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

Getting Warmer on Climate Predictions, Surface Temperatures

For Friday, Dec. 2, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/qf7mohqej0lpjhf/ENV%20REPORT%2012-2-16%20mrgreatlakes.mp3]

1  – The Great Lakes are part of one climate system, although they differ greatly from one another.

great lakes model nayuki

Credit: Nayuki

A new integrated computer model brings together climate and water information for the Great Lakes region. It will be useful for climate predictions, dealing with invasive species and other environmental research.

Michigan Technological University helped develop the model, along with the federal Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab in Ann Arbor, and other organizations.

A researcher says knowing the warming trend is an important concept in climate change modeling, along with understanding that extreme events become more severe.

The new model will help researchers better understand the connection between air and water in the Great Lakes.

The model’s accuracy was vetted by comparing its simulations to historical records and satellite data.

2 – The temperatures of the Great Lakes were the warmest in six years for late November.

Surface temperatures in November 2016 were several degrees warmer than at the same time two years ago.

Data for Saginaw Bay shows temperatures in the 40s and 50s for Nov. 30.

With winter on its way, warm lake waters and cold winds blowing across them will be a perfect combination for lake-effect snow, according to officials with the federal Coastwatch program.

The last time the lakes were this warm, in November of 2010, lake surfaces remained mostly ice free for the entire winter.

– 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

 

Water Strategy, Solarize Michigan, Clean Your Hunting Dogs

For Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/89ocmmjx3g2xlx3/ENV%20REPORT%2010-20-16.mp3]

1 – The final part of Michigan’s water strategy is out.sustaining-michigans-water-heritage

This is part four in a series of releases from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The final piece highlights recommendations and governance tools.

Primary recommendations include developing integrated monitoring systems, tracking groundwater use and working with tribal governments.

The next steps will involve outreach and education initiatives, and tracking progress.

The Water Strategy is a 30-year plan to protect, manage, and enhance Michigan’s water resources for current and future generations.

 

2 – The sun is setting on a solar program in the Tri-Cities.

Solarize Michigan was launched earlier this year by the nonprofit Institute for Energy Innovation and comes to a close on Oct. 31.

The program goal is to accelerate deployment of distributed solar power in Bay, Midland and Saginaw counties by making the investment simpler and more affordable.

After a process that received dozens of inquiries and 10 proposals, three installers were selected. Program representatives held workshops and gave presentations to local service and community groups.

The program broke ground on its first project in June, and has since finalized 13 projects, adding more than 100 kilowatts of new capacity.

In the remaining days,organizers are working to sign-up more interested households in an effort to double the number of installations in the three counties.

– Via  http://eepurl.com/cj1B4b

 

3 – Waterfowl hunters can help stop the spread of invasive phragmites.

The plants are spreading across Michigan, and the state is calling on hunters to do their part.

New invasions of phragmites can start from windblown seeds or fragments of plant roots. These seeds and fragments can stick to hunting gear, including decoys and even dogs.

Hunters are encouraged to remove plants, seeds and mud from boots, pets, vehicles and gear before leaving a recreation or hunting site.

Hunters who notice invasive phragmites in areas where they haven’t seen them before are asked to report the sightings with a smartphone app.

– 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 #MrGreatLakes

 

Remembering the 30th Anniversary of Michigan’s Flood of 1986

For Sept. 2, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/n9gb6uauzv4xbxo/flood-of-1986-9-2-16-mrgreatlakes.mp3]

1 – September marks the 30th anniversary of one of the worst flooding events in Michigan history.

The 1986 storm hit hardest in the Saginaw Bay and Thumb region.

For three days, from Sept. 10 to 12, rainfall over Central Lower Michigan averaged between 6 and 12 inches, with some reports as high as 14 inches.

Several rivers established record crests. Eleven dams failed. Across the state, more than 3,600 miles of road and 30,000 homes were flooded.

Ten people died as a result of the storm. Damages totaled $500 million. Twenty two counties were declared federal disaster areas, impacting more than 1.8 million residents.

A new project spearheaded by Michigan State University and Michigan Sea Grant will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the 1986 storm and help communities prepare for future storm events.

The project includes an online interactive map showcasing firsthand accounts of the 1986 storm as well as events in communities that were heavily impacted by the flooding.

Residents who lived through the 1986 storm can submit photos and written descriptions of their experiences.

All of the historical documents and accounts submitted to the project will be archived by the Bay County Historical Society.

A new website for the project will go live around the anniversary of the storm. Stay tuned for updates.

2 – If you want to be a citizen scientist and protect against potential invasive threats, here’s your chance.

Little Forks Conservancy is hosting a free workshop on Wednesday, Sept.7, along with Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan Forest Association.

The training is from 5:30-8 p.m. in the Community Room of the Dow Memorial Library in Midland.

The Sept. 7 workshop is part of a statewide effort called Eyes on the Forest.

The goal is to inform residents about the impact and risk of invasive species, and recruit trained volunteers to monitor trees across the state.

During the workshop, experts will explain the program, and show people what to look for and how to report their findings.

The workshop is free and open to the public. RSVPs are requested by contacting Little Forks Conservancy in Midland.

– 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 #MrGreatLakes

 

Plans for Saginaw Riverfront Park, Michigan Water Strategy

For Friday, June 17, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/qvafc03ehurcgs0/mr-great-lakes-riverfront-strategy-6-17-16.mp3]

1 – Planning for a proposed Riverfront Park is progressing in Saginaw.

The Saginaw Community Foundation has awarded a grant to The Nature Conservancy.

The Conservancy is working on a project to develop and implement a community vision for a former General Motors property.

The Conservancy is working with community partners including Saginaw County and Saginaw Future on an open space, recreation and conservation vision for the proposed Riverfront Park.

The conceptual plan includes public access to the river and lake for fishing, multiple trails, and a link to a larger regional vision for trails, open space and recreation lands.

Grant funds will be used for the initial stages of the project and to begin the proposed improvements to Riverfront Park.

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2 – Michigan officials have released a 30-year vision for stewardship of the state’s water resources.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has published the first part of Michigan’s Water Strategy, a plan to protect, manage and enhance Michigan’s water resources.

Part I of the Strategy is centered on promoting stewardship through improving water literacy and community engagement, and protecting and preserving Michigan’s water resources.

The final Strategy will focus on five priorities:

  • Safe drinking water
  • A 40 percent phosphorous reduction in the Western Lake Erie basin
  • Preventing the introduction of new invasive species
  • Supporting investments in commercial and recreational harbors
  • Developing and implementing a Michigan water trails system.

The state is to form a Water Team to involve governments, nongovernmental organizations, industry, academia, local communities and individuals.

 

 

Discovery Playground, Rain Barrels, and Milkweed for Monarchs

For Friday the 13th, 2016

[audio https://dl.dropbox.com/s/0onwn77huxvoyq9/05-13-16-mr-great-lakes-discovery.mp3]

1 – The Discovery Preserve is an urban, learning landscape established in 2013 and located at 1701 S. Euclid Ave. on Bay City’s West Side. 

discovery-preserve-playground-sblc

Via SBLC.

This year, the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy is helping build a nature play area at the site. Children will be able to climb large boulders, build woodland shelters out of logs, and dig in the dirt.

The play area also will include interpretive signs that provide children with ideas to help explore and learn about the natural environment. The playground is due to be finished by this summer.

The Conservancy is holding a contest to name a playground mascot. Kids ages 12 and under are encouraged to submit suggestions online at sblc-mi.org.

2 – Rain barrels are a simple, efficient and low-cost method for conserving water to feed lawns and gardens.

The Little Forks Conservancy in Midland is taking orders for repurposed 55-gallon rain barrels.

Proceeds will support local conservation programs.

The barrels feature mesh screening to keep out mosquitoes and other bugs; overflow valves; a garden hose spigot; and a polyethylene surface that can be painted.

Rain barrels collect and store rainwater runoff, typically from a home or building’s rooftop. Instead of running down driveways and sidewalks to sewers, the rainwater is directed to a rain barrel where it can be stored for later use. The average home yields more than 250 gallons of water from every 1 inch of rainfall.

Orders are being taken until June 6. For more information, see littleforks.org.

3 – Throughout Michigan, people are working to help boost populations of monarch butterflies.

The numbers of monarchs have dropped sharply in recent years mostly because milkweed plants also have been decimated.

According to the Michigan Wildlife Council, virtually anyone can join the monarch conservation effort by planting milkweed in a backyard garden or flower bed.

Even a single plant makes a possible reproductive site. Milkweed is the only place where monarchs lay eggs. The plants also serve as the food source for the growth of monarch caterpillars.

A milkweed plant can support several caterpillars, and caterpillar survival is typically better if they are widely distributed over a number of plants.

Two of the best varieties for garden plantings in Michigan are orange milkweed – also commonly referred to as butterfly weed – and swamp milkweed.

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Monarch caterpillar. Credit: John Flannery

– 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 #MrGreatLakes

 

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