Environment & Science

Environment
2:45 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Massive Lake Huron water pipeline moving forward

Lake huron from the air
user Brucegirl wikimedia commons

There's a plan for the third biggest Great Lake, Huron, to be tapped by a 72 to 78 inch pipeline.

The Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) is planning to start construction on a pipeline that will carry Lake Huron water to areas around the I-69 corridor of Michigan's Thumb area.

(Karengnondi is a old Petan Indian word meaning "lake.")

The KWA is made up of officials from Flint, Lapeer, Genesee County, Lapeer County, and Sanilac County.

The Flint Journal reports that Genesee County Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright said the county has started designing the "massive intake to draw water from Lake Huron," and that ground should be broken on the new water pipeline project by fall.

"We are starting the design of the intake," which will allow for construction on that piece of the $600 million pipeline project, Wright said.

The drain commissioner said the intake itself, which is expected to cost about $30 million, will take longer to finish than any other part of the project, and "the design requirements are the same whether any community drops out (of the project) or not."

The City of Flint, initially a partner in the project, might be forced to step aside because of its financial situation.

On it's website, the KWA says the pipeline is being built to "avoid increased water rates from the City of Detroit, which could increase by up to 15% per year."

Environment
4:53 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Sneezing, coughing, itching? Thank Michigan's early spring

Jusben MorgueFile

Doctors’ offices in Michigan are filled with people suffering from acute allergies, thanks to the early bloom of trees and shrubs.

Some types of pollen are three to four times higher than normal for this time of year.

Mark Zacharek  is an associate professor of otolaryngology -- ear, nose and throat disorders -- at University of Michigan Hospital.

He says tree pollen and outdoor mold counts are making people miserable.  For people who already have respiratory problems, that can be dangerous.

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Environment
1:47 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Saugatuck Twp accepts proposed settlement with billionaire

A federal judge will consider another proposed settlement in a legal case between Saugatuck Township and a private developer. The township approved the proposed settlement Wednesday night.

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Environment
2:54 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Arctic fox captured near Lansing

A wild arctic fox in northern Manitoba
Ansgar Walk wikimedia commons

It may feel like it's already summer outside but that didn't stop a little piece of the arctic from visiting central Michigan.

After several days of sightings in and around  the town of Portland, just northwest of Lansing,  local authorities captured a loose arctic fox as he woke from a nap on a baseball diamond.

The fox's origin is unclear but aside from being about 1,000 miles south of its natural habitat, local law enforcement believes it must have been  a domesticated pet based on its friendly demeanor, the Lansing State Journal writes.

From the LSJ's Tom Thelen:

“We were receiving calls about it for about a week,” said Portland police chief Bob Bauer. “People were seeing at in various parts of the city...We believe that it either escaped or was turned loose,” said Bauer. “It was not afraid of anyone. In fact, it would coming running out to people and some of them were scared by the way it ran up to them.”

Thelen reports that authorities found an owner of another arctic fox in nearby Lake Odessa who agreed to care for the captured animal.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Environment
12:45 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Michigan fruit crops threatened by prolonged warm weather

The unseasonably warm weather could jeopardize Michigan’s fruit crops.

While it's not unusual to have warm spells in early spring, it is unusual is for temperatures to average 40 degrees higher than normal for several weeks.

Matthew Grieshop  is an assistant professor at Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology.

He says this heat wave, along with a bumper crop of insects that didn’t die over the winter and an eventual freeze, pose a triple threat to the state's fruit farmers.

"This is pretty much unprecedented," Grieshop says. "It was back in the early 40s that we last had weather like this, and based on our experience, it looks pretty grim for the fruit growers."

Grieshop says fruit trees are blooming almost a month early, but without cool nights, the fruit won’t mature.

Fruit farmers closer to the Great Lakes, Grieshop says, are typically somewhat insulated from the threat of a heavy freeze because the thermal mass of the water moderates the temperature shifts.

Weather
3:22 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Spring is here, feels like summer

user: q8 /flickr

The vernal equinox, or spring equinox marks the end of winter today, and the beginning of spring.  But don't rule out the possibility of another snow fall - after all this is Michigan.

Record highs across the state are expected to continue through the rest of the week in Michigan.

The Associated Press reports:

The weather service office in suburban Detroit says there's been six consecutive days of 70 degree temperatures that started March 14 and continued through Monday. It says the last time there was such a stretch of warm weather in the area around this time of year it was April 16-24, 1886.

The weather service forecasts several more days of 70 degree temperatures. In southeast and mid-Michigan temperatures are expected to reach 85 tomorrow.

According to the Associated Press, the weather service in Grand Rapids says record high temperatures in West Michigan were broken on five consecutive days from March 14 through Sunday. In the northern Lower Peninsula, forecasters say high temperatures are coming in about 25 to as much as 40 degrees above average.

Environment
2:46 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

UM study finds increase in global warming belief

wikimedia commons

The number of Americans who believe in global warming is once again on the rise, moving from 58 percent in 2010 to 62 percent last year.

That's according to survey results released last month by U of M's Ford School of Public Policy. The survey, conducted in conjunction with the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion and published by the Brookings Institute, shows that a higher percentage of Americans accepted the science of climate change in 2011 than anytime since the fall of 2009.

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Environment
1:22 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Tittabawassee River cleanup far from finished

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) — Federal officials say they're a couple of years away from settling on a plan for cleaning up a 24-mile section of the Tittabawassee River polluted with dioxin from a Dow Chemical Co. plant.

The Environmental Protection Agency provided an update on the cleanup Monday during a community advisory group meeting at Saginaw Valley State University.

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Dexter Tornado
1:13 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Dept. of Corrections crews help in tornado cleanup

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Department of Corrections work crews are helping cleanup efforts following last week's tornado that hit Washtenaw County.

The department says crews from its Special Alternative Incarceration Program in Chelsea, a prison boot camp, will be in the Dexter area at least through Wednesday.

The department says the crews will work longer if requested.

Also Tuesday, the Washtenaw County Building Inspection Division announced that it will give priority to permit applications that are submitted as a result of Thursday's tornado damage.

Dexter Tornado
2:21 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

In Dexter, they're repairing the damage of Thursday's tornado (PHOTOS)

Repairing homes damaged by an F3 tornado in Dexter, Michigan.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:21 p.m.

Cleanup work is underway in Dexter after Thursday’s tornado. Much of the repair work is being done by Southfield-based Statewide Disaster Restoration

Raymond Eddy, the company’s executive director, said his crews started arriving last night, and they’re been busy securing homes pummeled by the tornado.

“In the case of the home were working on right here, the side wall is blown out. We’re putting a temporary wall in,” said Eddy. “We’re basically in March.  It could snow tomorrow. You never know in the state of Michigan.”

There’s no snow, but rain is in the forecast this weekend. 

Eddy said they’re focusing on securing homes missing walls and roofs.

“These homes are these people’s castles,” said Eddy. “So without some of the disaster restoration contractors here to help them out, these people don’t have a beginning …you know…see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

More than a dozen homes in Dexter were destroyed in Thursday’s tornado. Repair work to more than a hundred others may take weeks or months to complete.

10:18 a.m.

Repair work is getting under way a day after a tornado damaged and demolished homes in Dexter.

The sound of power saws cutting through wood that just yesterday had been the walls of homes fills the air today in this Dexter subdivision.

Thursday’s tornado destroyed more than a dozen homes.   More than a hundred others suffered damage.

No death or serious injuries have been linked to the strong that ripped through Washtenaw County late in the afternoon.

There’s no estimated cost so far of the damaged caused by the unusual March twister.

Dexter Tornado
12:28 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Healing from a tornado, one hot dog at a time

People in Dexter are pulling together after Thursday’s tornado that destroyed or damaged more than a hundred homes and businesses

 “Help yourselves…there’s chips….” Supermarket manager Gary Winters told a woman who rode out Thursday's tornado in her Dexter home.    Winter spent his morning delivering water and snacks to emergency workers and construction contractors.   By midday, he was turning hot dogs on the barbeque grill as people from the tornado ravaged subdivision next door line up.

He says giving away free food and water is the least they could do for their neighbors..

 “Once you walk down there and see what actually happened last night," Winters pauses, "I don’t think…the pictures on the news really showed the amount of devastation down there.”  

 Everyone here says they are just grateful no one was seriously hurt or killed in the tornado.

Dexter Tornado
10:42 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Hudson Mills Metropark golf course severely damaged in storm

An F3 tornado strikes Dexter. This is a screenshot from footage taken at Hudson Mills Metropark.
Matthew Altruda YouTube

Staff at the Hudson Mills Metropark say their golf course near Dexter suffered significant damage from last night's F3 tornado that touched down around 5:30 p.m. From a Huron-Clinton Metroparks press release:

“According to neighbors, the funnel touched down on hole nine and stayed a while,” said Jerry Cyr, park operations manager for Hudson Mills Metropark. “We are grateful that no one was injured.”

The course is closed until further notice.

The main park is open, but without electricity or running water.

Although park personnel have not been able to completely assess the destruction, preliminary reports are that several areas of the course have suffered substantial damage.  Trees and household debris are scattered throughout the course. 

The park is the site where dramatic video footage of the tornado was captured by visitors.

Park staff say maple sugar programs scheduled for Saturday, and Sunday will be held if the power to the park is restored.

Environment
6:36 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Environmentalists not happy with Michigan's proposed "environmental leader" program

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A state senate committee will consider legislation Thursday to recognize Michigan businesses that are “environmental leaders.”

But environmentalists say the bill actually makes it easier for companies to do the least required to meet environmental standards.

James Cliff is with the Michigan Environmental Council.    He says the "environmental leaders program" will reward companies by giving them access to state contracts with less regulation and an early warning for inspections, without really requiring them to do very much in return.

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Changing Gears
3:33 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Blotting Update: Detroit wants to sell you this lot for $200

Sharon McClinton cares for the vacant land around her house. Detroit is trying to make it easier for residents like her to buy that land, too.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Apparently, the phone has been ringing off the hook over at Detroit’s planning department.

It’s all because of a few lines uttered by Mayor Dave Bing in his State of the City address last week. (You’ll find them about 30 minutes in.)

“This week we sent out over 500 letters to property owners in Hubbard Farms, Springwells Village and Southwest Detroit,” he announced, “telling them if they own a home adjacent to a vacant city-owned lot, they can purchase this lot for a mere $200.”

“No coming downtown,” the mayor said.  “No added bureaucracy. The city will mail back the deed.”

Bing’s initiative is a response to the overwhelming problem of abandoned property in Detroit.

It’s a problem we explored in our stories about Detroit “blotters” — which you can see here and here.

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Environment
11:05 am
Tue March 13, 2012

Small wind project in northern Michigan faces hurdles

Steve Smiley, project manager for the Northport turbine, on the ridge where the windmill will be built.
Photo by Bob Allen/Interlochen Public Radio

by Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Big wind farms generate not just power but a lot of controversy. There’s been quite a debate in northern Michigan recently about the effects on safety, health, property values and the landscape. Smaller scale projects called community wind are designed to avoid those criticisms. But there are still roadblocks.

Northport is a picturesque village that sits near the tip of the Leelanau Peninsula. For the past two years, a group of residents there, mostly retirees, has been working to put up one small wind turbine.

Doug McInnis says the opportunity just about fell into their laps.

“There was this unique spot. There was a hill. And it’s near right where you want to put the energy. We’re right near a substation. I mean all these things come together and it just says, hey, this is a natural.”

The village owns the hill that rises just behind its new sewage treatment plant. From the hilltop, the turbine will supply half the electricity for the plant. It will be a fraction of the size of new commercial turbines.

State maps show that Leelanau Township has the best sites for wind energy in the Lower Peninsula.

McInnis says the group wants to do something now that will benefit their community for years to come.

“People are concerned about the future generations. And if we don’t start thinking and moving in other directions I don’t know what’s going to happen. It ain’t gonna be good.”

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Environment
6:27 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Saugatuck Twp considers new settlement with developer over dune land

Lawyers for Saugatuck Township have reached an agreement to resolve an expensive legal case with a private developer. The case is between the township and a billionaire who owns about 300 acres of property.

The land in dispute includes natural dunes on the Lake Michigan shore. The developer says the township has unfairly restrictive zoning laws for his property. The proposed settlement would reverse to the original zoning that’s less restrictive.

Under the plan, the developer would ask for a zoning variance from the zoning board of appeals. The township’s attorney Ron Bultje says the developer may ask for a variance “to essentially develop the property in the manner that was shown on the development plan last summer.” That plan included a marina and a hotel.

The township will hold a public hearing on the proposed agreement next week.

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Weather
5:12 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Tornado watch in effect for 31 counties in Michigan

The counties in Michigan under tonight's tornado watch. NWS

The National Weather Service has issued a tornado watch for 31 counties in Michigan until 11 p.m. tonight.

It includes the cities of Alma, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, Charlotte, Clare, Fremont, Grand Rapids, Greenville, Hastings, Holland, Ionia, Jackson, Jenison, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, Reed City, South Haven, and St. Johns.

A "watch" means conditions for the formation of tornados are possible.

The following counties are under the watch:

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Changing Gears
2:57 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

It's Monday, here is something beautiful

Here’s what you do: Click on the video, and pop it out to full screen.

As you watch, remind yourself that this is the place they call the Rust Belt.

Remind yourself that this is the place that cannot keep its talented young people, because they say it’s too cold.

Too uninspiring.

Too boring.

Remind yourself that they say those things.

Remind yourself that none of it is true.

Then, get back to work.

Environment
1:32 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Gas company plans new pipeline under St. Clair River

Bluewater Gas Storage plans to build a pipeline under the St. Clair River
user cseeman Flickr

Plans are underway for a natural gas company to construct a pipeline under the St. Clair River into Canada, stretching some 1,500 feet.

More from the Associated Press:

"A bike path in Marysville will be closed to the public as Bluewater Gas Storage LLC conducts the work. The project is expected to last about a month. The bike path will be used as a staging area, rather than using people's yards or driveways."

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Culture
12:22 pm
Mon March 12, 2012

Memories of Michigan: State's nature and cities create connection

Exploring the shoreline of Lake Michigan's Northport Bay.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Over the weekend, we posted this question to the Michigan Radio Facebook community.

"What’s a personal memory you have that has some kind of connection to Michigan?"

The answers show how the state's unique character gets into our blood, and why so many people feel at peace and at home in Michigan:

Jennifer - Being 6 years old and digging a tunnel in the snow to get out of the front door of our little house in Carson City during the blizzard of 1978.

John - First time I stood on Deadman's Hill & looked out over the East Jordan River Valley.

Dani - Several years back, I took a nap in a massive willow tree on the bank of the Au Sable River in Lovells. That tree is absolutely amazing, probably my favorite spot to be in the entire world. Once you climb into it, there's a sort of landing in the tree. I was able to stretch out fully and sleep comfortably while listening to the soft sounds of nature around me.

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