Environment & Science

Environment & Science
12:15 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Crews in Michigan respond to chemical release

ADRIAN, Mich. (AP) - Police in southern Michigan say crews are responding to a chemical release and people nearby are being asked to stay in their homes as a precaution.

No injuries were reported Friday morning in Adrian, about 60 miles southwest of Detroit. Police say there's no immediate threat to the public.

Police say in a statement that a barrel containing 30 to 35 gallons of nitric acid was letting off gas after reacting with a small amount of sodium hydroxide.

Roads nearby are closed and the fire department is asking residents and others within one-tenth of a mile of the area to stay where they are. Police say that could last until 1 p.m.

The Lenawee County hazardous materials team is on the scene along with the county's emergency management office.

The Environment Report
10:57 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Grand Rapids officials making progress on 2020 renewables goal

The mayor of Grand Rapids wants all of the electricity for the city's operations to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Grand Rapids Fire Captain Tony Hendges leads the way down a dark stairwell to the basement of the Leonard Street Fire Station.

Dim fluorescent lights flip on overhead. There’s some exercise equipment on one side of the room. On the other side is a bunch of large white metal boxes and lots of new pipes coming out of them.

“What we have is a recently installed geothermal system here at the Leonard Street fire station,” Hendges said.

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Environment & Science
10:47 am
Fri February 15, 2013

State Senate approves bear cub petting zoos

beingmyself flickr

A bill to let people hold, pet, and take pictures with bear cubs has passed the state Senate. The measure would allow an Upper Peninsula bear ranch to continue to offer the experience. It would let the public handle bears up to 36 weeks old or less than 90 pounds.

Senator Rebekah Warren voted against the bill.

She says lawmakers should put residents’ safety ahead of the financial benefit of a single business.

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The Environment Report
11:21 am
Thu February 14, 2013

Grand Rapids officials making progress on 2020 renewables goal

The solar panels on top of Grand Rapids' Water Services Administration building.
Photo by Haris Alibasic City of Grand Rapids

You can listen to today's Environment Report story or read the story below.

The mayor of Grand Rapids wants all of the electricity for the city's operations to come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

I recently met up with Grand Rapids Fire Captain Tony Hendges to check in on the city's progress.

He led the way down a dark stairwell to the basement of the Leonard Street Fire Station. There’s some exercise equipment on one side of the room. On the other side are a bunch of large white metal boxes and lots of new pipes coming out of them: a geothermal system.

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Environment & Science
9:47 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

DNR hopes to track wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

The state Department of Natural Resources is on the prowl for wolves in the northern Lower Peninsula, and it's asking for help.

The department launched a survey Monday that hopes to catalog all sightings of wolves or wolf tracks until March 8.

But it's unlikely that very many wolves -- if any -- will be seen. Jennifer Kleitch is a wildlife biologist, and she said no wolves were recorded last time the survey was conducted two years ago.

"The goal of the survey is to determine whether they're here, and if they are, where they're located," Kleitch said. "We don't have a good estimate at this time, and that's why we're continuing to do the survey."

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Environment & Science
4:34 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawsuit filed to protect Great Lakes wolf population

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr

The Humane Society along with several other groups filed a lawsuit in federal court today to put a stop to gray wolf hunting in the Great Lakes Region.

The lawsuit is against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over its decision to remove gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region from the Endangered Species List.

If its successful, the lawsuit would place the wolves back under federal protection.

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Environment & Science
1:41 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawmakers seek to tap Michigan's 'Rainy Day Fund' for Great Lakes dredging

A dredge operating outside of the harbor in Leland, Michigan.
Andrew McFarlane Flickr

Some lawmakers in Lansing want to tap the state’s “rainy day” fund to pay for emergency harbor dredging in the Great Lakes.

A group of Republican state Senators today endorsed opening up $30 million from the fund for projects around the state.

They also offered a number of ways to fund future dredging projects.

State Senator Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) says a short-term solution isn’t enough to address record-low water levels in the Great Lakes.

“These are designed to be long-term solutions. We have the one-time, right now fix. And in the end of the day we need to have enough dollars to make that this year we’re keeping our ports open,” said Hansen.

Governor Snyder set aside over $20 million in his proposed budget for emergency dredging. That money would not come out of the state’s savings.

The lawmakers say their plan is meant to supplement Snyder’s proposal, not replace it.

The Environment Report
11:51 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Gov. Snyder proposes big changes to hunting, fishing license system

Patrick Streit with a 10 pound male steelhead on the Pere Marquette River.
Courtesy of Patrick Streit

You can listen to today's Environment Report here or read an expanded version of the story below.

If you like to hunt and fish, depending on what license you buy, you might have to pay more.

Governor Rick Snyder wants to make some big changes to the hunting, fishing and trapping license system in Michigan. He talked about these changes when he unveiled his proposed 2014 budget. Right now, there are 227 different license categories. Those would shrink to just 31.

Ed Golder is a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. He says some licenses will cost more, but others will cost less (for example: there would be a base resident hunting license fee of $10. If you wanted two deer tags, that'd cost you $20 apiece, for a total of $50, compared to $30 for the same license package now). Bridge Magazine took a look at how our current hunting and fishing fees compare to other states.

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Environment & Science
8:49 am
Sun February 10, 2013

Michigan holding forums about future of energy

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Public Service Commission and Michigan Energy Office officials plan to hold the first of seven forums this week on the state's energy future.

Among those scheduled to speak Thursday in Lansing include representatives of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, Michigan Environmental Council and Citizens Against Rate Excess.

The four-hour public forum called "Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions" starts at 1 p.m. at the Library of Michigan.

Environment & Science
10:19 am
Fri February 8, 2013

Photo of 100 pound wolf making the rounds on Facebook

A Michigan DNR conservation officer holding a 100 lb. wolf hit by a car in the Upper Peninsula.
Credit 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

Environment & Science
2:49 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Stateside: Solving the data needs of non-profit groups

Volunteers sharing skills at the 2012 data dive
a2datadive.org A2DataDive

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When it comes to data and knowing just what to do with it, it seems there are two camps in this world. 

Those who can plunge into mining, parsing, analyzing and figuring out how to really use data, and those who are fairly clueless when it comes to crunching data.
 
Luckily for some non-profit groups in the Ann Arbor/ Detroit area, those types aren’t just smart, they are nice, and willing to help.
 
Thanks to some hard-working grad students at the U-M School of Information. The A2 Data Dive is coming up this weekend on the Central Campus of the University of Michigan.
 
Co-founders, Claire Barco and  Nikki Roda tell us more about the A2 Data Dive.

The Environment Report
10:55 am
Thu February 7, 2013

Bill aims to restrict state's ability to manage for biodiversity

Rabbit Bay
Michigan.gov

You can listen to today's Environment Report or read an expanded version of the story below.

If you're feeling like you've heard this story before... you're right.

Senator Tom Casperson-R (Escanaba) has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 78, that would prohibit the DNR from setting aside an area of land specifically for the purpose of maintaining biological diversity (basically, to protect the variety of plants and animals that live in an area).  The DNR could not make or enforce a rule to do that.

This bill is similar to one Senator Casperson introduced last fall, SB 1276.

Casperson says he’s concerned the DNR wants to set aside too much land, and that people won’t have access to it.

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The Environment Report
3:04 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Record low lake levels spark dredging debate

Water levels have hit record lows on Lakes Michigan and Huron. Northport Bay on November 4, 2012.
Clare Brush

You can listen to today's Environment Report here, or read the story below.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been recording water levels for almost 100 years. In January, the levels in the Lake Michigan and Huron system dipped to the lowest levels ever recorded.

That’s causing problems for commercial shipping and recreational boaters.

Peter Payette has been covering this story for Interlochen Public Radio and I spoke with him for today's Environment Report.

Payette said the issue that is front and center is the need for more dredging in the smaller harbors and marinas. He says they have not been getting help from the federal government - help that used to be there.

"Traditionally, it’s been the federal government through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that has dredged these channels to keep them open, and that has not been happening, and so now with the lake levels lower that problem is really being exacerbated," said Payette.

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Environment & Science
2:30 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

What's impacting Great Lakes water levels?

Four out of the five Great Lakes as seen from space.
NASA

The Great Lakes are experiencing low water levels.

Lakes Huron and Michigan just reached record lows, and Governor Snyder recently called for an emergency action plan to address the problem.

One of our Facebook friends, Debbiedoe Nash, wrote this morning:

Over the last few years the waterline has dropped so far at our property on Huron that what once was the beach now has about two hundred feet of rocky swamp in front of it. Yikes.

So what are the causes behind these low lake levels?

We spoke with a few experts who gave us a run down of the factors, big and small, contributing to the extreme lows.

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Environment & Science
6:05 pm
Sun February 3, 2013

15 inches of snow in West Michigan, more on way

Lake effect snows spread across Michigan on Sunday
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

ALLEGAN, Mich. (AP) - Western Michigan is cleaning up after a winter storm that brought 15 inches or more of snow in some areas, and the National Weather Service says up to 10 inches of fresh snow is possible through Monday night.

The weather service says parts of Allegan, Kent, Ottawa and Van Buren counties got more than 15 inches between Wednesday night and Saturday night. It says fresh snow will start falling Sunday, bringing two to four inches inland and localized accumulations of up to 10 inches along Lake Michigan.

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Environment & Science
9:13 am
Fri February 1, 2013

New report shows comprehensive view of climate changes’ effect

NOAA

A new report from the National Wildlife Federation details ways climate change is affecting the Great Lakes states, including Michigan.

The report says there’s more heavy rainfall events, a major decline in ice cover, and warmer average water temperatures. It outlines a number of examples where wildlife and communities are reacting to the changes.

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The Environment Report
5:00 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Tweeting the flu: Scientists tracking epidemic with social media

A map the team made with their Twitter method shows a high flu rate during the first week of January 2013.
Michael Paul Johns Hopkins University

You can listen to today's Environment Report or read the story below.

Flu season started early and came in swinging. Health officials say it’s been a moderate to severe flu season for most of the country.

Curtis Allen is a spokesman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"In Michigan, it’s still at a high level of activity. Hopefully you’ll see less and less as we go on. But influenza is notoriously unpredictable and there could also be another peak," Allen says.

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Environment & Science
4:55 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Enbridge gets final approval for pipeline project

Sections of pipeline being redied for construction in Michigan.
Rina Miller Michigan Radio

The Michigan Public Service Commission today approved replacing a 16o mile section of an oil pipeline that ruptured in 2010.    This is the third and final phase of the project. 

The company is expected to install the new pipeline later this year.  It will stretch from Berrien County in the west to St. Clair County in the east.    The new pipeline will replace the section of pipe that broke near Marshall nearly two and a half years ago.

Enbridge’s pipeline replacement project has run into some opposition, mainly from people who don’t like having no say over having the pipeline built on their property.

“Enbridge is working with homeowners on addressing some concerns where they can…they are making changes to accommodate people’s concerns," says Judy Palnau, a Michigan Public Service Commission spokeswoman.

The Kalamazoo River continues to recover from the 2010 oil spill. 

Cleanup crews have removed more than a million gallons of crude oil from along more than 30 miles of the river.

Enbridge issued a statement praising the MPSC's decision:

This replacement project will restore the ultimate capacity of the Line 6B pipeline to meet increasing demand for additional transportation capacity, which is largely driven by current and planned refinery upgrades and expansions in Michigan, Ohio and eastern Canada. In addition, the replacement project will reduce the amount of future maintenance activities that would otherwise be required to maintain the integrity of the pipeline. Construction is expected to begin in the spring.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The Michigan Public Service Commission has given Enbridge Energy the final OK to build the company’s massive oil pipeline across Michigan.

The commission’s order, which was issued today, is the last of three approvals the company had sought, and includes sections in Oakland, Macomb, Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Calhoun, Jackson, Ingham and St. Clair counties. The order allows the company to complete 110 miles of 36-inch diameter pipeline and 50 miles of 30-inch diameter pipeline.

The Environment Report
12:02 pm
Tue January 29, 2013

State officials want your input on Michigan's energy future

The Holland coal plant
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

You can listen to today's Environment Report segment here or read the story below.

In Michigan, we get more than half of our electricity from coal.  All of that coal is imported from other states.

In a couple weeks, you’ll get a chance to weigh in on how we’ll use energy in the future.

When Governor Rick Snyder gave his Special Message on Energy and the Environment last fall, he said he wanted to hold forums around the state to talk about energy.

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Environment & Science
4:28 pm
Mon January 28, 2013

Stateside: Scientists draft a National Climate Assessment

Emily Fox Michigan Radio

Professor Rosina Bierbaum spoke about Michigan's changing climate.

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

More than 240 scientists contributed to a new draft report of the National Climate Assessment. The report addresses the country’s changing climate and is the third federal climate review since 2000.

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