Saginaw Bay Algae Events, WIN Earth Day Contest, and Warblers in Ogemaw

1Two upcoming events will focus on environmental issues in the Saginaw Bay Watershed.


The first is a speaker series being hosted by the Partnership for the Saginaw Bay Watershed, to discuss nutrient levels and nuisance algae in the bay. The event is from 1-3 p.m. on April 24 at the Wirt Public Library in downtown Bay City. It also will discuss ongoing projects by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Geological Survey to better understand and manage the bay’s algae problems.

And, a Wayne State University researcher will present “An Integrated Assessment of Beach Muck and  Public Perception at the Bay City State Recreation Area.”

The second event is a Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference, being coordinated by the Michigan State Land Policy Institute and groups throughout the watershed. That event is on June 12 at Saginaw Valley State University’s Curtiss Hall.

The day-long conference will focus on “tools and strategies for protecting water quality, the critical need for action and the development of local policies to protect and restore the Saginaw Bay.”

2Fifty words or less could be worth $1,000 to a local nonprofit.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network is looking for short descriptions of projects for an Earth Day Contest.

The ideas need to be related to conservation, public access to natural resources, natural resource-based recreation and education, or energy efficiency.

If you can describe the project in 50 words or less, your favorite nonprofit can win a grant to help support it.

Ideas will be posted to the Saginaw Watershed Initiative Network’s Facebook page, and the one with most votes will receive the grant.

The deadline is April 9. The award is to be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

3Which Michigan county is home to the largest number of nesting Kirtland’s warblers?

The answer: Ogemaw County. The endangered birds nest in 12 counties in Northern Michigan. Out of more than 2,000 singing males counted in a 2013 census, 26 percent were found in Ogemaw.

Why Ogemaw? Huron Pines, a nonprofit in Gaylord, notes that conservation programs which help the warbler also also help protect other natural resources in the region.

Ogemaw contains the headwaters of the Rifle River, which flows for 60 miles and empties into Saginaw Bay.

The group is looking for volunteers to help keep the river clean. You can find out more at Huron Pine’s website.

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



Cleaning up the Rifle, Asian Carp Salesmen, and 1 Million Michigan Campers

As heard 9 a.m. Eastern, Oct. 26, 2012, on Q-90.1 FM, Delta College NPR … 

Photo by Willie Lunchmeat (really)

1 – The nonprofit Huron Pines group in Gaylord is expanding its Rifle River Watershed Project. 

The group recently received a grant of nearly $700,000 for the work.

The broader program will cover the entire northern Saginaw Bay, according to the group, adding in the AuGres and Tawas watersheds.

The aim is to improve the water quality of the bay, increase and improve stream habitat for fish, and reduce runoff that negatively impacts rivers. Goals of the project include reducing sediment pollution by 850 tons a year and phosphorus inputs by 200 pounds a year.

With the most recent grant, from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Sustain Our Great Lakes program, Huron Pines has added a fulltime watershed project manager.

The Rifle is one of 16 Designated Natural Rivers in Michigan and is a tributary to Saginaw Bay.

2 – Hey, wanna buy some Asian carp?  

The Great Lakes Commission is helping crack down on people who sell aquatic invasive species online.

The Commission is developing web-crawling software to troll the Internet for the sellers of plants and animals for use in aquariums, nurseries, water gardens, aquaculture, and as live bait.

Accidental or intentional releases of live organisms sold online can adversely impact the Great Lakes.

But officials say little is being done to prevent potentially invasive species from being imported, traded, or released into the lakes via the Internet.

Sellers identified by the software will be contacted about relevant regulations and potential risks associated with the species they’re selling. The tool also will be available to regulators who may take further action.

3 – Camping season is pretty much over for the year, and Michigan state parks are celebrating a milestone.  

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently marked the 1 millionth camp night of the 2012 season at a state park in St. Clair County.

There haven’t been that many campers in one season since 2005, officials say.

Michigan state parks have seen a 7 percent increase in advance reservations this year, compared to 2011.

Officials attribute the rise, in part, to travelers with strained vacation budgets, and a lower-cost Recreation Passport for entrance to state parks.

For the record, some Michigan state parks offer year-round camping and cabin rentals, so you can camp this winter if you’re up for it.


Lake Huron and Saginaw Bay See Study Focus, and Restoration Funding

photo rv lake guardian great lakes research vessel

Via U. of Michigan

As heard Aug. 10, 2012, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM, Friday Edition, Environment Report … (I’ve been on vacation) …

The Least-Studied Great Lake

Lake Huron is home to a new long-term research program by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers from NOAA, and the agency’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, have set up a base in Alpena, at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

According to Great Lakes Echo, scientists at the Alpena station are studying water quality, invasive species, nutrient levels and physical properties of the lake.

The program’s lead researcher says Lake Huron is the least-studied of the Great Lakes, although previous work has been done in Saginaw Bay.

The latest research is to focus mainly on significant changes in the Lake Huron ecosystem, including increases in algal blooms and shoreline muck.

The research is being done, in part, to help develop more effective methods for managing fish production and water quality in the lake.

The work also is being done with equipment including the Research Vessel Lake Guardian, which used to dock in downtown Bay City.

Watershed Management Gets Money

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has announced $4 million in grant funding for water quality improvement projects.

The money, from the state Clean Michigan Initiative and federal Clean Water Act, will go to restore and protect state wetlands, lakes and streams.

Those eligible to apply include local governments, nonprofits, and universities.

The Clean Michigan Initiative money totals about $1 million and is available for watershed management plans

The Clean Water Act funding totals about $3 million and is available to develop watershed management plans or implement key parts of previously approved watershed management plans.

Areas in the Saginaw Bay District with approved watershed management plans include the Kawkawlin River, Pigeon River, Pinnebog River and Rifle River.

Matching funds of 15-25 percent are required for the pools of grant money. For more information, see the DEQ website.

Watershed management plans considers all uses, pollutant sources, and impacts within a drainage area, according to DEQ. The plan serve as guides for communities to protect and improve their water quality.

Sustain Our Great Lakes

Meanwhile, a public-private group called Sustain Our Great Lakes has announced more than $8 million in grants to fund restoration projects throughout the Great Lakes basin.

The funding from Sustain Our Great Lakes is intended to improve “the quality and connectivity of tributary, wetland and coastal habitats.”

The money includes almost $700,000 to improve 150 acres of wetlands, and improve water quality in the northern Saginaw Bay watershed. That work will be overseen by the Huron Pines Resource Conservation & Development Area Council.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy also is receiving $150,000 to control invasive phragmites and restore 101 acres, 11,700 linear feet of stream bank, and 10,100 linear feet of coastal habitat along Saginaw Bay.


Mich Enviro Report: Rifle River Stats, Net Metering & Saginaw Bay Phosphorus

As heard Dec. 9, 2011, on Delta College Q-90.1 FM
Members of the nonprofit Huron Pines group in Grayling at pouring over stats from a study done this year of the Rifle River watershed.  

The group spent time photographing and measuring the area this year. A total of 245 road and stream crossings sites were surveyed, along with 405 streambank erosion sites.

In roadside ditches and publicly accessible lakes, a total of 214 incidents of invasive species were recorded. In addition, 86 small dams were located via aerial photography and GIS analysis.

Huron Pines plans to use this information to prioritize restoration projects for the next two years.

The information also will be used to build a Rifle River Watershed Management Plan textbook. The book will be a resource for local planners and other interested in watershed protection.


More people are generating power from renewable resources in Michigan.

A new report from the Michigan Public Service Commission shows that the number of net metering customers increased from 254 in 2009 to 628 in 2010.

Solar power was the most popular, with 300 additional generators in 2010. Wind accounted for 74 additional generators in 2010.

The Net Metering & Solar Pilot Program Report is based on customer participation data provided by Michigan utilities.

The commission says Michigan has seen tremendous growth in the number of solar installations due to net metering and utility solar pilot programs in the state. There are about 8.9 megawatts of solar installations in Michigan.


What’s the state of Michigan’s environment?

A triennial report from the state DNR and DEQ documents changes in environmental trends including land use, animal and fish populations, invasive and endangered species, air pollutant levels and water quality.

For Saginaw Bay, the report says that between 1993 and 2009, average phosphorus levels were at their lowest in 1996 and 2005 and at their highest in 1998. Phosphorus is a nutrient that contributes to algal blooms in the bay.

State official says it appears that mean total phosphorus levels are decreasing in the bay, but a trend can’t be identified as of yet.

A number of actions have been taken to reduce phosphorus levels in the Saginaw Bay watershed. That includes a Bay county ban on most residential phosphorus fertilizers that took effect in 2009.

A statewide ban on phosphorus-based fertilzers goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

— Photo by Jason McDowell

Mich Enviro Report: Rifle River Update & New Science Summer Camp at SVSU

As heard on Friday Edition, June 24, 2011, Delta College Q-90.1 FM …
A project to restore the Rifle River watershed is making waves.

In the last month, the project has received $30,000 from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network. According to Huron Pines, the funding will go to improve stormwater management in West Branch.

The money will help to install rain gardens in the city, along with other stormwater management upgrades, during the next two years.

Local volunteers from Trout Unlimited recently took to the river to find and document streambanks that are suffering from erosion. More than 40 erosion sites were documented, along with new areas of concern, according to the Huron Pines group.

Other funding to the project has come from the Americana Foundation of Novi and the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The watershed project aims to reduce the amount of sediment and nutrient pollution that enters the Rifle.


Need something to keep the kids busy this summer? Send them to college.

Saginaw Valley State University is offering a new half-day summer camp. The STEM camp, for Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics, will offer hands-on activities for children in grades three through eight.

Students in STEM will work on various projects in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The camp is being taught by teachers and scientists from throughout the region. A junior camp, for students entering grades three through five runs from July 11-14. A senior camp for upcoming sixth through eighth graders is July 18-21.

Both camps run from 8 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.

The cost of the STEM camp is $100. For more information, call 964-4114 or log on to

— Photo via Huron Pines

Mich Enviro Report: Birds, Earthworms, Rain & the Rifle River

For Friday Edition, April 29, 2011, Delta College Q-90.1 FM … 


Early to mid-May is prime time for birdwatching.

photo robin worm grass

Photo Credit: John Benson

The Tawas Point Birding Festival takes place from May 12-15, during the spring migration.

The festival is a Michigan Audubon event supported by the local Au Sable Valley chapter.

Birders can expect to see migrating warblers at Tawas Point during the month of May. More than 160 species of birds were spotted during a festival in 2008.

The festival includes field trips, workshops, lighthouse tours, a Charity Island cruise, and Kirtland’s Warbler tours.

This year’s feature presentation is by authors and photographers Don and Lillian Stokes.

For more information, see


The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy has inked an agreement with Huron Pines to permanently protect land in the Rifle River Watershed.

Under the agreement, the Conservancy will identify parcels of land that exhibit important conservation values like wetland habitat or working farmland.

The Conservancy will then work with landowners to secure voluntary conservation easements on at least 100 acres of land in the watershed, according to those involved.

The Rifle River flows through Ogemaw and Arenac counties.

It’s about 60 miles long and drains 396 square miles into Saginaw Bay.

The Rifle is being negatively impact by sediment and nutrient loading.

The Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is based in Bay City.

Huron Pines is a conservation organization with offices in Grayling.


Rain Rain Rain. The next time you see a worm crawling on the sidewalk, give that worm some respect.

Earthworms are an indicator of soil health, and can impact soil structure and plant growth.

According to the Michigan Nature Association, there are 21 species of earthworms in Michigan, and you can find up to 300 individual worms in a square yard of soil.

Earthworms consume dead and decaying plant material and excrete food for plants.

Their other environmental benefits include helping with soil drainage, especially after a heavy downpour.

Earthworms can live up to eight years, but most don’t survive more than a year.

Thank the birds for that. Foxes, shrews, skunks, moles and garter snakes also enjoy the taste of worms.

The Saginaw Bay area has received plenty of rain this week. The precipitation has resulted in flood warnings for the Saginaw River.

Trust the (Rifle) River — GLRI Money is on the way

When Mr. Great Lakes was younger, he and his high school friends used to make an annual trip to Sterling, to camp in tents at White’s Canoe Livery and tackle the Rifle River on a Saturday morning. That was before most of us got married and had little ones.  I went down the Rifle with my wife and two kids in June, maybe for the last time. The river was too low, the canoe was too heavy, and I felt like The Skipper when a three-hour tour turned into a seven-hour nightmare. Which brings me to my (roundabout) point. The federal government is stepping up to help the Rifle. No, they won’t be putting in more water or helping people drag their canoes. But they’re putting up money to reduce runoff into the river, which is a good thing, especially if you happen to fall in.

Tim Bohnhoff, district conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Standish, says the Au Gres-Rifle River Watershed is receiving a share of $8.9 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for improving water quality by reducing non-point source pollution from agricultural operations. (I hate the term “non-point” because we all know where the stuff is coming from, but that’s the bureaucratic speak).

Practices eligible for assistance in the watershed include cover crops, filter strips, field borders, residue management, nutrient management and prescribed grazing.

Keep the money coming, EPA, for projects that bring physical improvement, not more studies. Let’s not forget that farmers need to take steps to keep runoff from running off in the first place, too, GLRI or not.

For more on what’s eligible for the Saginaw Bay watershed, see

Thanks for the tip, Tim. And here’s another tip: “Trust the river” is an old saying from my post-high-school canoeing days at White’s. It refers to just sitting back and enjoying nature, hoping that the current will magically carry you out of harm’s way, and the rocks and tree limbs that cause your canoe to turn over. It doesn’t always work.

— Image via Flickr.

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