Saginaw Bay Research on Nutrients, Algae, Asian Carp, and a Delta College LEED Project

The Environment Report. With Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard at 9 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College. The June 21, 2013 report:

1 –

A recent international conference featured several studies related to Saginaw Bay. 

saginaw bay aerial searls michigan

Bay City, Michigan, and Saginaw Bay. Credit: Doc Searls.

The 56th annual Conference on Great Lakes Research, held at Purdue University in Indiana, brought together numerous Great Lakes scientists to share findings.

One study, by researchers at the University of Michigan, looked at changes in the Saginaw Bay food web and nutrient tipping points.

Scientists say results suggest that current nutrient load targets for the bay should be revised to sustain existing walleye harvests. That’s due to changes caused by invasive species.

Another study examined algae as a contributing source of shoreline bacterial contamination.

Researchers from Wayne State University looked at concentrations of E. coli and other bacteria from near-shore water, wet and dry algal deposits, and sand collected from a Saginaw Bay beach.

Overall results suggest that the shoreline algae provides a suitable environment for bacteria to persist, proliferate, and impact near-shore water quality.

There was even a study on the potential impacts of Asian carp on Saginaw Bay. U of M researchers used modeling to assess the potential for Asian carp establishment in the bay and the impact on the bay ecosystem.

Information gathered from the model will be used to inform management action plans to control Asian carp in the Great Lakes.

The conference was organized by the International Association for Great Lakes Research.

2 –

Delta College is seeking LEED certification for renovations to its Health Professionals Building.

LEED is a green building standard that stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The $20 million renovation project is updating a facility built in the late 1970s.

Delta officials are looking at several elements to achieve certification, including the categories of: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy Use, Materials and Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

There are less than a dozen LEED-certified buildings in the Saginaw Bay region.

A highlight of the green renovations is a new rainwater harvesting system, another relatively unique feature for commercial buildings in Michigan.

Officials estimate the system will save almost 170,000 gallons of water each year by using filtered rainwater to flush toilets in the building. That also will save money because city water won’t need to be purchased.

The renovations project is being funded by state and private sector dollars.



Get Paid for Solar Generation, and Take a Look at Michigan’s Land Management Plan

Mr. Great Lakes (Jeff Kart). As heard in Bay City, Michigan, at 9 a.m. Eastern Fridays on Delta College Q-90.1 FM … The Environment Report for April 5, 2013.

public land map bay region mich dnr

Public land map, Bay Region. Via Michigan DNR.

1- Attention Consumers Energy customers: If you’re interested in generating solar energy and selling it back to the utility, here’s your chance.

Consumers Energy is taking residential and non-residential applications until May 8 for its Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP).

The contract program allows electric customers to sell the output of solar generating systems to Consumers Energy for a fixed price over a contract length of up to 15 years.

Qualified applicants will be selected by lottery (pdf).

To quality, you must own or lease the solar photovoltaic system, and install it at your billing address or on an adjacent property you own or lease.

This is the 11th and 12th phase of the program. In 2011, the Michigan Public Service Commission approved an expansion of the program in line with state energy standards.

2 – Public outdoor recreation improvements are coming to the Saginaw Bay area, courtesy of more than $23 million in Natural Resources Trust Fund grants awarded statewide.

Gov. Rick Snyder approved the grants recently, for 76 recreation development projects and land acquisitions in 43 Michigan counties (pdf).

In the Saginaw Bay area, the city of Saginaw will receive $67,000 for a boulder climbing garden and multi-use pathway extension in Celebration Park. The pathway extension will connect the park to the Saginaw Riverwalk and adjacent recreation facilities.

The city of Zilwaukee also received more than $254,000 for improvements to Riverfront Park, located on the Saginaw River. The proposed development includes a playground, benches, paved parking lot and walkway, fencing and a seawall to improve bank fishing opportunities.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is made up of  oil, gas, and other mineral lease and royalty payments made to the state.

3 – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is seeking public comment on a draft land management plan at regional open houses.

The plan outlines a strategy for DNR-managed public lands.

The regional meetings include one on April 25 from 6-8 p.m. at the Delta College Planetarium in downtown Bay City.

The draft land use strategy would, for the first time, set a standard for public access to the Great Lakes and rivers. It also calls for improved access on DNR-managed public lands, according to the agency.

The draft plan also includes a new strategy for the possible disposal of about 250,000 acres of DNR-managed public lands.

– 30 –

Wicked Problems, Delta’s Green Award, and Michigan Energy Efficiency

Photo by thirteenthbat

As heard Oct 12, 2012, on Friday Edition, 9 a.m. on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

Sea Grant Seeks ‘Wicked Problems’

Just in time for Halloween, Michigan Sea Grant is looking for “wicked problems” in the Great Lakes.

What makes a problem “wicked”? It has to be a complex environmental issue that’s challenging to address because the cause isn’t clear.

After all, you can’t figure out how to best solve a problem without a clear understanding of what factors are causing it.

So the Michigan Sea Grant research program is looking for public input on a coastal resource issue that needs a solution.

Michigan Sea Grant is seeking ideas for projects in four focus areas:

1)      Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

2)      Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture

3)      Resilient Communities and Economies, and

4)      Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development.

The ideas are requested by the day before Halloween.

Michigan Sea Grant is a collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

(If you have an idea for Michigan Sea Grant, provide a synopsis and contact information for an agency or organization with decision-making authority related to the issue. Send the information by Oct. 30 to Jennifer Read, Research Program Coordinator:

Green Genome Award

Delta College has received a national environmental award.

The Green Genome Award comes from the American Association of Community Colleges.

The award was presented this month as part of an effort to honor community colleges that “have taken a strategic leadership role in sustainability and green economic and workforce development.”

Delta College won for achievements in Community Engagement. Other awards went to colleges in California, North Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia.

Winners of the awards each received $8,000 to support the college’s enhancement, expansion, or creation of a practice or program related to green workforce development and sustainability.

According to a Green Genome report from the association, Delta was recognized for efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of the campus and the surrounding community.

Those efforts, over several years, have included the creation of a campus sustainability office to reduce the school’s carbon footprint.

Delta also has been spearheaded numerous alternative transportation activities, including the creation of a non-motorized greenway and a park-and-ride, hybrid-conversion bus route called the Green Line.

In addition, Delta was recognized for providing alternative energy training in automotive, wind, and chemical process technology, and work by students to build sustainable Habitat for Humanity homes in the community.

We’re No. 12!

Michigan is becoming more energy efficient, but didn’t break the Top Ten in a recent 2012 state scorecard report.

The report, from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ranks Michigan as 12th in the nation. That’s up from a rank of 17 last year.

MIchigan was cited as most improved after Oklahoma, Montana and South Carolina, according to Great Lakes Echo.  The state advanced in the rankings in part  through a law requiring electricity and natural gas providers to file energy optimization plans. The plans are meant to help reduce long-term costs to ratepayers and delay the need for additional power plants.

The scorecard report gives top honors to Massachusetts for the second year in a row. The report looks at six policy areas in which states pursue energy efficiency goals.

This is the sixth year for the Council’s State Energy Efficiency Scorecard report.


First Grey Water Re-Use in Saginaw Bay Region, and Sewage Relief

As heard on Friday Edition, June 22, 2012, on Delta College public radio, Q-90.1 FM

Delta College to get region’s first grey water re-use facility

photo grey water example

Photo by R. Schade

Environmental improvements are on tap in the Saginaw Bay region.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network has awarded a series of new grants. The group, known as Saginaw Bay WIN, is funded by area foundations.

The new grants include money for a Vassar Dam removal project on the Cass River, and the region’s first commercial grey water re-use facility at Delta College.

Funding also has been approved for a nature-based kindergarten program at Bullock Creek Schools, in cooperation with the Midland-based Chippewa Nature Center.

WIN is starting up a brand new small grant program, too. More details are coming in the next few months, group leaders say.

Additionally, the WIN group has existing funding available for projects that address land use, water resources, agriculture, energy efficiency, wildlife habitat and regional marketing.

Sewage Relief Spelled with an $$$

What will it take to curb sewage overflows into the Great Lakes?

A steady stream of money.

A new report by the Alliance for the Great Lakes looks at the success of the federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund in helping finance sewer improvement projects. Experts say improvements are needed throughout the basin to old sewage systems that overflow during rains, in areas including the Saginaw Bay region.

The Revolving Fund program provides low-interest loans and flexible financing to help local governments carry out wastewater management projects and green infrastructure development, Alliance officials say.

For every federal dollar appropriated to the program, states kick in 20 cents. The fund grows as a result of repayments, interest earnings and other proceeds.

In 2011 , almost 19 billion gallons of combined sewage and stormwater was dumped into the Great Lakes by wastewater treatment plants. The report highlights two communities, including Grand Rapids, Michigan, that have achieved large decreases in their overflow volumes with the use of Revolving Fund money.

The Alliance is pushing for continued federal funding to the program. Federal money allocated yearly to the fund has decreased since 2011 and another cut is proposed for 2013.

Bonus: Midwest Energy News

A waste-eating bug for nuclear power? (Michigan State U. research on Geobacter)

Mich Enviro Report: Phragmites, Purple Loosestrife & Teaching in Bay City

As heard Sept. 30, 2011, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College …

1. An environmental teaching conference is coming to Bay City.

The Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education is holding its 23rd Annual Conference from Oct. 7-9 at the Delta College Planetarium in downtown Bay City.

The event will bring together teachers, naturalists, and outdoor recreation leaders from throughout the Midwest.

This year’s conference will explore the concept of sustainability and ways to address the concept in teaching practices. Topics to be discussed include earth science and technology, Michigan agriculture and freshwater studies.

Field trips also are planned aboard the Appledore schooners, operated by BaySail, and to the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center at the Bay City State Recreation Area.

2. Invasive reeds are being doused along Saginaw Bay.

The reeds are a plant called phragmites, which have sprouted up along large parts of the bay shoreline in recent years. Bay County officials say aerial spraying to control the plants will be done along the the shoreline at the county-owned Pinconning Park  and Fraser Township’s Linwood Scenic Park.

The aerial treatment will be done by helicopter, weather permitting, sometime during the next several weeks.

A herbicide mixture will be used to treat areas with dense stands of phragmites, which can grow to be more than 10 feet high.

There will be a 24-hour water use restriction in the treatment areas with signs posted against swimming and wading at the sites.

Phragmites is a perennial wetland grass.

It thrives in coastal and inland environments, chokes out native habitat for birds and mammals, and makes it difficult for humans and wildlife to access the water bodies it surrounds.

A chemical released through the plant’s root system also can kill fish.

3. Other invasive plants have already been removed by Huron Pines Invasive Species SWAT Team.

The group says it’s removed every blossom of purple loosestrife on the North Branch of the Au Sable River.

In August and September, the team covered more than 20 acres of riverbank, pulling and digging out single and small groups of plants. They also clipped blossoms from large areas to prevent seeds from entering the river.

The team of volunteers received assistance from the North Branch River Keepers.

Purple loosestrife is a perennial herb native to Eurasia.

It decreases native vegetation, can alter a wetland’s structure and function, and forms a dense monoculture where it grows.

— Photo by Liz West/CC


Friday Edition: Great Lakes Report, Lasers & Poisoned Perch

Thanks to all who listen to the Environment Report, on Friday mornings on Delta College’s Q-90.1 FM.

I’m going to start posting the text from my radio spots, in case listeners are looking for more info. Without further delay, here’s what aired on Nov. 12:

What’s the state of the Great Lakes?  

Getting better, but still in need of help.

Outgoing Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm says the state is working to protect and restore the lakes. She released an annual State of the Great Lakes Report this week that focuses on efforts in the four lakes that border Michigan — Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior.

So far, more than 80 million dollars has been awarded to more than 140 projects in Michigan under the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the report says.

Projects in the Lake Huron basin include improvements to the Frankenmuth dam to open up more areas for fish spawning, an international study of Great Lakes water levels, and efforts to detect and treat nonnative plants called phragmites along the shoreline.

Find the State of the Great Lakes report at

It’s too cold to go swimming at the beach. But better beach monitoring, with lasers, could be coming to Michigan.

A low-powered laser testing method has been developed by Purdue University.

The laser shines through samples of E. coli bacteria to determine the origin of the bacteria, which comes from human and animal waste.

In Saginaw Bay, there has been finger pointing about E. coli found in dead algae, or beach muck, along the shoreline. Some people believe the source is human sewage. Others believe large farms deserve more of the blame.

The laser method can allow for faster and less expensive E. coli testing results, to warn beach-goers about contaminated water, according to state officials.

It also can help county health departments determine the source of bacteria linked to ongoing beach closures.

The technology is still in the testing stages.

But the federal government is releasing tougher standards for beach bacteria in 2012, and the laser could help counties meet the new requirements, state officials say.

How do toxic substances affect yellow perch in the Great Lakes?

Scientists plan to poison a number of perch to find out.

The study, by Michigan State and University of Michigan researchers, is on the causes and effects of toxic substances on perch. It will focus on exposure to mercury, which is released to the environment by sources like coal-fired power plants in the Lake Huron basin.

Fish in the study will be given low doses of mercury and other pollutants. As the levels of poison are increased, scientists will examine the effects on fish hormone levels.

The testing results will help assess potential threats to perch and other aquatic life from pollution in the Great Lakes, MSU researchers say.

— Photo via


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