to be installed this spring.

The Kawkawlin River Watershed covers about 144,000 acres of land in Bay, Midland, Gladwin, and Saginaw counties that drains to the Kawkawlin River. There have been ongoing problems with bacterial contamination in the river, resulting in closures and public health advisories.

  • Little Forks is holding a March 19 meeting for landowners interested in conservation easements. It’s at the North Midland Family Center, from 6-8 p.m. RSVP by calling (989) 835-4886.

2 - Do you remember sunshine and warm days?

In the midst of Michigan’s ongoing winter, utility officials and environmental groups are drafting a plan they say can lead to wider development of solar energy in the state.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy are involved in the workgroup.

A goal is to provide a strong basis for requiring utilities to establish ongoing programs that help residents and businesses install their own solar systems, according to Clean Energy Now.

A final report is expected in June. The report could recommend expansion of DTE’s SolarCurrents Program and Consumers’ Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP).

Michigan’s renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015 expires next year.

3 - A new state program to maintain sewers in cities and towns has been infused with $97 million.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has made grant and loan awards under the state’s Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater program.

Grant assistance will go for stormwater management planning, stormwater and wastewater project planning and design, and testing and demonstration of innovative technology.

Loans will assist with the construction of projects derived from the plans.

Grants in the Saginaw Bay area include: $1.1 million to East Tawas, about $407,000 to Roscommon, $472,000 to Frankenlust Township, $1.1 million to Bangor Township, and almost $1 million to the city of Auburn.

Grants will be used for assessing how to schedule and pay for maintenance and upgrades to stormwater and sewer systems.

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

Trash from Canada Going Up, Weadock Plant Shutting Down .. and Trees

1 – More trash went into Michigan landfills last year.

According to the latest solid waste report from the Department of Environmental Quality, state residents are throwing away less trash, with volumes down a half percent in fiscal year 2013 compared to 2012.

Still, overall waste to state landfills increased by 1.4 percent, due to a rise in garbage from other states and Canada.

Michigan landfills took in almost 7.7 million cubic yards of trash from Canada in 2013, and about 34.5 million cubic yards from state residents.

solid waste landfills michigan

Solid waste landfills in the Bay City, Michigan, area. Click for the full map from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

At current rates, Michigan has about 28 years left before its landfills are at capacity.

Bay County residents disposed of about 380,000 cubic yards of trash. Saginaw County threw out about 708,000 cubic yards.

The report covers the 2013 fiscal year, from October 2012 through September 2013. Read the whole thing here.

2Consumers Energy is shutting down some of its coal-burning power plants, including in Bay County.

Consumers has hired an engineering company called AMEC to decommission seven operating units at its three oldest coal-fired generating plants.

The units are located at the Karn-Weadock complex on Saginaw Bay in Hampton Township, the J.R. Whiting site in Monroe County, and the B.C. Cobb site in Muskegon.

The Weadock portion of the Karn-Weadock complex will be decommissioned, according to The Muskegon Chronicle. Consumers officials have told Michigan regulators that it’s not economical to bring those units (7 and 8) into compliance with federal air quality standards.

The units being shut down across the state have been operating for an average of 60 years, and Consumers plans to retire them by April 2016.

Consumers Energy plans to purchase a 540-megawatt, natural-gas power plant in Jackson to partially offset the planned retirements.

3The ground may be frozen, but trees for planting are available.

The Bay County Soil Conservation District is again sponsoring a spring tree sale.

You can order seedlings of spruce, pine and fir in quantities of 50, 100, 500, or 1,000.

Transplant species of spruce, pine, cedar, balsam and fir can be ordered in multiples of five.

Fruit trees such as apple, pear and cherry also are available, along with strawberry, blueberry, raspberry and grape plants.

For more information, you can call the District office at 684-1040. The District also holds another tree sale in the fall.

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


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