Energy Attitudes, Spring Migration, and Clean Water Rules

1 – When it comes to energy, what’s more important – the cost, or environmental impact?

On average, consumers believe home energy bills would have to nearly double before they’d be forced to make lifestyle changes to save on costs, according to a new University of Michigan survey.

The U-M Energy Survey was conducted for the first time in October 2013. It also found that consumers believe home energy bills will rise more than the cost of gasoline over the next five years.

According to federal data, the average U.S. household spent about $2,000 last year on home energy, including electricity and other household fuels. The average household spent about $900 more per year on gasoline.

In the survey, more people also expressed concern about environmental damage from energy than they did about the cost of energy.

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A sandhill crane. Credit: Phil Kates.

2 – Spring is here, but you wouldn’t know it based on the weather.

However, recent sightings at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge indicate that the spring migration has started.

Several types of birds have arrived at the refuge in Saginaw County, including the Turkey Vulture, Killdeer, Song Sparrow, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, and Common Grackle.

The songs of the Red-winged Blackbird have even been heard, and several waterbird species have arrived, including more than 40 Sandhill Cranes.

You can find bird sighting reports on the refuge’s Facebook page.

3 – A long-awaited federal rule would help protect the Great Lakes.

The Obama Administration has released a proposed rule to clarify which waters of the United States are protected from pollution and destruction by the Clean Water Act.

The National Wildlife Federation says the rule would be a big step forward in the effort to restore the overall health of the lakes, along with its streams and wetlands.

The rule, proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would give the federal government regulatory authority over millions of acres of wetlands, and about 2 million miles of streams, according to The Washington Post.

Read more at the EPA’s website.

– Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

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Saginaw Bay Algae Events, WIN Earth Day Contest, and Warblers in Ogemaw

1Two upcoming events will focus on environmental issues in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.

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The first is a speaker series being hosted by the Partnership for the Saginaw Bay Watershed, to discuss nutrient levels and nuisance algae in the bay. The event is from 1-3 p.m. on April 24 at the Wirt Public Library in downtown Bay City. It also will discuss ongoing projects by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey to better understand and manage the bay’s algae problems.

And, a Wayne State University researcher will present “An Integrated Assessment of Beach Muck and  Public Perception at the Bay City State Recreation Area.”

The second event is a Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference, being coordinated by the Michigan State Land Policy Institute and groups throughout the watershed. That event is on June 12 at Saginaw Valley State University’s Curtiss Hall.

The day-long conference will focus on “tools and strategies for protecting water quality, the critical need for action and the development of local policies to protect and restore the Saginaw Bay.”

2Fifty words or less could be worth $1,000 to a local nonprofit.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network is looking for short descriptions of projects for an Earth Day Contest.

The ideas need to be related to conservation, public access to natural resources, natural resource-based recreation and education, or energy efficiency.

If you can describe the project in 50 words or less, your favorite nonprofit can win a grant to help support it.

Ideas will be posted to the Saginaw Watershed Initiative Network’s Facebook page, and the one with most votes will receive the grant.

The deadline is April 9. The award is to be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

3Which Michigan county is home to the largest number of nesting Kirtland’s warblers?

The answer: Ogemaw County. The endangered birds nest in 12 counties in Northern Michigan. Out of more than 2,000 singing males counted in a 2013 census, 26 percent were found in Ogemaw.

Why Ogemaw? Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, notes that conservation programs which help the warbler also also help protect other natural resources in the region.

Ogemaw contains the headwaters of the Rifle River, which flows for 60 miles and empties into Saginaw Bay.

The group is looking for volunteers to help keep the river clean. You can find out more at Huron Pine’s website.

– Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

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A Cleaner Kawkawlin, Installing Home Solar Systems, and Sewage $ for Saginaw Bay

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/g5t34q5wuee6bvd/march14-14-mr-great-lakes.mp3]

1 – The Kawkawlin River is getting a little cleaner.

A group of more than 18 organizations have teamed up to help improve the river’s water quality through continued research, public education, land protection, improved farming practices, septic system maintenance, and recreation, according to a news release.

The group includes Delta College, Saginaw Valley State University ,the Kawkawlin River Watershed Property Owners Association, the Little Forks Conservancy in Midland, Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy in Bay City, the Bay Conservation District, and departments and offices in Bay County government. The project is supported by state and federal grants.

As one example, the Bay Conservation District is working with growers to change farming practices and protect soil health, reduce soil erosion, and nutrient pollution. Technical and financial assistance is available to those who qualify.

So far, more than 2,700 acres of cover crops and other practices are in place, and have been verified to be reducing sediment and nutrient runoff. Twelve grade stabilization structures are to be installed this spring.

The Kawkawlin River Watershed covers about 144,000 acres of land in Bay, Midland, Gladwin, and Saginaw counties that drains to the Kawkawlin River. There have been ongoing problems with bacterial contamination in the river, resulting in closures and public health advisories.

  • Little Forks is holding a March 19 meeting for landowners interested in conservation easements. It’s at the North Midland Family Center, from 6-8 p.m. RSVP by calling (989) 835-4886.

2 – Do you remember sunshine and warm days?

In the midst of Michigan’s ongoing winter, utility officials and environmental groups are drafting a plan they say can lead to wider development of solar energy in the state.

The Michigan Public Service Commission, DTE Energy, and Consumers Energy are involved in the workgroup.

A goal is to provide a strong basis for requiring utilities to establish ongoing programs that help residents and businesses install their own solar systems, according to Clean Energy Now.

A final report is expected in June. The report could recommend expansion of DTE’s SolarCurrents Program and Consumers’ Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP).

Michigan’s renewable energy standard of 10 percent by 2015 expires next year.

3 – A new state program to maintain sewers in cities and towns has been infused with $97 million.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has made grant and loan awards under the state’s Stormwater, Asset Management, and Wastewater program.

Grant assistance will go for stormwater management planning, stormwater and wastewater project planning and design, and testing and demonstration of innovative technology.

Loans will assist with the construction of projects derived from the plans.

Grants in the Saginaw Bay area include: $1.1 million to East Tawas, about $407,000 to Roscommon, $472,000 to Frankenlust Township, $1.1 million to Bangor Township, and almost $1 million to the city of Auburn.

Grants will be used for assessing how to schedule and pay for maintenance and upgrades to stormwater and sewer systems.

– Mr. Great Lakes, as heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR.

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