Debating Ag Land Windfall, Finding Trout Trails

For April 14, 2017

1 – Agricultural land is the only type of property in Michigan that’s increased in overall value since 2008.

According to Midwest Energy News and Bridge Magazine, that may be in part due to wind energy development. Areas that have seen significant development — such as the Thumb region — also had some of the greatest property value increases.

One analysis says commodity prices of corn, sugar beets and soybeans are the primary reason for the increased agricultural property values.

But a Lansing-based consulting firm says that analysis focused on a property’s value, not including other taxable features like wind turbines.

5 Lakes Energy says counties that host the largest number of turbines, including Huron County,  have seen the largest increase in the total taxable value of property in their areas.

2 – Those who love to fish for trout will want to check out a new online Trout Trails tool.

michigan-trout-trails

Credit: MDNR

The application pinpoints quality trout streams and lakes throughout the state.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the tool features lesser-known waters that are considered to be outstanding places to fish for trout, and they’ve verified by biologists.

Almost 100 new sites were recently added to the application, which includes about 300 locations in the Great Lakes basin.

Each entry features extensive information, including the trout species available, regulations, the presence of stocked or naturally reproducing fish, driving directions, area lodging, restaurants and more.

Visit michigan.gov/trouttrails to access the information.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

Energy Laws, Duck and Bird Advice, Power Plant Expansion

For Friday, April 7, 2017

 

1 – There are new energy laws coming to Michigan and opportunities for public involvement.

A web page from the Michigan Public Service Commission provides details on the laws, which take effect on April 20.

The new laws include updates relating to utility rate cases, electric choice, energy waste reduction and renewable energy. Electric providers will be required to produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.

You can sign up to receive email updates on topics of interest. You can find more information at michigan.gov/energylegislation.

— Via GLREA

2 – If you find a duck nesting on your property this spring, leave it alone.

Goslings are a common sight in Michigan in the spring

Goslings. Credit: MDNR

Michigan wildlife experts say ducks nests, particularly mallard nests, seem to appear just about everywhere in the spring. Female mallards often build nests in landscaping, gardens or other locations.

While finding a duck’s nest in an unexpected location may be a surprise, there is no need for concern. Leave the duck alone and try to keep dogs, cats and children away from the nest.

If the mother duck is successful and her eggs hatch, she will lead her ducklings to the nearest body of water.

Don’t worry if you do not live near water, the mother duck knows where to take her ducklings to find it.

If a bird builds a nest on your property, it’s common to find baby birds on the ground after they attempt to fly. Don’t touch them. Their parents will continue to take care of them, even when they are on the ground.

Touching a baby bird will not cause adults to abandon it. But if you move a baby bird, the parents may be unable to find and care for it. It is better to leave the baby bird alone to be raised by its parents.

3 – A Midland power plant plans a $500 million expansion.

midland cogeneration venture plant expansion artist rendering

Artist’s rendering. Credit: MCV

According to the Midland Daily News, the Midland Cogeneration Venture plans to spend the money to add two new gas turbines and a steam turbine at its 1,200-acre site.

Officials estimate 700 people will be employed during the two and a half years of construction, and 20 long-term jobs will be added at the site. The upgrades will boost electrical capacity by at least 40 percent.

Midland Cogeneration Venture is the largest plant of its kind in the United States. It uses natural gas to produce electricity and process steam for customers including nearby chemical production companies.

Construction on the expansion is to begin once the plant secures a power purchaser, which is expected to take six to 12 months.

Officials say the expansion is driven by the need for more energy following the shuttering of older power plants.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

Comments on Michigan Air Contaminants, Updates on Renewable Energy

For Feb. 17, 2017

1 – All of Michigan’s electric providers met or exceeded the 10 percent renewable energy standard in 2015.

Michigan’s new renewable standard will increase to 12.5 percent in 2019 and 2020 and 15 percent in 2021.

A Michigan Public Service Commission annual report says meeting the 2015 standard can be credited with the development of more than 1,670 megawatts (MW) of new renewable energy projects.

The average price of existing renewable energy contracts also is considerably less than was forecast in initial renewable energy plans.

The report notes that wind energy has been the primary source of new renewable energy in Michigan and about $3.3 billion has been invested to bring new renewable energy projects online through 2016.

The average cost per megawatt hour for renewable energy also has been substantially lower than the cost of a new coal-fired plant.

2 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is taking comments through April 14 for more than 1,200 health-based screening levels used in its Permit to Install Air Permitting Program.

The public comment period is the result of rule revisions that took effect in December and require all screening levels and their origins be posted for public review with comments accepted for 60 days.

The state’s air program aims to protect public health by regulating toxic chemicals in industrial air emissions.

michigan tree snow wind

Credit: GollyGforce

Under the new rules, the emission of a toxic air contaminant cannot result in a maximum ambient air concentration that exceeds a health-based screening level.

Previously, memos describing the reasons behind screening levels were only available upon request. Now they’re open for review and public comment through April 14.

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– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

CMU Studies Freshwater Contaminants, Michigan Gains Solar Jobs

For Feb. 10, 2017

1 – Contaminants of emerging concern are in everyday products from soap to pharmaceuticals.

But their environmental impact is largely unknown. A Central Michigan University biologist is studying how these contaminants in the water and sediment affect the ecosystems and life cycles of freshwater mussels.

Biologist Daelyn Woolnough is looking at freshwater mussels and largemouth bass, which act as hosts for mussel larvae.

Of the more than 40 freshwater mussel species in the Great Lakes, more than 70 percent are endangered or threatened. Their populations have been impacted by invasive species like the zebra mussel, and may be impacted by contaminants of emerging concern, which also include agricultural products.

Freshwater mussels filter water from the basins in which they reside, and they don’t move around like fish. So testing mussel tissue or contaminants will tell researchers what’s happening at the bottom of rivers.

The results may help inform management and conservation decisions.

2 – Michigan gained 1,339 solar industry jobs in 2016, representing a 48 percent increase in the state’s solar workforce.

A new National Solar Jobs Census from the nonprofit Solar Foundation says Michigan now has a total of 4,118 solar workers, up from 2,779 in 2015.

One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2 percent of all new jobs.

Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10 percent.

In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.

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– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

Creating an Urban Park, and Keeping the Lights on in Michigan

For Friday, Feb. 3, 2017

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/rhfoh4jv2s7a4og/ENV%20RPT%20-%20ONLINE%202-3-17.mp3]

1 – More than 334 acres along the Saginaw River will be used for urban recreation.

The site of the former General Motors Saginaw Malleable Metals foundry and Greenpoint Landfill will be managed by the Saginaw County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Potential uses for the proposed Riverfront Park include hiking and biking trails, wildlife viewing, and catch-and-release fishing.

4331119130_3ff0b8fec1_b

The Saginaw River. Credit: Saginaw Future

Additional trails may connect the site to the Iron Belle Trail, downtown Saginaw and the nearby Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, according to The Nature Conservancy, which secured a grant for project planning.

In December, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board recommended that the state Legislature approve a $290,000 grant to be used for trail development and other improvements.

2 – Michigan should have enough energy to keep the lights on, even in challenging times.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says current utility projects should result in Michigan’s electric reliability remaining strong in the summer of 2018.

Officials note, however, that developing additional resources in the Lower Peninsula as a backup plan would be appropriate.

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Credit: Travis Wise

The study looked at a scenario that occurred in 2012, in which electrical demand hits very high levels and two nuclear plants are unexpectedly down.

The study showed that lower Michigan should be able to keep the lights on if that happens. But it also showed that more of a cushion is needed between now and the summer of 2018 just in case things don’t go as planned.

Demand response resources, in which users agree to use less electricity when demand is spiking, on a very hot day for instance, can be put in place before the summer of 2018, according to the Commission.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkart on Twitter #MrGreatLakes

 

 

State of Great Lakes Research, Lighthouse Keepers, Smart Meters

For Jan. 6, 2017

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/l27jv46zb34by51/mrgreatlakes-environment-report-1-6-17.mp3]


1 – Universities in the Saginaw Bay region are helping tackle complex issues facing the Great Lakes.

tawas point lighthouse keepers michigan dnr

Tawas Point Lighthouse. Credit: Michigan DNR

A State of the Great Lakes report released this week notes work by the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute, part of Saginaw Valley State University, and the Institute for Great Lakes Research, part of Central Michigan University (see page 32).

SVSU researchers are using drones for water quality monitoring. The unmanned drones can travel to remote places to collect water samples. They can bore through ice, which is faster, more efficient and safer than sending researchers out onto the frozen Great Lakes.

CMU is using the Beaver Island Ferry to collect data on Lake Michigan. The boat moves people to and from Beaver Island and also uses equipment to measure water chemistry and temperature. 

2 – The Tawas Point Lighthouse is looking for tour guides.

Those selected can spend the summer as volunteer lighthouse keepers, and live on site in exchange for conducting the tours. The program runs from May 17 through Oct. 17.

The lighthouse, located in Tawas Point State Park, has been in operation since 1876.

Keeper tasks include giving tours, greeting visitors, providing information about the lighthouse and the area, and light maintenance duties.

The minimum commitment for staying at the lighthouse is two consecutive weeks.

Applications are available online at michigan.gov/tawaslighthouse.

3 – New meters will allow Consumers Energy customers to track usage and save money, the company says.

Consumers Energy plans to complete a five-year statewide project by the end of this year, installing 1.8 million meters for electricity and natural gas.

Midland and Bay counties will begin receiving upgrades in the spring. Clare and Gladwin counties are scheduled for the summer.

Customers can use the new meters to choose their billing date, sign up and receive alerts when their energy use is trending higher than usual, and review their energy use by hour, day or month.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkarton Twitter #MrGreatLakes

State Energy Laws, Park Improvements, Water Infrastructure

For Friday, Dec. 23, 2016

1 – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a rewrite of state energy laws.

The changes are intended to boost the use of renewable power sources and continue competition in the electricity market.

energy

Credit: GollyGforce

The governor says the policy reforms will help residents save on electric bills, ensure reliability and advance clean energy.

The Michigan Environmental Council says the legislation is an important victory.

Highlights include increasing the state’s 10 percent renewable energy standard.

Utilities will be required to ramp up their use of renewable energy to 12.5 percent by 2019, and 15 percent by 2021.

2 – Park improvements are coming to Bay and other counties.

The state Department of Natural Resources has awarded $2.2 million in Land and Water Conservation Fund grants.

Seventeen community and state parks, trails and sports facilities across the state have been recommend for funding.

Those include the village of Farwell in Clare County, Monitor Township in Bay County, and Midland Township in Midland County.

The upgrades include grills and picnic tables, safety lighting, signs, new playground equipment, electrical updates, tree replacement, and parking improvements.

The project recommendations will be sent to the National Park Service for federal approval.

3 – A Water Infrastructure Improvements Act will fund Great Lakes restoration projects for the next five years.

The funding totals $1.5 billion, and was signed into law last week by President Obama.

The measure authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years at $300 million a year.

The Initiative funds projects to clean up fish and wildlife habitat, reduce farm and city runoff, fight invasive species and clean up toxic pollution.

About 3,000 projects have been completed across the Great Lakes basin since the inception of the Initiative in 2010.

– Mr. Great Lakes is heard at 9:30 a.m. Fridays in Bay City, Michigan, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM NPR. Follow @jeffkarton Twitter #MrGreatLakes

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