36 Against a Weak Ballast Water Permit, Michigan Green Schools & Landfills Filling Up

The Delta College Q-90.1 FM Environment Report, heard Fridays at 9 a.m. as part of the award-winning Friday Edition segment.

The report for Feb. 24, 2012:

More Green Schools 

Schools in Bay County are encouraged to become part of a Michigan Green Schools project.

In 2006, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed the “Michigan Green School Act.” The law grants a “Michigan Green School” designation to any public or private school in in the state that meets certain criteria.

To become a Michigan Green School, a school must achieve 10 of 20 possible points for environmental and energy-saving measures in an academic year.

There are currently four designated Green Schools in Bay County:

  • Bangor West Elementary School;
  • Christa McAuliffe Middle School;
  • Lincoln Elementary; and,
  • Pinconning High and Middle Schools.

The Bay County Environmental Affairs and Community Development Department is serving as the clearinghouse for all schools in Bay County under the project. The application deadline for this year is March 1.

Blasting Weak Ballast Standards

Dozens of environmental and conservation groups say a proposed federal ballast water permit to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes is too weak.

Comments were due this week to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on a proposed permit to regulate ballast water discharges from commercial vessels.

Conservation groups assert that the permit still leaves the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters vulnerable to the introduction and spread of invasive species—and does not adhere to the Clean Water Act. Invasive species already established in the lakes via ballast water discharge include aebra mussels, spiny water fleas and round gobies.

The groups are asking the EPA to

  • Adopt a zero-discharge standard for invasive species;
  • Adopt the most protective technology standards nationwide;
  • Adopt standards for lakers, or ships that stay within the basin; and,
  • Develop a faster implementation timeline to implement new technology standards.

A coalition of 36 groups teamed up to  submit comments on the proposal. Their comments say the permit, as written,  leaves the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters vulnerable to the further introduction and spread of invasive species, and does not adhere to standards of the Clean Water Act.

The groups submitting the comments include

  • the Alliance for the Great Lakes;
  • Great Lakes United;
  • the National Wildlife Federation;
  • Natural Resources Defense Council; and,
  • the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council.

The EPA is due to issue a final permit by Nov. 30.

24 Years Left

Do you need another reason to recycle?

photo michigan landfill report imported trash

Via Michigan landfill report, DEQ

Michigan landfills have about 24 years of disposal capacity left, according to a state report.

The Department of Environmental Quality report (pdf) says the volume of solid waste sent to landfills in the state dropped by about 1 percent in 2011.

Waste disposed of by Michigan residents and businesses increased by about 3 percent. Waste imported from other states and Canada decreased by about 13 percent.

DEQ officials say they expect Canadian waste volumes will continue to decrease during the next year under a commitment from the province of Ontario.

Still, Canada remains the largest source of waste imports into Michigan, accounting for more than 15 percent of all waste disposed of in Michigan landfills.

Next to Canada, the most out-of-state waste into Michigan comes from Ohio and Indiana.

Invasive Mussels Thrive, Native Mussels Endangered & a Restoration Update

The Delta College Q-90.1 FM Environment Report, heard Fridays at 9 a.m. as part of the award-winning Friday Edition segment.

The report for Feb. 17, 2012:

photo endangered freshwater mussel usfws rayed bean michigan

A Rayed Bean Mussel. Photo by USFWS

Rayed Bean and Snuffbox

You may have heard of invasive mussels in the Great Lakes, including the zebra mussel and quagga mussel.

You may not have heard that two native, freshwater mussels in the region are now considered endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has listed the two mussels, called the rayed bean and the snuffbox, as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Both freshwater mussels are currently found in rivers in the Eastern United States, including Michigan, as well as in Ontario, Canada.

But federal officials say there have been dramatic declines in populations of both freshwater mussels.

The rayed bean has been eliminated from 73 percent of its historical range. It was once found in 115 streams and lakes, and today is found in only 31 streams and Lake Erie.

The snuffbox has disappeared from 62 percent of the streams in which it was historically found, from 210 streams down to 79 streams.

Freshwater mussels require clean water. Their decline often signals a decline in the water quality of the streams and rivers they inhabit, officials say.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is now working on recovery plans for the two mussels, to coordinate efforts to conserve their habitat.

Another $300 Million Proposed

Funding for Great Lakes restoration would remain intact under a 2013 budget proposed by President Barack Obama.

The president’s budget contains $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That would maintain funds for the program at same level as in the 2012 fiscal year budget.

The Restoration Initiative pays for projects to address toxic contamination, polluted run-off, aquatic invasive species, and loss of habitat and wetlands.

During the last three years, the Initiative has provided more than $1 billion to restoration programs in Michigan and seven other states, according to the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Awards to projects in the Saginaw Bay region during that time include two grants totaling more than $800,000.

Those include a land policy project by Michigan State University to implement land use planning, protection, and restoration strategies; and a sediment reduction project for the Sebewaing River Watershed, headed by the Michigan Deparment of Agriculture.

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Saginaw Bay Watershed Confab, Bucks for Dredging & Flaming Fish

From the Feb. 10, 2012, edition of the Environment Report, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays on Delta College public radio, Q 90.1 FM …

Great Lakes Czar and More

photo of fish on fire on grill

Photo by the great 8

Environmental leaders from across the Saginaw Bay watershed are meeting next month at Saginaw Valley State University.

The event is the Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference, to be held Friday, March 16, at Curtiss Hall on the campus of SVSU.

Leaders will meet to hear about and discuss current and future projects planned to address water quality in the basin. That includes the delisting of the Saginaw River and Bay as a federal Area of Concern.

A keynote address is to be given by Great Lakes czar Cameron Davis, who serves as senior advisor to U.S. EPA chief Lisa Jackson.

State climatologist Jeff Andresen, a geography professor at Michigan State University, also is to discuss projected impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes.

The latest research information regarding beach muck in Saginaw Bay will be presented by federal scientist Craig Stow.

The conference is receiving government funding support through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The cost to attend is $25, which includes lunch.

Dig It: More Money

The Saginaw River is due to receive almost $2.7 million for dredging projects.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is providing additional funds for navigational dredging projects.

The extra funds total $9 million, and will pay for projects in the Saginaw River, Holland Harbor, St. Joseph Harbor, Manistee Harbor and the St. Marys River.

The additional money is for projects throughout the Great Lakes basin that support economic development and job creation.

According to U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, the funding also will help sustain Michigan harbors that were threatened with closure.

Fish Won’t Catch Fire

A federal study to be published by the Journal of Great Lakes Research found male walleye contain three times more flame retardant chemicals than females in the Saginaw River and Bay.

According to Great Lakes Echo, the flame retardant chemicals have been used in plastics, foams and fabrics since the 1970s. Animal tests suggest they can damage the liver, thyroid and brain.

The Echo report says male walleye use the Saginaw River for feeding and habitat, while females mostly stay out in the bay.

The river was found to have much higher levels of flame retardants than the bay. In the river, the chemicals are ingested by small fish eaten by walleye.

Researchers believe the chemicals are draining from landfills and other waste sites and sticking in the river sediment.

See also: New Flame Retardants as Bad as Old Flame Retardants

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The Greatest of the Great Lakes (vote) & Raising Renewable Standards

As heard Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College’s NPR Station …

Right now, Michigan’s electric utilities are working to increase the amount of energy they generate from renewable sources like wind and solar. The work is part of a state law that requires utilities to get 10 percent of their energy from cleaner sources by 2015.

That means burning less coal. But utilities could do even better, according to the Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs coalition. The coalition is working to more than double the state’s renewable energy standard from the current 10 percent by 2015 to 25 percent by 2025.

The Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs coalition includes business, labor and health care groups. They are trying to raise more than $1 million to collect signatures to put the 25 by 2025 question on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

According to the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, the group has until July 9 to file a petition with the state that contains more than 322,000 valid signatures. Proposed ballot language has already been filed.

The proposal would require at least 25 percent of Michigan’s energy to come from renewable sources including wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, by 2025.

The proposal also would limit rate increases to comply with the standard to 1 percent per year.

See also: Renewable energy standards: Seeing beyond percentages

What About Lake Huron?

 
Which of the Great Lakes is the greatest?
 
Great Lakes Echo, a Michigan State University publication, is taking votes on the single best thing to do on each of the Great Lakes.
 
So far, here are some of the ideas.Lake Michigan is the best for surfing, because it has the most consistent waves.
 
Lake Erie is the best for fishing, with the most productive fishery, according to some scientists.

Lake Huron is the best for canoeing, with the most coastline of the five lakes, totaling more than 3,800 miles.

What about the best beach? That’s Lake Michigan, according to the Echo. Lake Michigan is home to Sleeping Bear Dunes, which was named most beautiful place in the United States last year by Good Morning America. It beat out places in Hawaii and California.

Lake Huron also could be considered the best place for kayaking. It’s home to Turnip Rock, a large rock island less than 100 feet off the shores of Port Austin, at the tip of the Thumb.
 
Most scenic? What about Lake Ontario, with Niagara Falls at the west end and 1,000 islands to the east?
 
You can read more and leave comments at greatlakesecho.org.
 
– Photo comp. via Spell with flickr
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