Trail Towns and Urban Farming in Michigan

For Jan. 23, 2015

1 – The East Coast concept of Trail Towns is coming to Michigan.

Trail Town committees have sprouted up in areas including the Thumb. It’s the result of a year-long Coastal Zone Management grant, according to the Michigan State University Extension, and aimed at promoting sustainable tourism.

Leaders in the Thumb, which includes Huron and Tuscola counties, have been active in outfitting their downtown areas and trail networks to attract visitors.

In 2014, the governor signed legislation that established the Pure Michigan Trail Network.

Communities can establish a Trail Town by developing their own strategy or look at adopting a “Four Point Approach” that includes organization, promotion, design and economics.

 

2 -Delta College is teaching people about urban farming.

 

The college, along with an area group called the Wildroot Food Collective, is offering an Urban Farming series of workshops.

The series is geared toward backyard gardeners, chicken enthusiasts and others interested in local foods.

Sessions will include demonstrations, discussions, and hands-on activities led by local experts.

The Wildroot Food Collective is a farm-to-table operation that hopes to transform the region into a hub of local eateries, growers, and consumers.

The benefits of urban farming include growing what you need, where you live, and decreasing the miles associated with the long-distance transportation of foods.

Six topics will be explored during the sessions, including soil health, growing in small spaces, raising chickens, and taking your goods to market.

The series starts Monday, Jan. 26, and runs through March 28. The cost for all six sessions is $149.

For more information, see delta.edu/urbanfarming.

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

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$10 Million for Saginaw Bay, and the (Low) Cost of Wind Power

For Friday, Jan. 16, 2015

1 – A total of $10 million in federal funding is coming to Saginaw Bay.

saginaw bay

Credit: Matt Stehouwer

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Conservation Partnership has been selected to receive the money under a new program created by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The initiative will help farmers improve the water quality and wildlife habitat in the Saginaw Bay watershed, which has problems with phosphorus and nutrient sediment runoff.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association and Nature Conservancy will lead 35 local partners to restore acres of wetlands, reduce excessive sediments and nutrients in the watershed, and monitor long-term trends in the fish population and habitat, according to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

The funding is part of $40 million going to conservation projects across Michigan and the Great Lakes region. The others are in western Lake Erie and the St. Joseph River.

Farm runoff contributes to harmful algal blooms, beach closings and unsafe drinking water.

 

2Leaders will discuss the future of wind power in Michigan next week.

The American Wind Energy Association is holding its State Wind Energy Forum in East Lansing on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Business, community and political leaders will attend, including representatives from Consumers Energy and Huron County.

The forum will take place at Michigan State University.

The agenda includes a panel discussion on proposed federal rules for reducing carbon pollution at existing coal-fired power plants.

An upcoming federal Wind Vision report also will be discussed. The report says American wind power is on track to double by 2020 and double again by 2030.

Michigan has 1,350 megawatts of installed wind capacity, enough to power more than 230,000 homes.

The American Wind Energy Association says wind power has the potential to meet 163 percent of the state’s current electricity needs.

 

3Can you spare $2.60 a month?

That’s how much it would cost the average household to expand Michigan’s renewable energy portfolio standard to 25 percent over the next 10 years.

A report from the University of Michigan’s Energy Institute says the price tag could even be cut in half if key federal tax credits are extended.

Michigan utilities are on pace to meet a 10 percent goal for renewable energy generation by the end of this year.

The report follows a failed 2012 ballot initiative to expand the state’s standard to 25 percent by 2025. A utility-backed group claimed a higher standard would be too expensive.

Michigan lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder are expected to propose policy changes this year, since the current 10 percent standard is due to expire.

– via Midwest Energy News

 

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

EPA to Coal Plants: Get Your Ash in Order

For Jan. 9, 2015

1 – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced the first national regulations on the safe disposal of coal combustion residuals, also called coal ash, from coal-fired power plants.

tva coal ash spill 2008

View of the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant fly ash spill. Credit: Brian Stansberry/Wikimedia Commons

The final rule includes safeguards to protect communities from coal ash impoundment failures and prevent groundwater contamination and air emissions from coal ash disposal.

The EPA assessed more than 500 facilities across the country after the failure in 2008 of a TVA coal ash pond in Kingston, Tennessee. Those assessments included the Karn-Weadock complex run by Consumers Energy in Bay County’s Hampton Township. The EPA rated the condition of disposal facilities at the local complex as “satisfactory.”

Improperly constructed or managed coal ash disposal units have been linked to nearly 160 cases of harm to surface water, groundwater, and air, the EPA says.

These first federal requirements include regular inspections of surface impoundments, and restrictions on the location of new impoundments and landfills so that they can’t be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands.

The rule also requires facilities to post information online, including annual groundwater monitoring results and corrective action reports.

2 – Information on Great Lakes currents is currently available.

The Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor is posting the visualizations online.

The flow patterns depicted in the visualizations are based on simulations from the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System operated by the lab.

The lab is arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Online, you can see snapshots of water motion at the present time and from three hours ago, including conditions on Saginaw Bay.

The maps use the same technology developed for mapping winds, and the potential for wind energy generation.

 

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

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