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

Invasive Species, Sewer Maintenance

For Friday, Nov. 4, 2016

1 – New research in Saginaw County is looking at how invasive plants can feed farms and power homes.

According to the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network, scientists are working at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge this fall to determine if harvesting invasive cattails from the marsh can improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

The harvesting could remove nutrients taken up by the soil. These nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, can lead to water quality problems in the Saginaw Bay and its river systems.

Scientists also are investigating the use of harvested biomass as supplemental fertilizer and energy source.

The Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network provided a grant for the project and says the method could be used for other invasive species such as phragmites.

2 – The Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area promotes education, outreach and control activities in 17 counties in the Saginaw Bay watershed.

The group’s Strike Team reports a successful season treating more than 100 sites in the watershed.

The majority of the sites contained invasive phragmites and Japanese knotweed.  

All of the sites will be monitored and follow-up treatment will done as necessary.

Many of the sites treated were private lands where the property owner contacted the group directly.  

For more information, see the Facebook page for the Saginaw Bay Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area.

3 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has awarded nearly $97 million to 137 municipalities to assist with costs of planning for sewer system maintenance needs.

The program provides grant assistance for wastewater and stormwater planning, and the testing and demonstration of innovative technology.

Grants in Bay County include about $655,000 to the Bay County Road Commission, $392,000 to Portsmouth Township, $424,000 to Williams Township, $1.2 million to the city of Essexville, $1.7 million to Pinconning and $1 million to Standish.

– 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.

 

 

Counting Birds and Bacteria

For Friday, Dec. 18, 2015

1 – The Christmas Bird Count is underway.

The Audubon event happens every year, when thousands of volunteers identify and count birds throughout the United States and Canada.

The Count, now in its 116th year, helps helps researchers, conservation biologists and others study North American bird populations.

Last year, more than 2,400 counts were completed, with more than 68 million birds reported.

christmas bird count winter snow audubon

Credit: USFWS

Anyone can participate in the Christmas Bird Count, which takes place from Dec. 14 to Jan. 5. The event takes place in “count circles” that focus on specific geographic areas. Every circle has a leader, so even beginners can help contribute data.

There are count circles in Bay City, Midland and throughout the state. Last year’s count in Bay City – sponsored by the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy and Saginaw Valley Audubon Society –  recorded 52 species.

For more information, see birds.audubon.org.

– via NEEF

2 – The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is taking steps to address E. coli bacteria contamination throughout the state.

The state is developing a Total Maximum Daily Load document for surface waters in impaired waters throughout the state.

The DEQ estimates that about half of river miles in Michigan are impaired by E. coli.

About 22 percent of beaches had closures due to E. coli contamination in 2014, including some in Bay County.

E. coli is used as an indicator for fecal contamination and a water quality standard is designed to protect human health during swimming and other recreation.

When the standard is exceeded, the Federal Clean Water Act requires that Michigan develop a Total Maximum Daily Load to provide a framework for restoration of water quality.

The DEQ says that due to the extent of this problem and the multitude of potential sources, a statewide approach will be most effective. A webinar on the process in planned for Jan. 19.

– Fact Sheet

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2016.

michigan winter river platte honor

Credit: Jim Sorbie

– 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

Mussel Management, Science & Trouble in the Great Lakes

As heard on the March 30, 2012, Environment Report, part of Friday Edition at 9 a.m. Fridays on Delta College radio, Q-90.1 FM.

Mussel Management photo freshwater mussel buttons nsf illinois

The state has introduced an updated plan to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species.

Public comments on a draft state management plan are being taken until May 1.

Beyond preventing the introduction and spread of invasives like Asian carp, the plan aims to limit the harmful effects of invasives in Michigan waters.

New actions and enhancements to existing actions are outlined in the document.

Top priorities of the draft plan include a continued push for federal action to physically separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. That would involve changes to the sanitary and ship canal in Chicago.

The plan also proposes cracking down on Internet and pet shop sales of nonnative species that could cause problems in the lakes.

Comments are being taken through May 1.

You can find out more at michigan.gov.

Freshwater Science

Speaking of invasives, the National Science Foundation is out with a new report on freshwater mussels and the consequences for ecosystems.

According to research by the University of Oklahoma, almost 70 percent of freshwater mussels are considered threatened in some way.

Researchers say mussels need plentiful water to thrive, and healthy fish to reproduce.

In the Great Lakes, freshwater mussel populations have been harmed by invasive zebra and quagga mussels, native to Eastern Europe.

At the moment, the human need for water is the biggest danger to freshwater mussels, researchers say.

Habitat destruction, fragmentation from dams, and an intense drought in the southern plains have all contributed to destruction of mussel beds, according to the report.

Water filtering done by freshwater mussels provides a benefit for humans.

So one future priority in research is to come up with monetary values for the services that freshwater mussels provide.

Photo: For decades, freshwater mussels were harvested and made into fancy buttons. Credit: Illinois State Museum.

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