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.

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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.

Skin Cancer, and Energy, from the Sun

For July 18, 2014

 

If you’re going to be spending time in the sun, protect yourself with sunglasses, sunscreen, and take a break in the shade.

Your eyes and skin need protection while swimming, hiking, boating or fishing. The sun emits radiation in the form of ultraviolet (UV) rays. Those rays will be highest around noon on a clear sunny day. UV levels also will be highest near surfaces that reflect sunlight — like water and sand.

Exposure to UV rays can cause sunburn, skin aging, eye damage and skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. An estimated 76,100 United States residents will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2014. For Michigan, the estimates are 2,830 people, according to the American Cancer Society.

July is UV Safety Month.

 

The sun is not all bad. It provides plenty of opportunities for clean energy generation.

bright sun pylon

Credit: Craig Chew-Moulding.

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association has announced a partnership with Localstake Marketplace of Indiana. The company has launched a renewable energy crowdfunding Web page to encourage the development of solar and renewable energy projects in Michigan.

The idea is to connect investors to Michigan projects. The new program is called the Michigan Solar Funding Platform.

Localstake will review and vet all Michigan projects that use the platform. The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association will encourage business and individual members to use the site and provide education on crowdfunding to project developers, investors, and the general public.

Right now, businesses and potential investors are being asked to sign up. Later on, nvestors will be able to research proposed renewable energy projects in the state and support those they want to see built by investing as little as $250.

 

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

 

Nature Preserve in Midland County, Conservation Funding for Saginaw Bay Farmers

For July 11 (on a summer schedule)

 

1 – A new nature preserve in Midland County will be dedicated this weekend. 

Szok preserve midland county

Via Little Forks Conservancy.

The Little Forks Conservancy will officially open the Albert and Virginia Szok Preserve to the public at a ceremony at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 12. Following the dedication, guests are invited to explore the property.

The 8-acre property was donated to Conservancy by the children of Albert and Virginia Szok in memory of their parents. The new preserve is located within the Pine Haven Recreation Area at the end of Maynard Road, along 1,200 feet of the Salt River.

A short hiking trail and bench will be added to the property for users to enjoy the beauty along the river’s edge.

Albert Szok was a long-time Midland Public Schools teacher, who helped develop environmental education programs for the Chippewa Nature Center and environmental education standards for the state of Michigan.

Chippewa Watershed Conservancy will help permanently protect the preserve through a conservation easement donated to them by the Szok family.

2 – Conservation funding is available for agricultural producers in the Saginaw Bay area.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will make $6.3 million in conservation financial assistance available to private landowners in Michigan to help improve water quality and wildlife habitat around the Great Lakes.

The financial assistance is available to farmers and agricultural producers in selected Michigan watersheds through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers and landowners interested in obtaining assistance to implement conservation improvements on their land must apply before Aug. 1. The financial assistance is available to agricultural producers in the Saginaw Bay area, the Western Lake Erie Basin, and areas of Northern Michigan near the Great Lakes.

Conservation activities like planting cover crops and installing buffer strips can help improve water quality in the Great Lakes. A portion of the funding is targeted to reducing the amount of phosphorus runoff that contributes to algal blooms that damage aquatic habitat and water quality.

More information is available online from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

 

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

 

Climate Action for Michigan, a Response to Great Lakes Debris

For June 12, 2014

 

1- How does a proposed federal Climate Action Plan affect Michigan?

michigan power plants

The location of fossil fuel fired power covered by the proposed Clean Power Plan.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a related Clean Power Plan to curb pollution from power plants. The plan would help cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30 percent below 2005 levels.

According to an EPA analysis, the proposal would require Michigan to develop a plan to lower its carbon pollution to meet a carbon dioxide emission rate goal of 1,161 pounds per megawatt hour.

Right now, Michigan’s power sector emits about 535 more pounds per megawatt hour. The Midland Gogeneration Venture and the J.C. Weadock plant in Bay County would both be covered by the rule.

Michigan would be able to choose how to meet the goal through various measures.

Strategies include efficiency programs, improving power plant operations, and renewable energy standards. Michigan’s current renewable energy standard of 10 percent expires in 2015.

Power plants are the largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. About half of Michigan’s energy comes from coal.

 

2 – Just in time for the summer, there’s an action plan for addressing debris in the Great Lakes.

We’re talking about plastics and litter, abandoned vessels, and old fishing gear.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released a first-of-its-kind Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan.

The Plan focuses on debris generated on land, which is often blown, swept, or washed out into the lakes.

The action part involves work that partners will undertake in the next five years, through 2019.

One objective is to remove 200 tons of land-based marine debris from Great Lakes environments.

Backers say there’s a role for everyone in the plan, from the citizen who picks up litter from beaches and watersheds; to organizations that support a wide range of activities like cleanup, research, education, and outreach.

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

 

Farm Bill Funding for Saginaw Bay, Beach Wellness, and Finding Endangered Dragonflies

For May 30, 2014


1The Great Lakes have been designated as a Critical Conservation Area.

stabenow saginaw bay

U.S. Sen Debbie Stabenow.

That means the region will be eligible for increased funding from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program under the 2014 Farm Bill.

The announcement was made this week in Bangor Township by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The program, created by Stabenow in the new Farm Bill, will strengthen the Saginaw Bay region’s ability to address priority watersheds with the greatest conservation needs.

The program will provide opportunities for public-private partnerships to address soil erosion, habitat protection and water quality, according to the Great Lakes Commission.

The designation of the Great Lakes as one of eight Critical Conservation Areas in the U.S. means it’s a target region for clean water projects, and there will be additional funding available to address water quality issues, Stabenow says.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will provide $1.2 billion in funding over the life of the five-year program and can leverage an additional $1.2 billion from partners for a total of $2.4 billion for conservation.

The 2014 Farm Bill was approved by Congress in February.

 

2The 8th Annual Beach Wellness Event will be held on Saturday, June 21, at the Bay City Recreation Area in Bangor Township.

A range of events start at 9 a.m. and will be held throughout the day for all levels of competition and ages.

That includes a 10K and 5K run, a 5K walk, and a quarter-mile run for kids. There also will be a volleyball tournament for adults and kids, and a classic car cruise.

All proceeds from this year’s Beach Wellness Event will go for grooming the public beach at the state park. Save Our Shoreline has already donated $1,500.

Sign-up info for the runs and walk are available at runsignup.com. You can contact the YMCA in Bay City for info on the volleyball tournament.

More than $70,000 has been raised from previous Beach Wellness events.


3Have you seen the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly?

hines emerald dragonfly

An adult Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is the focus of this coastal habitat conservation project in northeast Michigan. Photo credit: David Cuthrell, Michigan Natural Features Inventory

A coalition of agencies and organizations are working together to find and protect the insect, which lives in only a few places in the Great Lakes, including Northeast Michigan.

People are being invited to join in a new “citizen science” effort led by partners including Huron Pines in Gaylord and Michigan Sea Grant.

About 150 species of dragonflies and damselflies are known to inhabit Michigan, according to Sea Grant.

The Hine’s emerald dragonfly is rare, in part, due to its specific northern fen habitat requirements. That habitat is threatened by development and the invasion of high impact, non-native species.

The citizen science effort is a two-year project aimed at involving people in protecting the dragonfly and high quality natural habitats at two state parks along the shores of northern Lake Huron. Participants will conduct field surveys for larval habitat and invasive species.

 

— 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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