Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Sea lampreys are invasive parasites found in every one of the Great Lakes. It’s a fish with a round mouth like a suction cup. It latches onto big fish like trout and salmon... and kills them by drinking their blood.

It costs fisheries managers in the U.S. and Canada 20 million dollars a year to control the lamprey.

There’s one secret weapon in development that could eventually save them money... pheromones. Those are odors that male lampreys release to attract the lady lampreys.

I called Nick Johnson with the Michigan lamprey research team to find out how the team's third and final year of testing these pheromones is going.

You could call him a lamprey matchmaker.

"Pheromones are typically species specific, so they should have minimal impact to other species, they're highly potent, effective at very low concentrations. So once they're developed they could be applied relatively cheaply and with little environmental impact."

Photo courtesy of Herpetological Resource & Management

Crews are still out on the Kalamazoo River cleaning up oil from last summer’s spill.  More than 840,000 gallons spilled from a ruptured pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners, LP.  Right now, crews are focusing on cleaning the contaminated soil.

It’s not clear what the long term impacts will be on wildlife.

After the spill, rescue teams collected more than 2,400 birds, mammals, fish and reptiles... and took them to a rehab center to have the oil cleaned off. Most of the animals brought into the center survived.

This week, I talked with herpetologist David Mifsud, aka "Turtle Dave."  He was hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help with the initial wildlife recovery. He says turtles made up the majority of wildlife rescued from the spill site.

“We had some, their mouths were so tacky with the oil they could barely open their mouths. We saw some pretty devastating things.”

flickr user molajen

The Chicago Sun-Times is reporting "a bizarre scene evolving along the Chicago lakefront."

Geese and mallard ducks are apparently gulping down thousands of dead fish that are in the ice or floating in the open water around the ice.

The paper quotes Lake Michigan Program biologist Dan Makauskas who says:

"Gizzard shad are pretty sensitive. On the toughness scale, [they] are pretty soft."

Some biologists attribute the die-off to lower oxygen levels because of ice cover around the lakefront.

Former Muskegon Chronicle reporter Jeff Alexander wrote about a gizzard shad die-off on Mona Lake in Muskegon County back in 2008.

That die-off was attributed to a hard winter as well. From Alexander's report:

Gizzard shad die-offs are common in several area lakes. The fish often die during winter as ice cover decreases oxygen levels in the water; the fish also die from thermal shock when the lake warms up rapidly in the spring, said Rich O'Neal, a fisheries biologist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Gizzard shad are members of the herring family and are native to the Great Lakes.

Canis latrans
user mayra / wikimedia commons

Coyotes are opportunistic animals. They'll just as soon go after your cat as they would a rabbit in the wild.

So if you live in an area where coyotes are abundant, you might see them as a nuisance.

Kaitlin Shawgo of the Grand Rapids Press writes about coyotes on the rise in West Michigan.

In the piece, Sara Schaefer with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment says the numbers are up in that part of the state:

"There's no doubt that the coyote population is up. In almost all areas I cover in southwest Michigan, they’re up."

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder issued the first executive order of his administration yesterday. The order splits up oversight of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two state departments: the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality.

The executive order takes effect March 13th. As The Associated Press reports:

Gov. John Engler separated the natural resources and environmental quality functions into different agencies in 1995, but Gov. Jennifer Granholm rejoined them in 2009 in a cost-saving move. Snyder now says the job would best be handled by two agencies.

Rodney Stokes will head the Department of Natural Resources and Dan Wyant will head the Department of Environment Quality.

In a statement released yesterday, the Governor said:

“Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and we need to be a leader and innovator in protecting these resources. Recreational fishing, hunting and boating activities alone contribute more than $3 billion annually to our economy.  Separating the DEQ and DNR means we can better address these key priorities.”

Michigan Supreme Court
Photo by larrysphatpage, Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court says anyone can sue the state if they believe it's acting in a way that harms the environment. 

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra talked with Nick Schroeck with the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center to find out what this decision means. He says if a company wants to do something like discharge treated wastewater into a creek or a river, for example, it needs a permit from the state to do so:

“The way our environmental law works, you have to have a permit to pollute, as it were. That means that the state regulates the amount of pollution that’s allowed into the waters of the state.”

Winter solstice 2005
Tom Goskar - Flickr

I was hoping to get to this post sooner, but the day just got away from me.

Today seemed unusually short. That's because it IS the shortest day of the year.

And soon, very soon, the days in the northern hemisphere will start to get longer.

Silver carp jump behind a motor boat

The Obama Administration announced it will dedicate more resources to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.

Today, a coordinated group of state and federal agencies released the 2011 Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework.

In it the group calls for increased monitoring and further study on the pathways carp can use to get into the Lakes.

The Detroit Free Press reports the framework calls for:

$47 million worth of new projects... to combat Asian carp and prevent their spread to the Great Lakes. The new work includes a new laboratory in Wisconsin that will do increased DNA sampling for Asian carp around the lakes, aiming to take 120 samples per week.

The additional money is expected to come from money that was originally allocated from other Great Lakes clean-up projects.

Freighter on the Saginaw River
flickr user ifmuth

The Bay City Times reports the tug boat sank early Monday spilling 800 gallons of diesel fuel.

It's reported that Grand Rapids-based Young's Environmental Cleanup Inc. and Mt. Clements-based HM Environmental Services are working to contain and clean up the spill.

The cause of the sinking won't be known until the tug is pulled from the river. Paul Luedtke of Luedtke Engineering, the company that owns the boat, said:

"We won't know until then and anything before then would just be speculation."

A crane will pull the tug from the water once the diesel spill is cleaned up.

Lice nit on hair
Gilles San Martin - wikimedia

It's something a lot of parents dread. Lice in your kid's hair.

Pesticides in shampoo form is one way to tackle the problem, but some people go pesticide-free.

Kyle Norris filed a report on Rapunzel's Lice Boutique in Ann Arbor for the Environment Report. I tagged along with her with a camera when she visited a family getting a treatment and we put together this slide show:

Everything’s back to normal at the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant in southeast Michigan after a spill last week.

A drain valve for a filtering system failed and 100,000 gallons of slightly radioactive cooling water overflowed a holding tank. The water contaminated the shoes and outer clothing of some plant workers, but no one was harmed.

Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Michigan's soon-to-be Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Rodney Stokes, says he wants more people to hunt and fish in the state.

Stokes was named director of the department by Governor-elect Rick Snyder earlier this month.  Snyder announced he would be dividing the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two agencies: The Department of Natural Resources and The Department of Environmental Quality.

Stokes told The Detroit News that he wants to expand the focus of the department's recruitment efforts and that he has no plans to increase license fees.

The Associated Press reports:

Revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses were $45.3 million in the most recent budget, said Sharon Schafer, the department's assistant division chief for administration and finance. That's down from 2005 when adjusted for inflation.

Friends of the Porkies

Artists can apply to spend part of their summer in a cabin in the middle of the woods. 

The Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is accepting applications for its artist-in-residence program. The state park is in the western part of the upper-peninsula and borders Lake Superior. The park has 60,000 acres of varied forest, along with plenty of trails.

Sherrie McCabe directs the artist-in-residence program.  She says the artists get to live in a secluded cabin with no running water or electricity:

It’s far enough away from any roads that you really don’t get the traffic noise.  Sometimes it’s dead silent and at other times it’s so loud it’s practically deafening with the sounds of nature. The wind can howl, the owls are noisy, the birds are noisy, but as far as humans go it’s very, very quiet.

Residencies are open to any kind of artist. Applications are available at The Friends of the Porkies.

Lynn Davis, Farm Drainage in Ohio
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A few years back, we at the Environment Report did a comprehensive series called, "The Ten Threats to the Great Lakes." Doing our best to make it comprehensive, we broke each of the Ten Threats into several stories.

We joked that the "Ten Threats" series turned into a 33-part series as we dug deeper into the issues.

For the series, I traveled to northwest Ohio and met with Lynn Davis. His grandfather had started a farm drainage business in 1910 using a steam powered trenching machine. Davis later took over the business from his father and uncle.

Photo by Lindsey Smith

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is already shuffling things in Lansing. He’s planning to split up the Department of Natural Resources and Environment... back into two separate agencies.

Photo courtesy of www.epa.gov

Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency briefed people at a meeting last night in Battle Creek about the continuing clean-up of the Kalamazoo River oil spill.  EPA officials say they've finished cleaning up 50 sites in the river. 

Rogue River
Trout Unlimited

Efforts to protect and restore a cold water fishery north of Grand Rapids could serve as an example for the nation.

Fishermen know the Rogue River best for its spring and winter steelhead runs through Rockford. National coldwater conservation group Trout Unlimited also wants to protect habitat for the brook and rainbow trout that live there. So it designated the watershed as its newest "home river."

Building a knee wall in an attic
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio's The Environment Report

Habitat for Humanity says it's saving money by fixing up foreclosure in Michigan, rather than building new. The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams visited volunteers working on rehabbing a house in Ypsilanti Township. Megan Rogers with Habitat says rehabbing foreclosures costs about 1/3 less than building new, but it can be a bit more challenging:

Gas drilling rig in Appalachia
User Meridithw / Wikimedia Commons

What a fracking week on Michigan Radio!

Lester Graham of Michigan Watch and Rebecca Williams from the Environment Report are bringing us a series of reports on what might be a big part of Michigan's future: energy companies moving in and using a practice called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to get at gas deposits buried deep under Michigan.

Just how interested are energy companies in these gas deposits? Graham reports

Wild boar
Photo by Richard Bartz / Creative Commons

Peter Payette from Interlochen Public Radio filed a report on wild pigs with the Environment Report this week.

Pigs and boars can escape from farms and game ranches and cause problems in an ecosystem. The problem is especially bad in southern states.

Check out this video about the problem in Texas:

A map of pipelines crisscrossing the United States

Congress held hearings today on the Enbridge oil spill in Michigan. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that one top official was conspicuously abset from the hearings. Cynthia Quarterman recused herself from the oil spill hearings, because she used to work for Enbridge Energy Partners.

Workers fixing Enbridge oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan
USEPA Region 5

The last few weeks have not been good for pipeline companies.  Coming off a summer that included the mother of all oil spills you had...

News roundup for today

Sep 2, 2010
Newspaper boxes along a street
Susan Lesch / Creative Commons

Illegal oil spill workers caught in Texas

Great blue heron covered in oil from the 2010 Enbridge oil spill near Marshall, Michigan.
Michigan's oil response Flickr page / State of Michigan

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports "an oil pipeline that broke near Marshall last month is undergoing a critical pressure test today. Enbridge Energy is flooding the pipeline with water to see if it can withstand the pressure."

If it works, and government inspectors say it's o.k., the pipeline will be restarted.

Air pollution around a highway in downtown Los Angeles
Ali Azimi / Creative Commons

Ozone way up in the atmosphere... good. Ozone near the ground... bad. 

SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) says the air outside could be unhealthy today.  The group says "elements have been in place for a few days now – sunny skies, hot temperatures, and southerly winds. Admittedly this is beautiful weather, but the ongoing nature of these conditions is compromising our air quality and enabling ground-level ozone to remain high."

Volunteers at Sema Cafe in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Myra Klarman

(by Rebecca Williams with The Environment Report)

So what would you think about opening up your home to 120 people every week? Letting them come in with their shoes on, sit anywhere they wanted. Oh, and by the way, they’ll be expecting a full breakfast.

That’s what happens at Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb’s house in Ann Arbor. From 6:30 to 10am every Friday, their house is transformed. It’s kind of weird. You walk in and you know you’re in someone’s home, but it feels like you’re suddenly in a little diner.

Helium weather balloon being launched in a field
Wolke Benutzer

I've never thought about this before, but where exactly does helium come from?  Turns out, the gas comes from rocks decaying underground. It can't be manufactured and it's not renewable. Scientists are warning that our helium reserves are being quickly depleted. The Independent reports that the we could run out of helium in 25 to 30 years...

EPA workers sample the air near the Enbridge oil spill in Michigan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

(by Steve Carmody, Michigan Radio)

It's been a month since a pipeline leak spewed about a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. Clean-up crews have spent the past four weeks collecting oil from the river and removing contaminated soil.

You can see photos of the oil spill on the EPA's Enbridge oil spill response website.

Erika Celeste / Environment Report

This documentary is an in-depth look at the future of coal in this country.

The Environment Report explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living.

Can coal truly be a viable option in the new green economy?

Listen to the Documentary:


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3