The Cost of Great Lakes Invasives, and BaySailing Events

As heard Friday, June 1, 2012, on Friday Edition, Environment Report, Q-90.1 FM, Delta College, NPR-member station

photo quagga mussels shoe invasive

Photo by Arthur Felig

Set Sail

BaySail has announced a series of events for the summer.
BaySail is a Bay City nonprofit that operates two Appledore schooners. The ships are used for educational and public sails on Saginaw Bay.

This summer’s public schedule includes “Legends of the Saginaw Sails,” departing from the BaySail dock in downtown Bay City’s Wenonah Park.

The sails offer a history lesson on the Saginaw River, on an Appledore schooner, sailing from the downtown out to Saginaw Bay. Some departures also feature live maritime music by the band Hoolie of Bay City.

Sails are scheduled for Saturdays and Sundays in June, August and September, with lunch included.

An Appledore schooner also will be participating this summer in Tall Ships events in Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and New York.

Scholarships for secondary school students also are available for overnight voyages this summer to Nova Scotia and other destinations.

For more information, see


Invasive$ Report

A new report on aquatic invasive species quantifies their costs to businesses and consumers in the Great Lakes region.

The report, by the Anderson Economic Group, was commissioned by The Nature Conservancy.

It says the tab for businesses and consumers totals hundreds of millions (with an m) dollars per year. Those include costs for removal, maintenance and management of species like zebra and quagga mussels. Meanwhile, state and federal governments are spending millions more for efforts to control the impact and prevent the spread of invasives in the Great Lakes.

Some figures from the report include:

  • The cost of controlling zebra mussels at one water treatment facility equals about $353,000 a year. There are 381 such facilities across the basin.
  • Michigan’s cost for maintenance, control and prevention of aquatic invasive species in 2009 and 2010 totaled $3.1 million.
  • More than 100 power plants that use water from the Great Lakes also are spending a total of $130 million a year to remove invasives.

What is the largest Great Lakes industry affected by aquatic invasives? The report says tourism and recreation, which employs more than 90,000 people and generates an estimate $30.3 billion (with a b) annually in revenue.

The full report can be found online at



Great Lakes Endangered Species Doing Well, Including a Record-Breaking Snake

photo fox snake eggs record

Radiograph showing eggs in line and implanted radio transmitter. – Photo Credit: Kile Kucher

As heard Friday, May 25, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College, Friday Edition, Environment Report …

Plovers a Plenty

There’s some good news when it comes to endangered species in the Great Lakes region.

According to new analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity, 90 percent of endangered species are on track to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists.

A total of 110 species were part of the research, and those in recovery include the piping plover, Kirtland’s warbler, Lake Erie water snake, and gray wolves.

The center, a nonprofit headquartered in Arizona, looked at population trends of plants and animals protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The analysis found many species on a path toward recovery, and some that are exceeding expectations.

On average, species have been protected for 32 years and have a typical expected recovery period of 46 years, according to the report.

In the Great Lakes region, the piping plover is a shorebird that was listed as endangered in 1985. At the time, only 19 nesting pairs remained in Michigan.

Most recently, MIchigan has maintained 50 percent of its 100-pair breeding goal for four years in a row.

Like other species, the plover recovery was due to management programs and other measures undertaken as part of the Endangered Species Act.

Eggs a Plenty

In other animal news, an eastern fox snake at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County has broken a record.

Refuge manager Steven Kahl says a recent article published in a scientific journal describes a new documented record for an eastern fox snake egg clutch size.

A radiograph of one of the refuge’s female snakes showed she was carrying 34 eggs.

That’s beyond the previous known record of 29 eggs.

And the 34 eggs is more than twice the mean clutch size of about 14 eggs for an eastern fox snake.

This particular snake also was 5 feet 9 inches long, just an inch under the longest-measured eastern fox snake.

The Shiawassee Refuge is one of only three in the nation in which the fox snake is known to live.

Refuge officials are working with Central Michigan University researchers to conduct a study of the eastern fox snake.

The species is listed as threatened in Michigan. Its global range is confined to the coastal plains of Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario.


Michigan Sulfide Mining Report, Contest WINer & Air Monitoring Comments Due

As heard on May 18, 2012, Friday Edition, Q-90.1 FM, Delta College public broadcasting …

Battery Acid

photo sulfide mining great lakes

via NWF

A report says the Great Lakes remain vulnerable to a new wave of sulfide mining.

That’s due to gaps, inconsistencies and loopholes in U.S. state and Canadian laws. The report, a legal analysis by the National Wildlife Federation and Ecojustice Canada,  says vulnerable areas include Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Sulfide mining has proven to be devastating to natural resources in parts of the western U.S. and Canada, the report’s authors say.

The report says that, across Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota and Ontario, laws do not offer adequate protections. Areas threatened by mining include the shores of Lake Superior.

Michigan ranked considerably lower than other states in the analysis.

The Michigan Environmental Council, representing groups in the Bay City area and elsewhere, is pushing for added protections in the state.

Spy on a Bluebird

An Earth Day Facebook Contest will fund a live-streaming webcam in the Saginaw Bay area.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN) held a contest last month, seeking the best ideas for environmental projects in the region.

After a round of entries, a proposal by the Chippewa Nature Center emerged with the most votes. The center will receive a $1,000 grant to develop a live-streaming webcam.

The cam will be placed in a bluebird nesting box on property owned by the center, located in Midland. The cam will be viewable via the Internet, and include infrared capabilities for nighttime viewing.

WIN is an organization funded by 11 foundations in the Saginaw Bay region.

And leaders say the group still has grants available for projects that address land use, water resources, agriculture, energy efficiency, wildlife habitat and regional marketing.

See for more information.

The Air We Breathe

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is taking public comment on plans for air monitoring in 2013.

A draft Ambient Air Monitoring document recommends changes based on history, population and modifications to Clean Air Act requirements.

The state’s ambient air monitoring network includes a device in Bay City that monitors particulate matter emitted by power plants and vehicles. There are plans to shut down a lead monitoring site in Vassar.

The document is available online (as a pdf), and comments are being taken through June 5.


Crushed-Up Mussels, Great Lakes Cruises & a Clean Energy March

photo 350 bay city michigan

via SVSS

As heard on Friday Edition, May 11, 2012, 9 a.m. Eastern, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …

March in May

Students in the Bay City area will be marching for clean energy on Saturday, May 19.

The Students March for Clean Energy will begin at 11 a.m. at Pershing Park in Bay City, and go to Veterans Memorial Park.

The march is being organized by area environmental group the Lone Tree Council.

The march is meant to support conservation, and the development of green energy sources. The group says such sources can be substituted for the coal plants and gasoline that’s now consumed for electric generation and transportation.

The group is inviting students to join in the march at Pershing Park, just east of the Sage Library, and march down Midland Street to John F. Kennedy Drive and south to Vets Park.

A Spring 350 Picture Event will be held at the park at noon. The Saginaw Valley Sustainability Society also is participating. The event is meant to bring attention to climate change. Students, families and area residents are invited.

The 350 refers to a global grassroots movement to combat climate change, involving thousands of volunteer organizers in more than 188 countries.

Take a Cruise for $10-25

You can learn about the Great Lakes by floating on the Great Lakes.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension has announced Summer Discovery Cruises for 2012. This is the 11th year that Sea Grant has organized the cruises.

Cruises depart from Lake Erie Metropark, with cruises on the lower Detroit River and Lake Erie, and Lake St. Clair Metropark, cruising Lake St. Clair.

There will be more than 20 educational cruises around themes including Fisheries, Wildlife, Wetlands, Shipwrecks, Lighthouses, Weather and Shipping.

Cruises for educators wanting to enhance the use of Great Lakes content in their teaching also are available. The cruises run from 2 and a half to four hours, and cost $10-15 for children and $20-25 for adults.

More information is available online at

The Beachmaker

There’s a new weapon in the fight against zebra mussels.

It’s a zebra mussel crushing machine called the Beachmaker.

As reported in Great Lakes Echo, the Beachmaker sucks up invasive zebra mussel shells and crushes them into sand-like particles.

The device, invented by a Wisconsin man, can reportedly crush a dump truck’s worth of dead mussels in an hour.

And the crunched up remains only take up a third of their original space.

What to do with the crushed up mussels, environmental impacts, and legal and permit requirements still remain for the device.

But it’s something that Great Lakes beach managers will be investigating this summer.


Great Lakes Commercial Fishing Numbers, Early Gypsy Moths & a Super-Efficient Home

Temporarily adopting the persona of “The Catfish.” 

Try these on, from Friday Edition, 9 a.m. Eastern, Delta College, Q-90.1 FM, Public Broadcasting, NPR, Excellent.

Flying Caterpillars of Defoliage

The Gypsy moths are hatching, and it’s much earlier than expected.

Staffers with the Bay County Gypsy Moth Suppression Program say they’e found have a few gypsy moth egg masses that are now hatching.

Officials say it’s the earliest time in the year that staffers have noted hatchings throughout the county.

Courtesy Bay County Gypsy Moth program

The population is still “extremely low,” but you should keep an eye out for tiny, 1/8th-inch caterpillars crawling around your neighborhood.

When these caterpillars hatch, they climb to the highest point they can reach and wait for the wind to blow them to a new area, and food.

Gypsy moth caterpillars feed on trees. They can defoliate large trees in a few weeks, invade yards and recreational areas, and become a general nuisance to people living in infested areas, officials say.

If you live in Bay County and feel the gypsy moth population on your property is increasing or have questions concerning invasive insects, you can call the Gypsy Moth program at (989) 895-4195 to make sure your area is surveyed.

A Year of Energy for $857?!

A Saginaw County homeowner has been awarded – again – for energy savings.

Connie Rynalski of Saginaw Township first saved on energy costs at her home, through various efficiency measures. Then, she was awarded an Earth Day prize of $3,000 for going above and beyond in her energy-saving efforts.

The award came from Cobblestone Homes, a Freeland-based homebuilder which conducted an Energy Challenge among almost 100 of its homeowners.

They were challenged to save the most in utility usage compared to energy use projections during a 12-month period.

Rynalski beat the energy projections for her home by the highest amount, paying $857 for an entire year of energy costs, including heating. That’s compared to more than $3,000 for a typical, 1,900-square-foot home.

Cobblestone Homes has partnered with the Dow Chemical Co. in recent years to build Michigan’s first Net-Zero Energy Homes in Midland and Bay counties.

New Commercial Fishery Assessment on the Great Lakes

How much is Lake Huron worth?

From the GLMRIS assessment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released a report on the valuation of commercial fisheries in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes, Upper Mississippi River and Ohio River basins.

The Commercial Fisheries Baseline Economic Assessment is part of Great Lakes and Mississippi River Interbasin Study.

The report summarizes the latest annual harvesting data from state-licensed and tribal commercial fishing operations. The data will be used to help forecast impacts from potential aquatic invasives like the Asian carp.

The report says the average commercial harvest level in the U.S. waters of the Great Lakes is estimated at 19.3 million pounds of fish, with an associated average value of $22.5 million.

The report lists Lake Huron’s commercial harvest level at 3.5 million pounds, with an associated value of $4.6 million.

Lake Huron contributes 18.3 percent to the total commercial harvest of fish on the Great Lakes and 20.2 percent to the total value of Great Lakes fisheries.

The lake has seen a decline in commercial harvest levels since 1989. The maximum harvest level in the 1990s was 5.3 million pounds, accounting for almost 21 percent of the total commercial fishing harvests on the Great Lakes.

The top harvest level since year 2000 has been about 4.7 million pounds, or about 25 percent of all commercial fish harvesting in the Great Lakes.

The report examined data from 1989 to 2009.

The study plans to release an assessment later this year on recreational fishing.


Catfish by Denise Chan

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