Mich Enviro Report: Phragmites, Purple Loosestrife & Teaching in Bay City

As heard Sept. 30, 2011, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

1. An environmental teaching conference is coming to Bay City.

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education is holding its 23rd Annual Conference from Oct. 7-9 at the Delta College Planetarium in downtown Bay City.

The event will bring together teachers, naturalists, and outdoor recreation leaders from throughout the Midwest.

This year’s conference will explore the concept of sustainability and ways to address the concept in teaching practices. Topics to be discussed include earth science and technology, Michigan agriculture and freshwater studies.

Field trips also are planned aboard the Appledore schooners, operated by BaySail, and to the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center at the Bay City State Recreation Area.

2. Invasive reeds are being doused along Saginaw Bay.

The reeds are a plant called phragmites, which have sprouted up along large parts of the bay shoreline in recent years. Bay County officials say aerial spraying to control the plants will be done along the the shoreline at the county-owned Pinconning Park  and Fraser Township’s Linwood Scenic Park.

The aerial treatment will be done by helicopter, weather permitting, sometime during the next several weeks.

A herbicide mixture will be used to treat areas with dense stands of phragmites, which can grow to be more than 10 feet high.

There will be a 24-hour water use restriction in the treatment areas with signs posted against swimming and wading at the sites.

Phragmites is a perennial wetland grass.

It thrives in coastal and inland environments, chokes out native habitat for birds and mammals, and makes it difficult for humans and wildlife to access the water bodies it surrounds.

A chemical released through the plant’s root system also can kill fish.

3. Other invasive plants have already been removed by Huron Pines Invasive Species SWAT Team.

The group says it’s removed every blossom of purple loosestrife on the North Branch of the Au Sable River.

In August and September, the team covered more than 20 acres of riverbank, pulling and digging out single and small groups of plants. They also clipped blossoms from large areas to prevent seeds from entering the river.

The team of volunteers received assistance from the North Branch River Keepers.

Purple loosestrife is a perennial herb native to Eurasia.

It decreases native vegetation, can alter a wetland’s structure and function, and forms a dense monoculture where it grows.

— Photo by Liz West/CC

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Great Lakes News Bullets: Bangor Energy Expo & Dow Corning Solar Decathlon

As heard Friday, Sept. 16, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …

1.

A second-annual Energy Expo is planned for Saturday, Sept. 24, at Bangor Township Hall in Bay County.

The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is sponsored by the Bangor Township Green Team.

Rain barrels, which allow people to save on their water bills, will be sold at the event.

Information also will be available on:

  • Saving money with energy efficent lighting;
  • Insulating your home; and
  • The availability of solar and wind power in the area.

Vendors from throughout Mid-Michigan will be on hand to answer questions and provide demonstrations of their alternative energy and cost-saving products.

The Energy Expo is free and open to the public.

2.

College students from around the country will converge on Washington, D.C., next week for the fifth Solar Decathlon.

The event, held on the National Mall, is sponsored in part by the Dow Corning Corp., headquartered in Bay County’s Williams Township.

The U.S. Department of Energy is putting on the Decathlon, to challenge students to design, build, and operate solar-powered homes.

The decathlon runs from Sept. 23 through Oct. 2.

Students will be judged, in part, on their ability to keep costs low while designing and building their projects.

Technologies to be used in the homes include:

  • Roofs that store and treat rainwater collection for household use;
  • Window systems that allow net heat gain over the course of a year;
  • Self-watering, plant walls which provide food and carbon cycle systems;
  • Ventilation systems that regulate air distribution and fresh air supply without energy consumption; and
  • Landscapes that provide food, modify microclimate, reduce solar heat gain, and prevent storm water runoff.

The winner of the competition will be the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

For more information, see solardecathlon.gov.

– Photo Credit: USDOE

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Mich Enviro Report: Bay County Wind Turbine, GLRI Money & a Hall of Fame

As heard Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …

1.

Bay County officials expect to save on utility costs with a newly installed wind turbine.

The 4-kilowatt vertical axis turbine was installed recently at the Bay County Community Center in Bay City.

The equipment was paid for with a federal energy efficiency grant totaling almost $600,000, and installed by Affordable Green Energy of Essexville.

This is the second wind turbine installed on Bay County property and funded by the grant. The first was earlier this year at the county’s Juvenile Home in Hampton Township.

Besides the two turbines, the grant also has paid for energy-saving equipment at the Bay County Building and Bay County Civic Arena.

Altogether, Bay County officials say they expect to save 20 percent on utility costs with equipment purchased through the grant.

2.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funding a number of new projects in Michigan.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced awards of about $4.7 million in grants through the federally funded initiative.

The newly funded projects include money for mapping harmful algal blooms on the Great Lakes. These blooms affect water quality in Saginaw Bay and can result in beach closings.

Central Michigan University also is receiving money to establish gull exclusion zones at public beaches.

And funding is going to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for sediment reduction in the Sebewaing River Watershed.

The 12 grants in Michigan are among 70 grants totaling nearly $30 million that EPA has awarded this year under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

3.

Who would you nominate to the Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame?

A nonprofit called the Muskegon Environmental Research and Education Society has formed a Michigan Environmental Hall of Fame.

Society officials tell The Muskegon Chronicle it’s the first of its kind in the state.

The Hall of Fame is taking nominations for the first class to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the spring.

Nominations are due by Feb. 20.

Michigan environmental groups are being recruited to help spread the word about the hall of fame and the nomination process.

— Photo via AGE

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Mich Enviro Report: Design to Zero, DTE Wind Farms & Dog Poop Science

As heard Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM

1.

Midland-based Dow Chemical has launched a contest for students, based on sustainable home design.

The Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition challenges students to use solar and other sustainable technologies to design three connected dwellings that use as little energy as possible.

The challenge is open to design, architecture and engineering students from around the world.

Registration runs through Sept. 25. Final housing designs must be submitted by Oct. 31.

The contest offers first, second and third prizes of $20,000-$5,000. Winners are to be announced in January 2012. Individual students or student teams can enter.

For more information, see designtozero.com.

2.

More wind farms are slated for Michigan’s Thumb.

DTE Energy has signed a contract to purchase 120 megawatts of power from a wind farm located in Tuscola, Bay and Saginaw counties.

DTE will purchase all of the energy produced at the 9,000-acre wind farm, which is enough to power more than 30,000 homes. The wind farm , planned by NextEra Energy, is expected to be operational in late 2012.

The latest contract puts DTE more than halfway to a goal of getting 1,000 megawatts, or 10 percent, of its power from renewable sources. A state law requires utilities to get 10 percent of their power from renewables by 2015.

DTE also has hired a Southfield company to build three additional wind farms in Huron and Sanilac counties next year. Up to 70 turbines are to be installed, with a total capacity of about 110 megawatts. Initial delivery of the wind turbines is expected in the summer of 2012.

Together, the two projects are expected to result in hundreds of new construction jobs and tens of millions of dollars in new tax money for local governments.

3.

The air in Michigan and other Great Lakes’ states is being fouled by … dog poop.

That’s according to a study that was highlighted recently by Great Lakes Echo.

The University of Colorado-Boulder study found that the winter air in Cleveland and Detroit had large amounts of bacteria that most likely came from dog feces.

The researchers analyzed 108 summer and winter air samples from four Great Lakes cities, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Mayville, Wisconsin.  The samples were checked for common sources of airborne bacteria, including different types of feces.

High levels of bacteria common to dog feces were found in all four cities. But the levels in Detroit and Cleveland spiked dramatically in the winter.

Why? Well, one theory is that dog owners just don’t scoop the poop as often in the winter.

The difference in the fecal bacteria levels by city also may be explained by the number of dogs who live there. The study says Detroit has a problem with stray dogs. Airborne bacteria can cause disease and trigger asthma and seasonal allergies.

-Photo by F. Deventhal

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