Mich Enviro Report: SBCI Meeting, State Parks Gold Medal & Green Infrastructure

As heard Nov. 25, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM

1.

Local and state environmental officials are planning a meeting in Bay City about Saginaw Bay issues.

Cladophora algae. Via wisc.edu

The regional meeting of the Saginaw Bay Coastal Initiative is set for Monday, Nov. 28, at the Bay County Fairgrounds Canteen Building. It is set to run from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

On the agenda is an update on treatment projects conducted this year in Bay and Huron counties for phragmites, an invasive reed.

Also scheduled is a report on efforts to delist the bay for impairments related to beach closings and unwanted algae.

The Saginaw River and Bay were listed as a federal Area of Concern in the late 1980s.

But recent research indicates that beach closings due to bacteria have actually decreased in and around the bay.

State officials also say muck that has fouled shorelines along the bay is not an appropriate indicator of excessive algae.

2.

Michigan State Parks are the best in the nation.

State parks and recreation areas, like one in Bay County’s Bangor Township, recently received a Gold Medal from the National Recreation and Park Association.

Michigan beat out three other states for the top honor: North Carolina, Florida and Missouri. The news was highlighted in a recent dispatch from Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Grayling.

The gold medal recognizes the Michigan park system for long-range planning, resource management, and agency recognition.

In its application, the state Department of Natural Resources touted innovation, such as a lower-priced Recreation Passport now available when people renew their vehicle registrations. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder recently appointed a blue-ribbon panel to guide the state parks system into the future.

3.

A new report examines efforts by U.S. cities to combat stormwater-related pollution with green infrastructure.

That includes one area in Michigan.

The report is timely because the Environmental Protection Agency is considering changes to its stormwater management requirements.

And you may also have noticed that the U.S. has seen many extreme weather events in recent months. Such events, and even a little rain in the Bay City and Saginaw area area, can result in sewage overflows into the Saginaw River.

Among the 14 cities listed in the report is the Detroit Metro Area and Rouge River Watershed. The peer-reviewed report comes from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report says the 14 cities have improved their ability to manage stormwater and reduce runoff pollution, saved money and beautified their landscapes in the process.

How? With green infrastructure, which stops runoff pollution  by capturing rainwater and either storing it for future use or letting it filter back into the ground. Examples include green roofs, street trees, increased green space, rain barrels, rain gardens, and permeable pavement.

The report is called Rooftops to Rivers II.

For more information, see nrdc.org/rooftops

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Mich Enviro Report: Reptiles and Amphibians along Saginaw Bay & State Park Passports

As heard on Delta College radio, Q-90.1 FM … on Friday, 11-11-11 …

1.

A new visitor passport system is bringing in more money to Michigan state parks. 

According to Great Lakes Echo, Michigan Recreation Passports now allow almost 2 million vehicles access to all state parks.

The passports cost $10 per year and can be purchased when people renew their vehicle registrations.

Under the old system, annual visitor permits were more than $20 each.

But more people are purchasing the less-expensive yearly passes.

In the year since the passport program took effect, it has raised almost $19 million..

That money has paid for improvements to many state parks, including repairs to water and electrical systems, bathrooms and shower facilities.

The money generated under the new system is $7 million more under the previous system, in 2010.

2.

How many reptiles and amphibians live in the Saginaw Bay area?

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is working to conduct a broad survey of Saginaw Bay coastal habitats to document what reptiles and amphibians live there.

The conservancy says that amphibians and reptiles are particulary sensitive to water contamination and habitat disturbances.

The number of critters living in coastal habitats can often indicate environmental problems.

In that regard, the survey is being done to evaluate the integrity of local and regional ecosystems.

The results will help local and other decision-makers to determine how to best protect these animals and, if necessary, restore their habitats.

So far this year, portions of more than 30 square-miles of shoreline across the bay have been surveyed, according to the conservancy.

Twenty-three species were identified. The Blanding’s Turtle, a state Species of Special Concern, was observed in several locations. Also, the rare Four-toed Salamander was documented for one of the first times in the Thumb area.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy project is being funded by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality through  a grant from the  National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

3.

Mark your calendars.

There’s an informational meeting scheduled for Monday, Nov. 28, on Saginaw Bay coastal activities.

The meeting will provide an update on activities from the past year, including shoreline locations of treatment projects to control phragmites, an invasive plant, in Bay and Huron counties.

Also on tap is a report on beach closings and algae problems in the bay.

Further details, including a location for the Nov. 28 meeting, are to be announced soon.

You can check with the Bay County Environmental Affairs office, or tune in here for more information.

– Photo by Matt M.

Mich Enviro Report: Gypsy Moth Eggs, Water Power & Student Scientists

As heard Nov. 4, 2011, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

1.

Don’t scrape that tree. The Bay County Gypsy Moth Suppression Program is conducting egg mass surveys for the fall.

The surveys are used to determine the size of the Gypsy Moth population in wooded areas of the county.

If the egg mass surveys indicate that the population may be growing, the area will be included in spray operations next spring. The county program works to control the bugs, which feed on the leaves of hundreds of species of trees and other plants, commonly oak and aspen.

For that reason, residents are advised not to scrape egg masses off their trees until after the survey and count in increasing. A low count can disqualify a property from being sprayed next spring.

2.

A new study evaluates the impacts of power plants on Great Lakes water resources.

According to the Great Lakes Commission, about 90 percent of the electrical power in the Great Lakes basin is produced by thermoelectric plants, which use 26 billion gallons of water a day for cooling.

A commission report based on 18 months of research says that about 25 percent of water used for power generation in the basin comes from groundwater and tributaries.

The report also says about a quarter of all watersheds in the basin may be ecologically vulnerable to water withdrawals under certain “low-flow” conditions. Such conditions are likely to be more frequent in the future as the impacts of climate change become more severe.

The research is called the Great Lakes Energy-Water Nexus project.

The analysis also identified ways for public utilities to evaluate environmental impacts and use those results in decision-making, including requiring periodic water resource impact studies.

The Great Lakes Commission is an interstate compact agency established under state and federal law. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from eight member states. Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor.

3.

Three Bay area elementary schools were “Wired for Wind” in October.

Washington, Hampton and MacGregor schools received 4-H funding from Michigan State University to enhance their science education programs.

Students worked in teams to design light-weight, fast-moving wind turbine blades. The blades were then tested to see how much electricity they could potentially generate. The student scientists made changes to their designs based on the results.

The same program was conducted nationwide, as part of a Wired for Wind national science experiment.

The idea is to get young people involved in implementing alternatives to traditional energy production.

According to Bay County officials, there is a national shortage of young people pursuing science college majors and occupations. The 4-H organization is working on a goal to engage 1 million new young people in science, engineering, technology and applied math programs by the year 2013.

— Photo by John B.

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