Voters to Decide on More Renewable Energy, CMU Lightens Footprint, and Michigan Disaster Areas

As heard on Friday Edition, 9 a.m. Eastern, Aug. 31, 2012, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …


Michigan voters will be able to vote for more renewable energy in November.

photo wind solar 25 by 2025


This week, the Michigan Board of State Canvassers approved ballot language to increase Michigan’s renewable energy standard to 25 percent by 2025. The current standard is 10 percent by 2015.

Supporters, with a group called Michigan Energy Michigan Jobs, say the measure will help rein in energy costs, provide incentives for using Michigan equipment, and create jobs in the state.

The proposal also will help protect public health and allow Michigan to catch up with other states, which already have higher standards for generating percentages of their energy with renewable sources like wind and solar.

A recent study by Michigan State University economics says the upcoming ballot proposal would create at least 74,000 Michigan jobs in construction, operations and maintenance.

The 25 by 2025 measure would “require electric utilities to provide at least 25 percent of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable energy sources, which are wind, solar, biomass and hydropower, by 2025.”

The proposal also would limit rate increases to achieve compliance to 1 percent.

2. Central Michigan University says conservation measures to reduce energy use are paying off.

The university, located in Mount Pleasant, has had positive results in the last fours with reducing its carbon footprint, officials say.

In fiscal year 2008, CMU generated about 87,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

In fiscal year 2011, the university generated about 82,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a reduction of about 6,000 tons, or 7 percent.

During the same period, the campus grew by about 91,000 square feet, or 1.6 percent.

The conservation measures have included adding temperature control valves to residence halls and other academic buildings, and installing energy efficient lighting.

Also, CMU has increased the amount of electricity it purchases annually that is generated by renewable sources.

The university also is using natural gas for more its generation, in place of coal-fired sources.

CMU has adopted energy efficient building design standards for all renovations and construction on campus.

3. Bay County has been designated as a primary natural disaster area for drought and excessive heat conditions.

So has Saginaw County, Midland County and every other county in the state.

Gov. Rick Synder says the designation comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and is based on conditions that began in March and are ongoing.

Synder says the designation will provide aid to Michigan farmers for crop losses due to the hot and dry conditions.

Qualified farm operators are now eligible for low interest emergency loans from the federal government to cover some or all of their losses.

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, crop losses from this year’s extreme weather have been significant.

Hay production also has been impacted, which could hurt the lifestock industry.



New Great Lakes Beach Monitoring Tool, and Compact Water Project

As heard Aug. 24, 2012, on Friday Edition, Q-90.1 FM, Delta College, NPR-member station (starts at 4:50) …


Measurements of high bacteria levels at Great Lakes beaches aren’t always correct. 

That’s according to a University of Michigan researcher who is helping develop a more accurate forecasting tool.

The new tool could significantly reduce the number of days that Great Lakes beaches are closed due to inaccurate assessments of E. coli bacteria levels, says David Rockwell.

He estimates that almost one of every four beach closings due to high bacteria levels are incorrect on the Great Lakes, due in part to the time it takes to generate results from current testing methods. Rockwell says those mistakes would be corrected with his E. coli forecasting tool.

The new tool is called the Forecast Decision Support System. Testing has shown the tool is more accurate than current beach-monitoring  methods about 70 percent of the time.

The U of M testing method was developed with $140,000 from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The tool is being tested this summer at five beaches, including the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bay County’s Bangor Township.

photo cool blue rule

Another cool blue measuring tool. By Scott Akerman.

The forecasting tool uses equations to forecast water-quality four times per day. Forecasts are generated using almost 100 environmental variables, including rainfall amounts, cloud cover, wind direction and speed, the direction and speed of currents in the lake, and wave heights.

The forecasts taken this summer will be compared with actual E. coli bacteria levels measured by water samples to further test the accuracy of the tool, officials say.

Other testing is taking place at North Beach Park and Grand Haven State Park in Ottawa County, and Memorial and Metro beaches in Macomb County.

— More U of M Great Lakes research


Where does Great Lakes water go, and how does it flow?

Michigan Technological University and Arizona State University are leading a three-year research study to develop a way to track water flows and water use in a watershed.

The Great Lakes provide the foundation for billions of dollars in economic activity and are a direct source of drinking water for tens of millions of people, including residents of the Saginaw Bay region, Michigan Tech researchers note.

The Virtual Water Accounting project is being undertaken to comply with terms of the an international Great Lake-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, which restricts water diversions from the Great Lakes and requires state and provincial management of water resources.

To comply with the Compact, U.S. states and Canadian provinces must determine whether a proposed new withdrawal and consumptive use may have a significant adverse impact to the water resource and whether the proposed use is reasonable considering economic development and environmental protection.

The project will examine how water moves through the watershed, the minimum water levels needed to sustain ecosystems, and how water is used by the region’s economy, researchers say.


Another Tool

Michigan is Top 20 in Wind, Aging Sewers Blamed for Beach Closings

As heard Aug. 17, 2o12, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM …

1. Michigan is a Top 20 state for wind energy. 

But the wind power industry is facing uncertain times, says a new U.S. Department of Energy report.

The Wind Technologies Market Report says 2011 capacity additions have risen from 2010 levels and a further sizable increase is expected this year.

Still, key federal tax incentives for wind energy are set to expire at the end of this year, which could slow new construction in 2013.

The report lists Michigan as 11th in the U.S. when it comes to wind energy capacity. The state has a standard that requires utilities to increase their renewable generation to 10 percent by 2015.

The report also mentions construction of the Thumb Loop Transmission Project, which is ongoing and will provide additional capacity for wind power generation in the state. Several wind projects are operating and under construction in Michigan’s Thumb.

Department of Energy officials say wind power additions Increased in 2011, with roughly 6.8 gigawatts of new capacity added in the U.S., and $14 billion invested.

Wind power also comprised 32 percent of U.S. electric generating capacity additions in 2011, up from 25% in 2010.

2. Aging infrastructure is partly to blame for a rise in Michigan beach advisories and closings.

That’s according to the Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association, which represents  nearly 600 Michigan companies.

An association spokesman notes that the number of monitored public beaches with advisories or closings has continued to increase each year between 2005 and 2010, according to the most recent formal report available from the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality.

So far this year, there have been about 100 beach advisories or closings, up from less than 90 in 2011.

This points to the increasing need to fix the state’s aging underground water and sewer systems, the association says.

There are bills moving through the state House and Senate that would provide easier access to funding for municipalities to pay the cost of evaluating and separating their combined storm and sanitary sewer systems. The legislation supports a $1 billion sewer bond program approved by voters in 2002, but there hasn’t been much action on the bills since May, when they were referred to committees.

The association calls the state’s aging underground infrastructure “a hidden menace” that becomes more costly to repair each year that repairs are delayed.

Bay County has seen several contamination advisories or closings at public beaches in the last two months.


Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay See Study Focus, and Restoration Funding

photo rv lake guardian great lakes research vessel

Via U. of Michigan

As heard Aug. 10, 2012, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM, Friday Edition, Environment Report … (I’ve been on vacation) …

The Least-Studied Great Lake

Lake Huron is home to a new long-term research program by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from NOAA, and the agency’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, have set up a base in Alpena, at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

According to Great Lakes Echo, scientists at the Alpena station are studying water quality, invasive species, nutrient levels and physical properties of the lake.

The program’s lead researcher says Lake Huron is the least-studied of the Great Lakes, although previous work has been done in Saginaw Bay.

The latest research is to focus mainly on significant changes in the Lake Huron ecosystem, including increases in algal blooms and shoreline muck.

The research is being done, in part, to help develop more effective methods for managing fish production and water quality in the lake.

The work also is being done with equipment including the Research Vessel Lake Guardian, which used to dock in downtown Bay City.

Watershed Management Gets Money

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has announced $4 million in grant funding for water quality improvement projects.

The money, from the state Clean Michigan Initiative and federal Clean Water Act, will go to restore and protect state wetlands, lakes and streams.

Those eligible to apply include local governments, nonprofits, and universities.

The Clean Michigan Initiative money totals about $1 million and is available for watershed management plans

The Clean Water Act funding totals about $3 million and is available to develop watershed management plans or implement key parts of previously approved watershed management plans.

Areas in the Saginaw Bay District with approved watershed management plans include the Kawkawlin River, Pigeon River, Pinnebog River and Rifle River.

Matching funds of 15-25 percent are required for the pools of grant money. For more information, see the DEQ website.

Watershed management plans considers all uses, pollutant sources, and impacts within a drainage area, according to DEQ. The plan serve as guides for communities to protect and improve their water quality.

Sustain Our Great Lakes

Meanwhile, a public-private group called Sustain Our Great Lakes has announced more than $8 million in grants to fund restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes basin.

The funding from Sustain Our Great Lakes is intended to improve “the quality and connectivity of tributary, wetland and coastal habitats.”

The money includes almost $700,000 to improve 150 acres of wetlands, and improve water quality in the northern Saginaw Bay watershed. That work will be overseen by the Huron Pines Resource Conservation & Development Area Council.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy also is receiving $150,000 to control invasive phragmites and restore 101 acres, 11,700 linear feet of stream bank, and 10,100 linear feet of coastal habitat along Saginaw Bay.


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