Michigan First to Use New, Faster Beach-Testing Method

For Friday, June 26, 2015

1 – Michigan will become the first state to monitor beaches using a new, rapid testing method.

beach bay city state park recreation area

The beach at the Bay City State Recreation Area, June 8, 2015. Credit: Jeff Kart

The new method quickly identifies E. coli DNA in a beach’s water sample.

The process provides results the same day a sample is taken. That means necessary beach closures will occur more efficiently in locations where bacteria is detected.

Previous testing methods took longer, meaning beaches that tested positive could not be closed until the day after a water sample was drawn.

To implement the new water testing process, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality awarded a half-million dollars to health departments in the state.

Agencies involved with the new testing method include health departments in Bay and Saginaw counties, and Saginaw Valley State University.

Daily beach testing results are be posted on the DEQ’s BeachGuard website.

2 – Information on the environment and other topics is available from a new GIS Open Database.

The site is a part overall efforts to make more information open and available to citizens, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, provide location components to information, allowing data to be represented geographically.

The new site can be used to browse, search, preview and download a variety of geospatial data sets and view them on a map.

Data categories include Fish & Wildlife, Environment and Public Health.

The Environment section includes data on land cover, wetlands and potential wetland restoration sites.

The site can be accessed at www.michigan.gov/openmichigan.

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

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Beach Conditions on Your Phone, Contaminants in Your Fish, Wildlife in Your Windshield

For Friday, June 19, 2015

1 – You shouldn’t swim with your phone. But you can use your phone to find out if it’s safe to swim at your local beach.

mybeachcast screenshot iphone6

myBeachCast for Bay City, Michigan, on June 19, 2015.

A myBeachCast mobile app has been updated, and is available for iPhone and Android smartphones.

You can download the app online at beachcast.glin.net.

It will give you the latest swim advisories and weather conditions for more than 2,000 beaches in the Great Lakes region.

The latest version of myBeachCast features hazard alerts from the National Weather Service for high winds and waves, and strong and dangerous currents.

The app also connects to health department databases across the region to alert users of contamination advisories.

The app is a project of the Great Lakes Commission, LimnoTech of Ann Arbor, and states in the Great Lakes region.

2 – If you fish in Bay County, be sure to eat safe.

That’s the message from Bay County officials. There are advisories for fish caught in Bay, Saginaw and Midland counties. You should limit or avoid eating certain fish from the Saginaw Bay, Saginaw River and Tittabawassee River due to chemical contamination.

For example, don’t eat carp, catfish or white bass from the Saginaw River. But yellow perch are OK to eat twice a month, and walleye are OK to eat up to six times a year.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services tests filets of fish for chemicals to set the guidelines.

When consuming fish caught in Bay, Saginaw or Midland counties, officials advise that you choose the right fish, clean it properly, and cook the fish on a grill to allow any excess fat to drip away.

More information is online at michigan.gov/eatsafefish or visit Bay County’s Health Education website.

3 – The Wildlife Drive Auto Tour is now open at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw County.

map wildlife drive shiawassee

A map of the Wildlife Drive Auto Tour. Full-sized version here

The tour allows visitors to drive through the refuge, and runs from June 1 through Sept. 30. It’s open during daylight hours, and closes one hour before sunset.

The Wildlife Drive will take you past forests, grasslands, marshes, open water pools and the Shiawassee River. It runs for six and a half miles and includes observation platforms and parking areas along the way.

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

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

Free Fishing, Great Lakes Protection, and No More Renewable Energy Surcharges

For Friday, June 12, 2015

1 – This weekend is Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan.

That’s Saturday and Sunday, June 13 and 14.

All fishing license fees will be waived for the two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing for all species on inland and Great Lakes’ waters.

Research shows that young people today do not have access to fishing opportunities that were enjoyed by previous generations. Reasons include living in urban or suburban areas, competition for time by an ever-increasing schedule of special activities, and too little time for unstructured leisure.

Events are being held around the state. In Bay County, there’s a Free Fishing Festival at the Bay City State Recreation Area in Bangor Township. That includes a Family Fishing Derby, with rods and bait provided and trophies for the largest of each species of fish caught. There also will be a “Fishing Fairway,” where booths will be set up to teach and demonstrate skills, safety and knowledge which can be helpful while fishing Michigan’s waters.

Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, according to the Department of Natural Resources, with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams.

2 – The Great Lakes Protection Fund is looking for projects.

The aim is for projects that create ecological improvements on a regional scale.

The cutoff date for preproposals is Aug. 3, and decisions are expected in December.

Themes being explored include

  • Prototypes of Insurance, Assurance and Financial Products for the Ecosystem
  • Performance-Based Green Infrastructure Competition
  • Smarter Water – Healthier Lakes

The Great Lakes Protection Fund is a private, nonprofit corporation formed in 1989 by the governors of the Great Lakes states. To date, the Fund has awarded more than $72 million to support 259 projects.

To find out more, visit glpf.org.

3 – Renewable energy is paying off.

DTE Electric, Michigan’s largest electric utility, recently filed a rate change request to eliminate renewable energy surcharges from customer bills.

The surcharge will be removed beginning in January 2016, reducing electric rates by $15 million a year.

Consumer’s Energy, the second-largest investor-owned utility in Michigan, has already eliminated renewable surcharges on consumer bills.

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council, a trade association, says the elimination of the surcharges is additional proof of the rapid decline in costs associated with renewable energy in the state.

It also demonstrates the success of a 2008 renewable energy law that has spurred more than $3 billion in economic activity tied to renewable energy projects in Michigan.

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

Commercial Fishing May Return to Southern Lake Huron

For Friday, June 5, 2015

. . .

1 – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is exploring commercial fishing in Lake Huron, issuing a research permit to an existing Saginaw Bay commercial fisher.

lake whitefish minnesota dnr

Via the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

The Michigan waters of southern Lake Huron have not been commercially fished in five decades, according to the DNR. The agency believes there could be an abundant stock of lake whitefish available for harvest.

The permit allows the fisher, from Pinconning, to explore lake whitefish populations beginning this month (June 2015). The fisher will be permitted to set large mesh trap nets on experimental fishing grounds. The location is several miles south of Harbor Beach and north of Port Sanilac.

The research fishery is expected to continue over the next three years, while the DNR monitors and evaluates fish populations.

2 – Native plants reduce stormwater runoff and attract wildlife. They also require less watering and don’t need fertilizers or pesticides to survive.

Information on native gardening is available on a new website from The Nature Conservancy.

The site aims to make it easy for gardeners to get started using plants native to their area in yards and gardens.

You can answer four simple questions about your planting area, and the site will kick out a short list of plants that will thrive there.

There also are video clips.

The site is at nature.org/GoNative.

3 – Michigan is more than halfway toward meeting a clean power goal.

Clean power plan michigan union of concerned scientists

via UCS

A proposed Clean Power Plan from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency includes benchmarks for states to reduce their carbon emissions by 2020.

An analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists says Michigan is one of eight states that are more than 50 percent toward meeting the 2020 Clean Power Plan benchmarks. The others include Indiana and Wisconsin.

The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Most of the reductions would be made by 2020.

The EPA plan is expected to be finalized this summer, and states will submit their own plans for meeting the targets.

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

Follow @jeffkart on Twitter

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