Energy Forum at Delta, Dragons in Saginaw, and a Project on the Kawkawlin

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Eastern, Fridays on Delta Q-90.1 FM. The Feb. 15, 2013, broadcast:

1 – A public forum on Michigan’s energy future is planned for March 4 at Delta College.

coal chunk

Credit: Jeffrey Beall

 

The forum is one of seven planned for locations throughout the state, and will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, March 4 in the Delta College Lecture Theater.

The public forums are hosted in part by the Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates major electric utilities in the state.

Gov. Rick Snyder has charged the chairs of the Commission and Michigan Energy Office with overseeing a public input process. The process is meant to assist policymakers as they take a look at future energy needs in the state.

Snyder says he’ll rely on the results of the process when making comprehensive recommendations in December regarding Michigan’s energy future.

The forums come after voters in November 2012 rejected a proposal to increase the amount of wind, solar and other renewable energy generation in the state from 10 percent by 2015 to 25 percent by 2025.

The Snyder administration is spending this year collecting comments and considering proposals for future state energy policy after the 2015 deadline passes.

Comments also are being taken online until April 25. There are specific questions on  renewables, efficiency, and the regulatory structure for electricity.

Bay County is home to the Karn-Weadock complex, which creates electricity by burning coal and is the largest power plant in the Consumers Energy fleet.

– – –  See Appendix A: Governor’s Energy Message (pdf)

2 – A dragon hunter has identified six new species in Saginaw County.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’re talking about dragonflies, at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.

Refuge Manage Steven Kahl reports that volunteer Jeff Sommer conducted a dragonfly count last summer.

He found six new species at the refuge, including

  • the Racket-tailed Emerald
  • the Cobra Clubtail
  • the Skillet Clubtail
  • the Dragonhunter
  • the Spot-winged Glider, and
  • the Spatterdock Darner.

These six new species raise the number of dragonfly and similar insects found
on the refuge to 54 species.

The diversity is due in a large part to a variety of wetlands on the refuge.

For those counting, the first day of spring is March 20.

. . .

3 – Bay County Executive Tom Hickner is now a member of the Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Committee of the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC).

Hickner was recently appointed to a two-year term as a voting member of the Committee.

The Environmental and Regulatory Affairs Committee provides recommendations to the board of the Michigan Association of Counties on current issues, legislative activity, and statutes affecting Michigan counties.

In other Bay County news, Drain Commissioner Joseph Rivet has accepted a nearly $1 million grant for water quality improvements on the Kawkawlin River.

The project will focus on best-management practices for agriculture, including erosion control projects. Also, direct livestock access to river will be managed and barriers constructed.

The project also aims to acquire 100 acres of permanent conservation easements, and identify and eliminate failed septic systems along the river. The goal is to reduce phosphorus and sediment inputs to the river.

The Kawkawlin River was flagged for high bacteria levels twice in 2012, and under a contamination advisory or closure for a total of 79 days.

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Michigan Waterfowl Legacy adds Saginaw Bay, Midland wants a bioreactor, and Climate Change is already here

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, at 9 a.m. Fridays on Delta College Q-90.1 FM.

michigan midwest climate change temperatures rising

From Chapter 18 of the National Climate Assessment draft.

Text and info from the Feb. 1, 2013, broadcast:

1- The Michigan Waterfowl Legacy program now includes Saginaw Bay.

Michigan Waterfowl Legacy is a recently launched statewide initiative that seeks to bring hunters and non-hunters together to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunting community.

The Legacy is a 10-year, cooperative partnership between various government agencies and non-government conservation organizations — including the Bay City-based Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network.

The Saginaw Bay watershed is the largest in Michigan, draining about 15 percent of the state’s waterways.

Goals of the Legacy program here include increasing the number of citizens in the region who are using and enjoying wetlands, and building on successful partnerships that have resulted in increased wetland and waterfowl habitat.

Plans include the promotion of Saginaw Bay tourism opportunities related to waterfowl and wetlands, and the development of Saginaw Bay-specific Michigan Waterfowl Legacy events, such as waterfowl hunting, birding, and trapping workshops.

Many of the new Saginaw Bay events will occur on waterfowl areas managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and tie into a new DNR campaign called “Explore Michigan’s Wetland Wonders.”

The project has been funded by a $27,500 grant from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, supported by area foundations.

2 – A bioreactor project is planned for a Midland landfill.

The city of Midland is requesting a construction permit from the state for a research, development, and demonstration project at an existing solid waste landfill.

According to a permit application, on file with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in Bay City, the project is designed to study the effect of adding sludge from the wastewater treatment process to solid waste at the landfill.

Adding sludge to the landfill is expected to optimize conditions for the biological decomposition of solid waste.

The landfill is 340 acres, and located on East Ashman Street in Midland.

The project also could increase the life of the landfill, and the amount of electricity generated from existing landfill gas extraction equipment.

A decision from the DEQ is expected by late April.

3 – Climate change is already impacting wildlife in Michigan.

Case studies from across the country show that global warming is altering wildlife habitats, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation, covering eight regions of the U.S.

Highlights from the Great Lakes and Midwest include: More heavy rainfall events are increasing runoff of nutrients from agricultural lands, contributing to harmful algal blooms and causing oxygen-depleted dead zones in the lakes.

The report recommends action to reduce the amount of toxic pollution from coal-fired energy, and support for more wind, solar, and geothermal energy projects.

Meanwhile, a recently released draft National Climate Assessment from the federal government concludes that climate change will lead to more frequent and intense Midwest heat waves, while degrading air and water quality and threatening public health.

Intense rainstorms and floods also will become more common, and existing risks to the Great Lakes will be exacerbated.

The National Climate Assessment’s Midwest chapter (pdf) was authored by three University of Michigan researchers.

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Go Ahead, Bring on the Apocalypse: New Virtual Windows Make Fake Nature

Photo: rachellynnae

Photo: rachellynnae

This blog normally focuses on the lakes and a related Environment Report radio show heard in the Saginaw Bay, Michigan, area on Q-90.1 FM.

However, in honor of Dec. 21, 2012, here’s a rant on fake nature. Consider it a little present from me to you. About the present:

This isn’t my idea of natural. It’s a product from Sky Factory: virtual windows and skylights that show computer-generated nature scenes.

I know what they were going for, yes. And these are made with low-energy LEDs, and recycled aluminum for the frames. Great. But creating the outdoors … from inside?!

Here’s my commercial: “Who care’s what’s out there? Dirty skies? Concrete jungles? Zombies? No biggie, just look at your virtual window and skylight and relax.”

Sure, this may make you feel better, like one of those lights for people with the winter blues (aka seasonal affective disorder). Maybe it’s OK for a hospital room.

Still, it’s just creating a false feeling of hope. It’s like watching a news channel that only tells you what you want to hear. Sound familiar?

What’s worse: This idea was recently showcased at Greenbuild 2012, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to green building.

Don’t get me wrong. The U.S. Green Building Council, which puts on the expo, has saved tons of coal-fired energy and carbon pollution, and is making buildings better these days.

This is not an example of an improvement in my eyes — ones that would rather look out on a real landscape than a computer-generated one. Geez.

The technology is called eScape, and is advertised as “the new virtual window that displays eight hours of real-time, high-definition nature sequences.” There’s also a skylight version “that creates a sense of openness in otherwise confined spaces.”

Is this kind of fakery actually good for us? Don’t we spend enough time staring into our cell phones? Even books can be electronic. I love you (paper-saving) Kindle, especially reading you in the real outside.

Maybe your feeling on these “windows” depends on where you live, be it the big city or the country?

Now the company claims that this technology uses biophilic design elements, feeding the instinctive need of humans to affiliate with nature.

The company says research by Texas Tech University’s Neuroimaging Institute has shown that “the Sky Factory sky compositions activate areas of the brain not activated by other positive images,” which trigger a relaxation response.

Here’s a better way to stimulate your skull: Get outdoors. Take a walk or bike ride. Bring your significant other, kids, and/or dog.

Has winter got you down? Suit up and take a hike in the woods. Take the kids sledding. Try skiing.

What’s your favorite way to leave the house behind?

Happy End of the World.

Saginaw Basin Field Guide, Dow Chemical consent order, and more Great Lakes algae

photo pressprich nature preserve sblc

Via SBLC

As heard Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM‘s Friday Edition, Delta College …

1. A new field guide will soon be available for explorers in the Saginaw Bay region.

The guide, with trail maps, directions and information on local nature preserves, is being put together by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy, headquartered on Bay City’s West Side.

The Saginaw Basin Field Guide also will include information on wetlands, animals and birds, native and invasive plants, and protection efforts by the conservancy. The Saginaw Bay watershed is home to more than 100 endangered or threatened species.

The guide is being developed and published with support from a number of partners.

The conservancy owns a number of nature preserves around the basin that are open to the public. The nonprofit is holding a 6th Annual Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy Nature Photography Contest, with a focus on the preserves. Entries are due by Sept. 30.

The field guide is expected to be available from the conservancy in early October, for free.

2. The Dow Chemical Co. plans to settle a case with the state over pollution from its Midland manufacturing site.

The company plans to pay $38,500 to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality as part of a consent order.

The state cited Dow for exceeding particulate matter emission limits in June and July 2011.

According to a DEQ staff report, the excess emissions were from a ethyllcellulose production facility.

A Dow spokesman says less than 12 pounds of a non-hazardous product were emitted during testing of processing equipment.

The problem was immediately corrected, the spokesman said, and the company has taken steps to prevent a recurrence.

Ethylcellulose, sold by Dow under the name ETHOCEL, is used as an additive in medicine tablets to improve their appearance and mask the bitter taste of active ingredients, according to the company.

The consent order stipulates penalties of up to $3,000 per violation per day for future violations of the company’s Renewable Operating Permit.

Public comments on the proposed order are being taken until Oct. 10.

3. This week was Great Lakes Week, and agencies and environmental groups participated in four days of conferences in Cleveland. 

photo great lakes erie algae muck

Via U of M

Among the issues discussed in Ohio was excess algae, and shoreline muck, like the kind that’s been fouling the Saginaw Bay for years.

A University of Michigan aquatic ecologist presented his latest findings on the topic, saying climate change could double the number of intense spring rain storms in the Great Lakes region by the end of this century.

And that would likely add to the number of harmful algal blooms and “dead zones” in Lake Erie.

The ecologist says additional conservation actions need to be taken by the agriculture industry to prevent more harmful blooms in the future.

The ecologist says widespread adoption of no-till farming and other agricultural techniques since the mid-1990s appear to have increased the availability of a type of phosphorous that promotes algae blooms.

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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 …

1.

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

photo wind solar 25 by 2025

Via MTU

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.

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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 saginawbaywin.org 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.

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Mich Enviro Report: Design to Zero, DTE Wind Farms & Dog Poop Science

As heard Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM

1.

Midland-based Dow Chemical has launched a contest for students, based on sustainable home design.

The Dow Solar Design to Zero Competition challenges students to use solar and other sustainable technologies to design three connected dwellings that use as little energy as possible.

The challenge is open to design, architecture and engineering students from around the world.

Registration runs through Sept. 25. Final housing designs must be submitted by Oct. 31.

The contest offers first, second and third prizes of $20,000-$5,000. Winners are to be announced in January 2012. Individual students or student teams can enter.

For more information, see designtozero.com.

2.

More wind farms are slated for Michigan’s Thumb.

DTE Energy has signed a contract to purchase 120 megawatts of power from a wind farm located in Tuscola, Bay and Saginaw counties.

DTE will purchase all of the energy produced at the 9,000-acre wind farm, which is enough to power more than 30,000 homes. The wind farm , planned by NextEra Energy, is expected to be operational in late 2012.

The latest contract puts DTE more than halfway to a goal of getting 1,000 megawatts, or 10 percent, of its power from renewable sources. A state law requires utilities to get 10 percent of their power from renewables by 2015.

DTE also has hired a Southfield company to build three additional wind farms in Huron and Sanilac counties next year. Up to 70 turbines are to be installed, with a total capacity of about 110 megawatts. Initial delivery of the wind turbines is expected in the summer of 2012.

Together, the two projects are expected to result in hundreds of new construction jobs and tens of millions of dollars in new tax money for local governments.

3.

The air in Michigan and other Great Lakes’ states is being fouled by … dog poop.

That’s according to a study that was highlighted recently by Great Lakes Echo.

The University of Colorado-Boulder study found that the winter air in Cleveland and Detroit had large amounts of bacteria that most likely came from dog feces.

The researchers analyzed 108 summer and winter air samples from four Great Lakes cities, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Mayville, Wisconsin.  The samples were checked for common sources of airborne bacteria, including different types of feces.

High levels of bacteria common to dog feces were found in all four cities. But the levels in Detroit and Cleveland spiked dramatically in the winter.

Why? Well, one theory is that dog owners just don’t scoop the poop as often in the winter.

The difference in the fecal bacteria levels by city also may be explained by the number of dogs who live there. The study says Detroit has a problem with stray dogs. Airborne bacteria can cause disease and trigger asthma and seasonal allergies.

-Photo by F. Deventhal

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