environment

NEFCO / YouTube

Detroit has budgeted $683 million to move forward with plans to build a biosolids dryer facility in the city. If built, it is expected to be the largest facility of its kind in the United States.

What exactly is a "biosolids dryer facility," you ask?

It converts human waste materials into energy or fertilizer.

Whether you view this as innovative green technology or just plain gross, the contract is a big deal for Detroit. 

Shawn Malone / Vimeo screen grab

The wonders of our night sky often escape us.

The rainbows of the fleeting Northern Lights or the bright streak of a comet frequently slip behind cloud cover or crowded city skylines, leaving stargazers unrewarded.

But Shawn Malone, of Lake Superior Photo, was luckier than most.

Flickr user "Steve and Sara"

Antifreeze often looks like a sports-drink or Kool-Aid and it can have a sweet smell that attracts animals and kids. A bill in the Michigan legislature would require that a bittering agent be added to antifreeze so humans and animals don’t want to drink it.

cford3 / Wikipedia

Burning coal in a power plant creates byproducts called fly ash and bottom ash.  That ash contains a lot of bad stuff - mercury, lead, arsenic, to name a few.

While some plants ship the dry ash to landfills that accept hazardous materials, others mix the ash with water to make a slurry, which is moved into holding ponds.

Eventually, the water in those ponds is released into the nearest waterway.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

For the first time in nearly a half century, people will be encouraged to fish along a portion of the Red Cedar River as it winds its way through the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.

At a ceremony Monday near the campus’s western edge, MSU dignitaries, including Sparty, took turns dumping buckets of Steelhead trout into the meandering Red Cedar River.

Organizers want anglers to start casting their lines into the Red Ceder in hopes of reeling in the sportfish.

That’s a big change.

Wikimedia Commons

Little green flags will be popping up along the shores of Lake Charlevoix this summer to promote a new guardian program.

It's sponsored by the Lake Charlevoix Association. Waterfront residents and businesses that have the power to impact the watershed are encouraged to sign up.

The Lake Guardian commitment asks individuals to pledge to do nine things, including avoiding
"the use of yard fertilizers containing phosphorous and to limit the use of fertilizers wherever possible." Committed members will also vow to request that landscapers use "lake-friendly methods" and to use native plants to cover exposed soil and "work to control erosion on or near our Lakeshore."

mdprovost ~ Prosper in 2011 / Flickr

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court says government regulators can take action when they fear a power company construction project might significantly increase air pollution, without waiting to see if they were right.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued DTE Energy in 2010 because the company replaced key boiler parts at its Monroe Unit 2 without installing pollution controls that are required whenever a utility performs a major overhaul. DTE said the project was only routine maintenance.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman threw out the suit, saying EPA went to court too soon.

But the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his decision Thursday. In a 2-1 ruling, the court says the law doesn't block EPA from challenging suspected violations of its regulations until long after power plants are modified.

Millions of undocumented immigrants in this country are hoping this is the year for immigration reform. On today's show, we explore what the future holds for mixed-status families.

And, it's being called "one of the most dramatic ecological recovery stories in North America." Why beavers along the Detroit River are such a big deal.

And, it’s been a week now since Governor Snyder announced Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency manager, and it was a week ago that we last spoke with Daniel Howes, business columnist at the Detroit News. We checked in with Howes about the prospect of a Detroit recovery.

All that, and roller derbies and march madness, on today's show.

GM Media

If we're lucky, we can catch a glimpse of a migrating bird or two as they pick their way north, but most pass over without us ever knowing.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes it this way in their Round Robin blog:

An invisible river of animals, rivaling any scene from the Serengeti but consisting of half-ounce birds that pass quietly overhead, in the dark.

NWF

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but folks in Washington aren’t exactly getting along these days.

They couldn’t agree on how to cut the deficit, and now we’re facing automatic, across-the-board spending cuts from the federal government.

The cuts are scheduled to start March 1.

$85 billion will have to be stripped out of the federal budget this year alone.

The White House sent a press release detailing how these cuts might affect environmental programs in Michigan.

Here's what they wrote:

Michigan would lose about $5.9 million in environmental funding to ensure clean water and air quality, as well as prevent pollution from pesticides and hazardous waste. In addition, Michigan could lose another $1.5 million in grants for fish and wildlife protection.

We heard a lot about about how the sequester might affect things like airports, school funding, and Medicare, but we wanted to know more about the numbers above.

How might environmental programs in the region be affected?

A Michigan DNR conservation officer holding a 100 lb. wolf hit by a car in the Upper Peninsula.
Michigan Whitetail Pursuit / Facebook

This picture is making the rounds on Facebook.

It was posted on the Michigan Whitetail Pursuit page and has been shared more than 3,000 times.

The animal was so big, I wasn't sure if the photo was manipulated. I checked in with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to find the story behind the photo.

It's legit, according to Ed Golder of the MDNR.

"This picture is of one of our conservation officers from Iron County in the Upper Peninsula. The wolf he is holding was hit by a car near Watersmeet in Gogebic County," said Golder.

"Tribal police were the primary responding agency. The wolf will go to an Upper Peninsula tribe so it can be mounted and displayed for educational purposes.

The wolf -- which was healthy and in good shape -- weighed about 100 pounds but looks bigger in the photo because of its full winter coat."

That's a warm winter coat.

- H/T to Sarah Hulett

user metassus / Flickr

Legislation that could allow a limited wolf hunt in the Upper Peninsula cleared the state House Wednesday, and is on its way to Governor Rick Snyder.

The grey wolf was recently removed from the federal endangered species list.

State Representative Jeff Irwin is a Democrat from Ann Arbor. He was one of the “no” votes.

“This is an animal that just came off the endangered species list. The populations are not even healthy or even abundant, and I don’t think it’s the right time to talk about shooting wolves in northern Michigan,” Irwin said.

Stateside: Studying wolves to understand the environment

Dec 11, 2012
user metassus / Flickr

Michigan Radio’s Rebecca Williams visited Isle Royale, a remote island in Lake Superior reachable only by ferry or airplane.

Williams spoke with scientist Rolf Peterson about the island’s diminishing wolf population.

“Over the past 54 years, researchers have collected more than 4,000 moose skeletons on the island.  The bones offer clues about the moose population – and about the wolves.  Wolves got here by crossing an ice bridge from Ontario in the late 1940’s,” said Williams.

Peterson’s studies are extensive.

“This study of wolves and moose is the longest running study in the world of a predator and its prey.  Rolf Peterson has been involved for 42 years of the study. He’s been here through the brutal black fly summers and the harshest winters. He and his wife Candy live in an old fishing cabin on the island for much of the year,” said Williams.

To hear and see the entire series, you can see our topic page: Lessons from Isle Royale's Wolves and Moose.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

USFWS

A controversial piece of legislation that would make the gray wolf a game species has passed the Michigan Senate.

The bill, introduced by Escanaba Republican Tom Casperson, paves the way for a possible hunting and trapping seasons for wolves.

If the bill becomes law, the state’s Natural Resources Commission would be allowed to determine if a hunt were needed.

There are nearly 700 wolves in Michigan today, up from under 300 just a decade ago. The wolves, removed from the endangered species list this past January, are concentrated in the western Upper Peninsula.

Andrew McFarlane / Flickr

Lakes Huron and Michigan are reaching record low water levels, and businesses along the Third Coast are feeling the effects.

Yesterday, Russell Dzuba, the harbormaster in Leland, Michigan (think Michigan's pinkie right on Lake Michigan), spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about what he's seeing out his window.

The low water levels have revealed a sand bar inside the Leland Harbor.

"...that ordinarily is not a good thing in a harbor," said Dzuba.

From the interview:

"We had an incredibly warm season - warm winter season last year, and we lost a lot of water to evaporation, and that takes place during the whole winter, as well as the summer.... Traditionally, we don't freeze as we did in the old days. It used to freeze all the way across the channel, 11 miles out to North Manitou Island. That hasn't happened here in a number of years."

You can listen to the interview here:

Last month, I posted on the low lake levels. If they continue to drop, which is expected, the low lake level record from March 1964 will be beat.

Farm in rural Michigan
user acrylicartist / MorgueFile.com

Governor Rick Snyder addressed several hundred farmers at a town hall style meeting Thursday night in Grand Rapids.

At Michigan Farm Bureau’s annual meeting, farmers debate issues that affect one of Michigan’s largest industries. Streamlining state government regulations is one of the 100-plus issues in this year’s policy book.

"The Michigan Department of Agriculture, since we’ve taken office, has eliminated approximately 1/3 of the regulations and rules. They’re gone," Snyder said.

"The Department of Environmental Quality, a group I know you love even more," Snyder grinned, as the crowd laughed, "they’ve eliminated over 100 obsolete rules already."

Snyder says the MDEQ is revising some seventy-five-programs, and he underscored that the effort to streamline rules doesn't conflict with efforts to protect the environment.

Office of Governor Rick Snyder / Wikimedia Commons

Governor Rick Snyder covered topics ranging from urban farming to "fracking" in his special address on energy and the environment today.

He said the state should do more to deal with blight and encourage urban farming in cities with lots of vacant land.

The governor said too much abandoned property in Flint, Detroit, and other cities is going to waste when it could be put to a new use.

“And all I’ve seen in my two years as governor is a lot of discussion about right-to-farm, and urban farming,” said Snyder.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder voices his opinion on the ballot proposals.
YouTube

HICKORY CORNERS, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder plans to deliver a special message to the state Legislature on energy and the environment this week.

The office of the Republican governor says he'll speak at 10:30 a.m. EST Wednesday at Kellogg Biological Station in Hickory Corners, about 40 miles southeast of Grand Rapids.

Snyder in the past has used special messages to discuss his plans and goals in areas including health and wellness, public safety and education.

The governor's office says remote viewing locations will be offered at NextEnergy in Detroit, the Michigan Alternative Renewal Energy Center in Muskegon, and the Michigan Land Use Institute in Traverse City.

Snyder's office says his remarks also may be streamed online.

Stateside: Hike, bike and kayak the Great Lakes

Nov 8, 2012
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Midwest residents may have three new ways to enjoy the Great Lakes.

At a conference in Saugatuck this week, Western Michigan University geography professor Dave Lemberg will discuss plans for a 1,600 mile route along Lake Michigan.

Lemberg spoke with Cyndy about the details of the route.

By Jim Conrad [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is a disruption in our caves. Hibernating bats across the United States are suffering from white-nose syndrome. Named after the white fungus that grows on bats’ muzzles, the disease has killed millions of bats across North America.

Allen Kurta, a biology professor at Eastern Michigan University, spoke with Stateside’s Cyndy Canty about the future of Michigan’s bat population.

“We are dealing with a disease that is potentially going to wipe out numerous species of bats,” said Kurta.

Michigan's Office of the Great Lakes leads policy development and program implementation for the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes.

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder said he accepted the resignation of Patty Birkholz as director, and announced that Jon Allen will now lead the office.

From Gov. Snyder's press release:

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula.
user {inercia} / Flickr

A Traverse City company is abandoning a nearly decade-long effort to extract natural gas in  an environmentally sensitive area. 

The U.S. Forest Service says that Savoy Energy has informed federal agencies it's withdrawing an application to drill below a site called the Mason Tract in Michigan's northern Lower Peninsula. 

wikimedia commons

MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says Dow Chemical Co. is ahead of schedule as it samples residential properties in Midland for dioxin.

The DEQ this week approved Dow's request to begin work on 300 properties that had been scheduled for inspection next year.

It's part of a five-year plan to clean up neighborhoods contaminated for decades by airborne dioxin from a Dow plant in Midland, where the company is based.

Of about 150 properties sampled thus far, 22 have had dioxin levels higher than 250 parts per trillion, which triggers a company-funded cleanup if the owners want it.

Results from this fall's sampling will be available next spring. Any needed cleanups will get started then.

Dow is negotiating with federal officials over cleanup of the Tittabawassee and Saginaw rivers.

A chart showing historic water levels on the Great Lakes.
GLERL / NOAA

Just about a half a meter less, and the record will be beat.

That's how much the water level in Lake Michigan would have to drop to reach the record low level set in March of 1964.

In that month, the Lake Michigan water level was measured at 175.58 meters above sea level.

This past July, it was measured at 176.04 meters above sea level.

You can explore historic Great Lakes water level data on this NOAA website.

It's estimated that as many as 3,000 wild pigs are on the loose in Michigan. Nationwide, they cause more than $1.8 billion in damage to farms each year. So recently, the state's Department of Natural Resources put Russian boar on the state's invasive species list.

Charcoal produces more CO2 emissions than gas, but that carbon can be absorbed by new trees when making new briquets.
Magnus Manske / wikimedia commons

(Editor's note: This story was originally published in July 2009)

Neal Fisher thinks he’s an environmentally friendly kind of guy. He and his wife recycle, they use compact fluorescent light bulbs in the house, they walk most places and hardly ever use their car.

But when it comes to outdoor grilling... it’s charcoal all the way.

“It may be a little decadent when you’re taking the environment into consideration, but I do it.”

Photo by Mary Hollinger, NESDIS/NODC biologist, NOAA

Mute swans are flourishing in Michigan. The state’s Department of Natural Resources estimates their population almost tripled from 5,700 to more than 15,000 between 2000 and 2010.  We've previously reported the DNR says mute swans eat a huge amount of vegetation in lakes. They can push out native birds, such as the trumpeter swan, and officials say mute swans can snap and charge at people.

To keep the population under control, the DNR is killing the birds and destroying their nests.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Michigan Save Our Swans Committee argue the DNR’s methods are inhumane.

Brett Groehler, Director of Photography / UMD

Researchers are sending robots where no scientist has gone before: under the ice in Lake Superior during winter.

This week, researchers from the University of Minnesota-Duluth put their first robot in Lake Superior to test it. Think of them as robotic divers... they travel up and down on cables and collect data. The cables will be anchored to the bottom of the lake.

Erik Brown is one of the lead researchers and the acting director of the Large Lakes Observatory at UMD.  He says the harsh winters on Lake Superior make it too dangerous for people to go out on ships and collect data.

Flickr user/I'm Such a Child

People who own private property on Michigan sand dunes will now have more flexibility when it comes to getting building permits.

Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill this week that broadens building permits on what are called critical dunes. Those are dunes that have the most environmental protection.

Rachel Hoekstra is the legislative Director for the Senator who introduced the bill. She says the previous law had too many regulations for building permits.

“Basically it turned out to be whoever had the most money could potentially one day build a home in these areas.”

But opponents of the new law say it puts those critical sand dunes at risk.

Kevin Lund of MDEQ shows a sample of oil and water he collected when he dug a hole in the bank of the Huron River. The analysis they did on the samples they collected showed that the contamination was coming from the old MichCon manufactured gas plant.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The city of Ann Arbor recently spent more than one million dollars rebuilding an old mill race along the Huron River. The Argo Cascades is a series of little waterfalls and pools where kayakers and people floating in inner tubes come to cool off.

But downstream from the Cascades on the other side of the river, there’s a problem.

There's been pollution lurking underground for some time from an old industrial plant, and two years ago regulators found that some of the pollution was making its way into the Huron River.

The days before natural gas

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