Environment & Science

Craig and Sharon Goble invested $30,000 in their solar array. They say the proposed changes to Michigan's solar program would make their investment less valuable.
David Cassleman / Interlochen Public Radio

More and more people are putting up solar panels in Michigan. It's getting a lot more affordable to do it. And there's a payback when you get your monthly utility bill.

But a bill in the state Senate could fundamentally change the solar program in Michigan, and it has some people worried. 

How "net metering" works in Michigan

Craig and Sharon Goble’s electricity bill looks different than most people’s.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michiganders have until the end of the week to make suggestions for managing the state’s water resources for the next 30 years.

Jon Allan is the director of the Office of the Great Lakes in the Department of Environmental Quality.     Allan’s office is producing “Sustaining Michigan Water Heritage, A Strategy for the Next Generation,” a blueprint for protecting and improving Michigan’s water resources.

Michigan is toying with the idea of building open-water fish pens, like this one in Ontario.
Northern Ontario Aquaculture Association

 

OK, this is where I fess up and tell you that the answer to that headline is "only time will tell."

A scientific advisory panel is studying the possibility now (see their names here), and we expect to see their findings this October. After that report, there will be more "time telling" as state officials decide whether to allow it.

AeroVelo

A Canadian group hoping to break the human-powered land speed record is testing its speed-bike on a General Motors test track on Monday.

The current record is 83.1 miles per hour. 

AeroVelo thinks its new recumbent speed bike can go about 87. 

All photos by Marvin Shaouni

Andrew Niemcyzk worked for years as a coal miner in his native Poland, during which time he would examine the mine's earthen walls and think about the way water was moving from the surface deep into the ground. He didn’t know it then, but that curiosity would lead to the establishment of Parjana, a Detroit company that is poised to change the way the whole world manages water.

Parjana's true origins, however, are in a wet Hamtramck basement.

Grand River Edges Trail.
user deckheck / Rails to Trails Conservancy

The Grand River, from Jackson to Grand Haven, will become a water trail, under a new designation by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The project will make improvements along the river, adding trail markers and amenities for paddlers. The Michigan water trails project is intended to promote tourism, healthy lifestyles, and natural resources, according to Marc Miller, Regional Initiatives Deputy with the DNR.

Mike Norton on Boardman Lake portion of the TART Trail in Traverse City.
Beth Price / IMG Media - Second Wave

When you think of Traverse City tourism, what comes to mind? Beautiful beaches? Wineries? Great food? Sand dunes?

How about well-maintained forests? Though trees may not be the first thing that comes to mind—besides cherry trees, of course—healthy forests are becoming an important part of Traverse City's most important industry. And the same is true of other Michigan cities, where a dependence on forest-based tourism is growing. 

Eusko Jaurlaritza / Flickr

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

And so far, newer methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are not producing a new boom for the industry.

The number of permits issued for new oil and gas wells so far this year is on track to be the lowest in more than 80 years.

John Vucetich and Rolf Peterson / Isle Royale Wolf-Moose study

There are just three wolves left on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  And researchers estimate there are 1,250 moose.  

The National Park Service is deciding whether or not to step in.

The park service is in the early stages of creating a management plan for the wolves and moose on the island.

Chuck Szmurlo / wikipedia/creative commons

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint,  is urging people in Michigan to weigh in during a 90-day public comment period on Canada's plan to build a radioactive waste storage facility near Lake Huron.

Kildee says written letters are best.

"We simply request that you stop this project and locate another facility that is not 6/10 of a mile from the greatest fresh water source on the planet," says Kildee.

Jake Neher / MPRN

A bill that would make major changes to Michigan’s solar power laws is getting some pushback.

The legislation deals with a process called net metering. Right now, that allows people with rooftop solar panels to use the power they generate and sell the rest to their utility. Senate Bill 438 would change that.

Flickr user Ken / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state of Michigan has joined with 14 other states in launching a legal challenge to the EPA's Clean Power Plan. That's President Barack Obama's plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30% by the year 2030.

Attorney Roger Kershner with the Howard and Howard law firm says opponents of the plan seem to be looking to delay the implementation of the rules until they can be reviewed on their merits.

The plan calls for states to implement their own system to meet the requirements, but Kershner says, "We don't know exactly what the rules are yet," only the ultimate goal.

Rebecca Williams/Michigan Radio

Invasive species love to sneak a ride on boats.

There are more than 180 exotic species in the Great Lakes, and we help move them around.

Jo Latimore is an outreach specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

“Research has shown that boats and trailers moving from one lake to another are the number one vector, the number one pathway of invasive species moving from one water body to the next,” she says.

Consumers Energy launching new solar energy program

Aug 18, 2015
Large solar panels
Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy is launching a new program that will let customers invest in renewable energy.

The new community solar program, called Solar Gardens, is the first of its kind for the company, according to Consumers.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding another $5 million in grants to help farmers near the Great Lakes plant cover crops.

Colleen Forestieri is with the Van Buren Conservation District.

She says it's one way to keep phosphorus from getting into Lake Erie and feeding the cyanobacteria.

Aerial photo of the Bruce Nuclear Generating Station near Kincardine Ontario.
Chuck Szmurlo / Wikimedia Commons

Hundreds of people are expected to gather in Port Huron Sunday to rally against a proposal to store nuclear waste in an underground repository near Lake Huron.

Ontario Power hopes to build a deep geological repository to store low- to medium-level nuclear waste that’s already on the site of one of the biggest nuclear power plants in the world.

Davidshane0 / Wikimedia commons

It’s hard to miss the Eckert plant’s three towering smokestacks in downtown Lansing. They’ve been around almost 60 years.

“They’re affectionately known as Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” Steve Serkaian, a spokesman for Lansing’s public utility, said.

“Those stacks’ days are unfortunately numbered,” he added.

USFWS Midwest

Walking through an empty parking structure or some public place that isn’t crowded or well-lit can inspire the imagination and bring on a case of the creeps.

It can make people feel the place is unsafe, even when there’s no evidence.

Flickr user PROUSFWSmidwest / Flickr

Each invasive sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish a year in the Great Lakes.

We spend more than $28 million in federal money each year to control the lampreys (according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, $20.9 million goes to sea lamprey control measures and more than $3 million is spent on sea lamprey research).

Michael Wagner is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

He’s one of the researchers at MSU testing out ways to attract sea lampreys into traps.

USDA

There’s a tree killer on the loose.

It’s called the Asian longhorned beetle. It has a shiny black body with white spots, and really long antennae.

It’s not known to be in Michigan yet, but the pest has invaded Ohio. So officials want you to keep your eyes open.

Rhonda Santos is with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

She says we should be on the lookout for the beetles in our yards and community spaces.

A Minute With Mike: Carp Carp Hooray!

Aug 12, 2015
minute with mike logo
Vic Reyes

Once again it's time to dust off the ol’ Future-tron 2000 and see what might be happening in our state's future.

Dateline: Summer, 2050

 

Lake and river towns throughout Michigan are undertaking final preparations for tonight's 30th annual Celebration of Carp, or “Carpration” as some Michiganeers fondly refer to it. Since its arrival in the Great Lakes in 2020, the Asian Carp has revolutionized Michigan's industry and diet.

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

Enbridge Energy is sponsoring new efforts to monitor waters above its aging pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Enbridge is working with the Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) out of Michigan Technical University to build and operate a buoy to measure currents in real time. That information will be made available for anyone to view online.

Aaron Selbig/Interlochen Public Radio

Since the 1930s, Sargent Sand Company has held a permit to mine sand from its property that's surrounded by Ludington State Park.

For years, the 400 acre mine was dormant as the company negotiated to sell its land to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

That sale fell through.

Last year, the mine cranked back up again, and the neighbors aren’t too happy about it.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area is a tranquil haven just north of Bay City along the Saginaw Bay.   It’s also under siege.

Slowly, an invasive plant is filling its ponds and streams.

The European Frogbit appears harmless. Its small lily pad and delicate white flower was brought to North America as an ornamental pond plant. 

But the Frogbit, like many other non-native plants, would not be contained.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Another free-ranging Michigan deer has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. 

“This news is not surprising,” said Dr. Steve Schmitt, DNR wildlife veterinarian. “The good news is that all three deer came from the same small area.” All three deer are related and were found in a one mile radius in Ingham County.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, moose and elk.   It is not a threat to humans.

Flickr user Andy Rogers / Flickr

If you’re eating right now, you might want to take a little break.

We’re going to take a moment to talk about fecal bacteria.

Researchers at Michigan State University have done some detective work on septic tanks in Michigan, and they’ve found these tanks are leaking bacteria.

Giant hogweed close-up
user Farbenfreude / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM


You could say, it's like something out of "Little Shop of Horrors": a nasty, giant plant that could lead to blistering, scars, even permanent blindness.  

It's called the giant hogweed, and they've found one near Battle Creek.

Flickr user Mike Mozart / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Your backyard may be full of potential wild edibles that you never considered.

Lisa Rose is an herbalist, urban farmer and a forager. Her mission is to get us to connect with the land we live in by using plants we can find in our surroundings.  And you can learn how to do this in her book Midwest Foraging: 115 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Burdock to Wild Peach.

Many people think of foraging as something that has to be done in wilderness, but Rose says there is potential all around us, saying she wants to "bring that level of awareness that nature is right out our front door, it's not just exclusively at a nature center or at the farmer's market."

The search for the next great bee

Aug 4, 2015
Lou Blouin

Honey bees pollinate about a third of the crops in the U.S—that’s about $15 billion of the agricultural economy. But honeybees have had a tough time lately: a combination of diseases, stress, parasites and pesticides have all hurt the honey bee population.

Scientists are starting to look at how other species of bees could help pick up the slack.

Holland BPW

President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will have a profound effect on Michigan’s energy policy overhaul, but no one agrees yet on how.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration says it’s withholding judgment. Valerie Brader is the director of the Michigan Agency for Energy and the governor’s top advisor on energy policy.

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