detroit river

Matt Lavin/ Flickr

A program to remove invasive plants is coming to Detroit's Belle Isle this summer.

A federal grant from the EPA of almost half a million dollars will go to Friends of the Detroit River. Sam Lovall is the project manager. He says removing the invasive plants is really important for the health of the island's ecosystem.

"Although some of them are quite attractive, they tend to overpopulate the area," said Lovall.

"They are very aggressive and they can compete very well with some of our native plants."

user: jacdupree / Flickr

Now that the Detroit Red Wings are going to get a new home in 2016, Joe Louis Arena seems destined for the wrecking ball. 

And that is focusing fresh attention on Detroit's riverfront, as the city searches for a new use for that riverfront site. 

There could be some valuable lessons Detroit could learn from Buffalo, which is doing more than just about any Great Lakes City to reconnect with its waterfront after generations of industrial abuse and neglect. 

Writer Edward McClelland spelled out the story of the ongoing process of reclaiming Buffalo's waterfront in a story for Belt Magazine. He joined us to discuss what Buffalo is doing, and what Detroit could do. 

Listen to the interview above. 

United States Coast Guard

DETROIT (AP) — About 200 to 300 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Detroit River while a U.S. Coast Guard ship was taking on fuel, officials said.

The discharge from the Cutter Mackinaw happened Tuesday afternoon near the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

The Coast Guard said the ship's crew secured the source of fuel and conducted initial cleanup operations onboard. Crewmembers also deployed a boom around the fuel to prevent further spread. A contractor is expected to finish cleanup efforts.

"We take our role as environmental stewards seriously, and any accidental discharge of fuel is regrettable," Capt. Eric Johnson, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Incident Management Branch, said in a statement. "We are already at work mitigating any potential impacts."

The cause of the discharge is under investigation, Johnson said, and the Coast Guard wants to ensure that another spill doesn't happen.

Ice breaking work is keeping Coast Guard crews busy on the Great Lakes, and the Mackinaw was cleared Tuesday to leave for an ice breaking operation.

User: Fabienne Kneifel/Flickr

The news of Detroit's bankruptcy filing has been relentless.

But that Chapter 9 filing does not seem to be completely stalling economic growth and development in and around downtown.

Case in point: Rivertown -- a $55 million proposed development along the east riverfront. It recently won approval from the Detroit Economic Development Corporation.

Rivertown would have townhouses, apartments and small-scale retail.

Richard Baron, chairman and CEO of real estate development firm McCormick Baron Salazar, joined us today to talk about the development.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Deadline for objecting Detroit bankruptcy arrives

“Banks, bond insurers, employee pension systems and others who believe they are owed money by Detroit are up against the clock to legally voice opposition to the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history. A federal judge set today as the eligibility objection deadline in the bankruptcy petition by Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager Kevin Orr,” the Associated Press reports.

Drunken boating still a problem on the Great Lakes

“The U.S. Coast Guard says boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a serious problem on the Great Lakes. Personnel stationed on the lakes had issued 89 citations for drunken boating this year through Aug. 13. That's up from 84 during the same period in 2012. Alcohol is a leading cause of fatal boating accidents. Penalties for piloting a boat while drunk can reach $5,000,” the Associated Press reports.

Feds to survey the Detroit River for sea lamprey

“A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed. Lampreys attach to fish and use their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids. The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish. Crews have kept lamprey numbers under control by applying a specially designed poison to streams where they lay eggs,” according to the Associated Press.

Sea lamprey
Activistangler.com

DETROIT (AP) - A team with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will estimate the abundance of sea lamprey in the Detroit River this month to determine what control measures might be needed.

The eel-like lamprey invaded the Great Lakes during the 1920s and has remained ever since. Lampreys attach to fish with a mouth resembling a suction cup. Their sharp teeth dig through a fish's scales and skin and feed on blood and body fluids.

The average lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish.

After months of operating without one, the company responsible for Detroit’s petroleum coke piles went hunting for one Tuesday.

Detroit Bulk Storage representatives faced a city panel that will decide the issue. At times, panel members were highly skeptical of the company’s actions.

A company representative said they didn’t know they needed a permit to openly store pet coke along the Detroit River.

It’s stopped taking additional shipments of the substance — a byproduct of refining Canadian tar sands oil — until it gets one.

“Our understanding was that once we were moving toward compliance, we could continue our operations,” said Detroit Bulk Storage lawyer Terri Whitehead.

A Detroit Bulk Storage representative also insists the company is using “best practices” when it comes to handling the openly-stored piles safely.

But the company’s quest for a permit faces stiff resistance from some residents, community groups, and other opponents.

Many residents described finding pet coke dust inside their homes, and watching clouds of it move across and into the river.

Google Earth Engine

Earlier this week, I posted on the power of Google's "Earth Engine," an online tool that lets you fly back in time and space to see how land has changed.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

That huge pile of petroleum coke lying alongside the Detroit River is triggering a growing sense of alarm. 

You may recall, we spoke with New York Times journalist Ian Austen about the origins of this mountain of "pet coke" that's growing in Southwest Detroit. It's a byproduct of tar sands oil refining used in energy production. When mixed with coal, it can be used as a low-cost fuel.

The piles are being brought in by trucks from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit, and the pet coke is being stored by a company called Detroit Bulk Storage for the owner of the pet coke: Koch Carbon.

U.S. Congressmen John Conyers and Gary Peters and others have been voicing concern about the health and environmental risks of storing these piles of pet coke. We wanted to take a closer look at these concerns.

Nick Schroeck is a professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit and the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Google

My kids love using Google Earth. With the push of a button they "fly" from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Newfoundland, the Panama Canal, the Great Barrier Reef, or some other place they're curious about.

Now Google has mined satellite images from the U.S. government that allow us to fly back in time.

user romanm / wikimedia

An eyesore has grown on the Detroit skyline.

It's a three-story pile of black petroleum coke that could cover an entire city block and it's the by-product of oil sands bitumen drilling in Alberta, Canada. 

The pile is most visible to Canadians in Windsor, Canada where the view of the pile isn't hidden by buildings. 

Ian Austen is the "New York Times" Canada correspondent who wrote a story on pet coke last week

user romanm / wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Tests by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have found that hulking black mounds along the banks of the Detroit River in southwest Detroit don't pose a threat to human health.

The petroleum coke, or pet coke, mounds are a byproduct of oil refining used in energy production. The material has been brought by trucks from the nearby Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery, and the mounds drew attention starting earlier this year.

The Detroit News reported the MDEQ's findings Friday.

Area residents, the Canadian government and U.S. lawmakers are among those concerned about potential pollution and health effects.

Findlay, Ohio-based Marathon Petroleum says the pet coke stored along the Detroit River is no longer owned by the company. If stored properly, however, Marathon says pet coke poses no environmental concerns.

Vimeo

This piece featured on Stateside is part of an ongoing series called The Living Room, curated by Allison Downey.

"There are those for whom fishing is not only a family tradition, but a creative act: Michigan-based writer and fisherman, Pete Markus is in that category. The river and fishing inspire his work. And his writing is a hybrid of fiction and poetry. He's got this tendency to say volumes with just a few words that he repeats over and over again. Words like fish, river and Bob," Downey reported.

Pete Markus is a 2012 Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, who teaches writing in Detroit Public Schools. Producer Zak Rosen spent time fishing and talking with Markus on the Detroit River. You can listen to the audio above.

Carousel on the riverfront
Marc Pasco / Detroit RiverFront Conservancy

Efforts to complete a recreational development project along Detroit's east riverfront are getting a $44 million boost from the federal government and the state, reports the Associated Press.

The east riverfront spans 3.5 miles from Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park.

Patricia Drury/flickr

After years of rumors, it’s official - beavers are back on Belle Isle.

It’s been about 100 years since the animals left the 985-acre island on the Detroit River, driven away by trappings and human development. In recent years, any time someone thought they spotted a beaver in the area, park officials always deemed the animal a muskrat or raccoon caught in a case of mistaken identity.

That is, until last week when a park visitor snapped a cell phone photo of a beaver swimming in the Blue Heron Lagoon.

John Hartig of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge told The Detroit News that the Belle Isle beavers may have come from a family of beavers spotted at the nearby Conners Creek Power Plant four years ago.

user notorius4life / wikimedia commons

The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge was established in 2001 and it includes shoreline, wetlands, and shoals along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie.

The refuge system has now added a 30-acre island to the system.

From the Associated Press:

Officials say Sugar Island is part of conservation area surrounding the southern end of Grosse Ile in the Detroit River. It's located in Wayne County's Grosse Ile Township.

The island once was a destination for picnicking and had other attractions. It's near Boblo Island, which once was home to a well-known amusement park.

Sugar Island was bought by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding and it's now part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.

The refuge includes roughly 5,700 acres along 48 miles of the Detroit River and western Lake Erie.

The Nobel-prize-winning writer Anatole France once observed sarcastically that “the law, in its infinite wisdom, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, or steal bread.”

That popped into my mind yesterday, when a billionaire who owns a bridge learned to his shock that laws apply to him too, and that there are some people who cannot be bullied or bought.

Divers took to the Detroit River to try and bring up a long-submerged cannon Wednesday.

Detroit Police Underwater Recovery Team divers discovered the Revolutionary War-era cannon in July. It’s the fifth such cannon pulled out of the river since the 1980s.

Detroit Police say a British vessel capsized leaving Fort Detroit in 1796, losing five cannons.

DETROIT (AP) - A police dive team has found a cannon in the Detroit River near the city's downtown. The cannon was discovered about 200 feet from Cobo Center in July. The police department says the cannon could be more than two centuries old.

More than three-dozen U.S. and Canadian agencies participated in a mock-disaster situation on the Detroit River Tuesday.

The drills included a mock terrorist attack on a large riverboat, and a follow-up search-and-rescue operation.

Officials say the exercise caps three years of interagency planning to prepare for possible disasters along the international maritime border.

You might expect that the Legislature, our well-paid, elected representatives, would be most keenly concerned with the economy and trying to figure out how to make things better.

Well, once in a while they do show signs of being interested in that, but yesterday … not so much. The governor was forced to postpone efforts to get approval for a new bridge over the Detroit River, a project that would cost Michigan nothing and create at least 10,000 jobs. He doesn’t yet have the votes.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending the plan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Snyder spoke to the Detroit Free Press about his support for a new international bridge over the Detroit River a day after the newspaper published comments from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun that criticized Snyder and the new bridge plan.  From the Free Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Wednesday that a TV ad campaign attacking plans for a second bridge to Canada reminds him of misleading campaign attacks on him in last year's race for governor.

"It's inaccurate," he said of the ad's claim that the public project connecting Michigan and Canada would cost state taxpayers $100 million a year.

The ad is paid for by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who said in a front-page Free Press report Wednesday that Snyder's advocacy for the public bridge would kill Michigan jobs, notably at his companies.

Moroun wants to build his own second Detroit-Windsor span, but the Canadian government won't let him build the span because of traffic, legal and environmental concerns. Snyder said two bridges would be viable…

Snyder said a new bridge, built by a private builder, would stimulate commerce. But, he said in a wide-ranging interview, his top priority is balancing the state budget and enacting tax changes he said will lead to more jobs.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he hopes to introduce legislation next week that would move forward with construction on a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. A similar proposal has met stiff opposition for several years among Republicans in the Legislature. Snyder says it is time for another international crossing:

“Doing the new international trade crossing is the right thing to do. At the same time, when I did my analysis I believe there’s viable opportunity to have the Ambassador Bridge continue, the Windsor Tunnel, the Blue Water Bridge, and clear up at the Soo. We’ve got great crossings, we just need another crossing.”

Democrats in the Legislature say Snyder will need their votes to approve the bridge project. They say if the governor wants their support he will also need to work with them more during budget negotiations.

Lawmakers return next week from their spring break.