Environment & Science

Maureen Reilly / Flickr

The wet spring has been bad for farmers in Michigan. They've had to wait to get their crops in the ground, and those crops that were in the ground when the rains came didn't fair so well.

The warmer, drier weather in the past week has allowed some farmers to get into their fields and plant their crops.

Kris Turner of the Flint Journal filed a report yesterday on farmers who are putting in 20-hour days to get their crops in on time.

From the Flint Journal:

Jim Collom, an agricultural statistician at the Michigan branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said farmers across the state and country are hurting this year. Michigan farmers battled intense rain that flooded fields and limited the time seed could be planted. Things have improved in the past few days..

Michigan farmers typically have 92 percent of corn planted by this time of the year but only have about 67 percent of it in the ground now, Collom said. Soybeans are worse — only about 31 percent is planted. Farmers typically have about 71 percent of that crop planted by this time of the year.

One farmer, Chad Morey, said the window for planting corn safely is closing, saying he might have to plant more soybeans this year to turn a profit.

The Morning Sun reports that the late plantings and moisture will affect how much farmers are paid:

And even what's planted in the next few days and what was planted earlier this month, will likely face yield and moisture issues in the fall.

"We can expect lower yields when we're planting that late, and it will be wet," Gross said. "It's not going to have the time to dry in the field."

Farmers get less for wet grains because of the time and expense required to dry them.

N1NJ4 / flickr

The state has reversed a decision to close 23 state forest campgrounds this summer.

Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Mary Dettloff says the DNR has found partners to run three of them, and is in talks with local governments and other groups for similar arrangements for the rest. But she says maintaining the campgrounds is an expense the state is less and less able to afford:

"We have to do regular environmental testing on the wells for the water, we have to have the pit toilets pumped out regularly. We have to have the trash hauled away, the grass mowed. There’s lots of maintenance and upkeep for these things that I think a lot of folks just don’t realize we have to do."

Funding for the state forest campgrounds has been cut by almost two-thirds over the last three years. There are 133 of the campgrounds across Michigan.

Dettloff says the typical state forest campground costs about $9,000 a year to operate.

schick / Morgue File

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has lifted the deer-baiting ban in most of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.  The ban had been in effect since 2008 after cases of chronic wasting disease had been reported among Michigan deer.

Mary Dettloff is with the DNR. She says baiting can create problems for the health of deer herds:

Tee Poole / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has lifted a ban on putting bait out for deer. From October 1st through January 1st the practice will again be allowed in most counties in the lower peninsula.

Baiting will not be allowed in Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties - the state's six county area known as the  Bovine Tuberculosis Zone.

Officials at the Michigan DNR put the baiting ban in place in 2008 after biologists found the state's first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer at a private deer breeding facility in Kent County.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease similar to mad cow disease, can be spread from deer to deer through saliva and blood. The disease started out west in elk and made its way into some Midwestern deer herds. Wisconsin had to cull big herds of deer to get the disease under control.

Banning a practice such as baiting, a practice that brings many deer together in one spot as they eat or lick the bait, was thought to be the best way to prevent the spread of CWD in Michigan - apparently, it worked.

From the Michigan DNR press release:

At the time, the Department followed protocol as outlined in the state's emergency response plan for CWD and immediately banned baiting and feeding of white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula. The NRC then passed regulations making the ban permanent, but said it would reconsider the ban in three years, giving the DNR adequate time to perform disease testing and surveillance in the state for CWD.

In the three-year period, the DNR tested thousands of white-tailed deer for CWD, but did not detect another case.

So in a 4-3 vote by the Natural Resources Commission, the three-year old ban was lifted. It will be reconsidered in 2014.

In the Grand Rapids Press, Howard Meyerson writes that hunters have been split on the issue. Around half in favor of baiting and half against it. Meyerson writes that in 2008, many hunters were glad the ban was put in place:

They said it altered deer behavior and pulled deer off their lands and onto others where people baited. That, in turn, prompted them to resort to “defensive baiting.”

On the flip side, however, others are crowing.

“The good guys won,” said Jeff DeRegnaucourt, an avid hunter from Rockford who was glad to see the ban lifted.

But the nation’s top professional wildlife biologists probably wouldn’t see it that way. Mason is one who steadfastly urged keeping the ban in place. Steve Schmitt, the DNR’s wildlife disease expert, was another.

A new study suggests raising the water level in Lake Huron could cause as many problems as it solves. 

 Eugene Stakhiv is U.S. Co-chair of the International Great Lakes Study. 

He says people could build dams or other structures in the St. Clair River to slow the flow of water out of Lake Huron.  

That would raise the level of Lake Huron and benefit marinas and wetlands around the lake.   

But water levels would also rise near Chicago, which already has high lake levels.

Photo by Shawn Allee

Dow Chemical polluted the Tittabawassee River with dioxin. Dioxin has been linked to several health issues, including cancer. A comprehensive clean up of the river has barely begun. Dow chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state have wrestled over the cleanup for 30 years.

Michelle Hurd Riddick has spent the last 10 years of her life pushing to get the Tittabawassee River cleaned up.

When she’s not working as a nurse, she has helped file lawsuits against Dow. She religiously attends public meetings about the clean up and follows what the EPA is doing by filing freedom of information requests. And she writes a lot of letters to state and federal officials.

Hurd Riddick is part of an environmental group called the Lone Tree Council. She talked about how she felt as we drove along the river.

“I get frustrated. I get frustrated. There are a number of citizens you know who have hung in on this issue as long as I’ve been on this issue. But not a lot of them. They have to get on with their lives. And I understand that and I respect that.”

The Tittabawassee flows through Hurd Riddick’s hometown of Saginaw before emptying its waters and contaminated sediment into Lake Huron.

Dow did not want to be recorded for this story.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A new report says it would be technologically feasible to raise water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan to make up for drop-offs caused by more than a century of dredging and other human activity.

But the report obtained by The Associated Press says it would take decades to accomplish the task and the price tag could exceed $200 million.

The study is scheduled for public release Friday. It was conducted by a team of engineers and scientists for the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian panel that advises both nations on Great Lakes issues.

They're trying to determine whether it would be worthwhile to place underwater dams, gates or other structures at the upper end of the St. Clair River to reduce the volume of water escaping Lake Huron.

fire
Marcus Obal / creative commons

Officials say the wildfire near Grayling, Michigan has been contained after burning 817 acres.

From the Associated Press:

Crawford County officials released the updated acreage total Wednesday morning. They say the fire damaged several buildings and caused one minor injury.

About 100 homes were evacuated. That order has been lifted and an evacuation center was closed.

Crews are attending to remaining hot spots and making sure the perimeter line is holding.

Howes Lake Road remains closed to traffic except for fire and emergency vehicles. Only local residents are being allowed on Manistee River Road.

Booth MidMichigan reports that Jeff Pendergraff, Crawford County Undersheriff, said conditions were ideal for a wildfire yesterday:

"It was hot, humid and high winds. Two bad things made it worse: it hit the jack pines and the wind picked up. But then it moved into a hardwood forest and slowed down."

Fire crews contained the blaze around midnight last night. The state is monitoring the area today:

"We are working at the holding the fire line today," said Mary Detloff, spokeswoman for the DNR. "We're a little concerned about the weather; it's supposed to be hot and gusty and we don't want the fire jumping lines and spreading to a new area."

An investigation into how the fire got started is beginning today.

A brief look at wind energy in Michigan, using American Wind Energy Association data and other sources.

Lisa Williams / United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The Tittabawassee River has flooded three times already this year. Each time floodwaters carry dirt from the bottom of the river all over yards, basements, fields and parks.

This sediment is contaminated with Dioxin from Dow chemical’s plant in Midland. Dioxin has been linked to a host of health problems including cancer.

deqmiair.org

The sun and heat cooks up the pollution in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says an "Ozone Action Day" has been declared in four Michigan cities today:

  • Benton Harbor
  • Kalamazoo
  • Grand Rapids
  • Ludington

And tomorrow, six cities will be have Ozone Action Days, as the heat is expected to stay with us.

  • Ann Arbor
  • Benton Harbor
  • Detroit
  • Kalamazoo
  • Grand Rapids
  • Ludington

Ground-level ozone pollution is formed on hot, sunny days when emissions from cars and trucks, industrial smokestacks, and vapors from gas and other chemicals are cooked into "bad" ozone.

The EPA says the pollution can have serious health and environmental impacts:

Breathing ozone, a primary component of smog, can trigger a variety of health problems including chest pain, coughing, throat irritation, and congestion. It can worsen bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma. Ground-level ozone also can reduce lung function and inflame the linings of the lungs. Repeated exposure may permanently scar lung tissue.

Ground-level ozone also damages vegetation and ecosystems. In the United States alone, ozone is responsible for an estimated $500 million in reduced crop production each year.

We're supposed to take action on an Ozone Action Day. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments offers these tips on what to do when an Action Day is declared in your area:

  • Avoid refueling your vehicle. If you must refuel, fill up as late in the day as possible, preferably in the evening when the weather is cooler. Fumes released at the gas pump contribute to ozone formation.
  • Delay mowing your lawn. Emissions from your lawn mower help form ozone.
  • If you plan to barbeque, avoid using lighter fluid. Emissions from the fluid contribute to ozone formation.
  • Take the bus, carpool, bike or walk. You'll reduce traffic congestion and air pollution as well as save money.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven Michigan communities are getting help from the federal government to clean up contaminated industrial sites.   Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency is awarding brownfield cleanup grants to Lansing, Albion, Inkster, Northville and three other Michigan communities.   

The grants total $2.9 million.  

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (AP) - Kalamazoo authorities have developed a partnership to deal with the hazardous waste left behind by illegal methamphetamine production.

The Department of Public Safety says in a statement Monday that it worked with state officials and the city's Public Services Department to develop a methamphetamine remediation program that's modeled after one developed by Kentucky State Police.

Authorities collect the waste and it's transferred to a central location where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration takes over disposal responsibility.

Kalamazoo says it's the first such Occupational Safety and Health Administration-compliant program in the state.

Backcomp.gif: National Weather Service, Wilmington, NC

This week, state lawmakers will discuss what can be done to better protect people from rip currents on the Great Lakes. It’s estimated that about 30 people drowned in the Great Lakes last year because of rip currents. 

Rip currents form when powerful winds or surges of water press along the shoreline.  The water must eventually flow back out.  When it does the rip current created can prove too strong for even the best swimmer to escape. 

Photo by Sarah Payette

State and federal agencies working to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes recently laid out their plans for 2011.

These agencies are focused mainly on the waterways around Chicago, where the fish could get in from the Mississippi River basin to Lake Michigan.

But there’s another route for Asian carp. They’re riding on trucks... that are bringing live carp from fish farms in the South.

Two fish distributors were issued large fines this winter for bringing live Asian carp into Canada. It’s illegal.

Peter Payette has been covering this story.  Rebecca Williams talks with Peter on today's Environment Report:

Rebecca: Peter, you’ve just gotten back from some of these live fish markets in Toronto. What did you see?

Peter: All of these live fish markets were a part of an Asian grocery store and a couple of them had very large sections of the store devoted to fish, and in particular, live fish. I was in one store where they had a catfish that must've been 30 pounds. I saw a common carp that size... I saw an eel that was two or three feet long.

DETROIT (AP) - Two air-conditioned Detroit recreation buildings are open as cooling centers when outside temperatures and humidity are high.

The city says the Joseph Walker Williams Center on Rosa Parks Boulevard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, while the Coleman A. Young Center on Robert Bradby Drive is open
1-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Young children and the elderly are at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, confusion and flushed skin are signs of heat-related illness.

The city says the most vulnerable should stay indoors, if possible, or in a public place with air conditioning.

The federal government says gray wolves in the Great Lakes states are no longer endangered, and they can come off the endangered species list. If that happens, the state would be in charge of managing the wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources is holding a forum in Marquette tomorrow. The DNR’s inviting everyone from the farm bureau to conservation and hunting groups. The agency wants these groups to weigh in on the state’s wolf management plan.

Christopher Hoving is with the DNR. He says the plan would allow officials to shoot problem wolves. For example... if a wolf kills a cow or a sheep.

“It’s not something we like to do or want to do, but we can’t have that behavior of killing sheep be spread throughout the population.”

He says under the state plan, Michigan residents can also kill a wolf that’s attacking their livestock or pets.

Gracey / Morgue File

A Detroit newspaper reported there were 657,000 feral cats in the Detroit area. But that number might not be correct.

Kevin Hatman is with the Michigan Humane Society. He says he’s not sure how accurate that number is. But he says there is a large population of wild cats in the Detroit area:

user anyjazz65 / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Officials say a large population of feral cats in the Detroit area is straining animal control and animal welfare groups.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that one estimate cited by the Petsmart Charities says there are about 657,000 feral cats in the area.

Officials say free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes to humans.

People are working to address the problem in the Detroit area. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats. And a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to round up cats.

Photo by Alan Vernon

Black bears are doing well across northern Michigan.  In fact, they're doing so well, people are complaining more about bears getting into bird feeders and bee hives and damaging orchards.

It’s still rare to encounter a bear in the woods. But last year a hunter was attacked near Petoskey. And state wildlife officials say bears become aggressive when people forget they are wild animals.

Sometimes bears just out of hibernation wander into town or into someone’s back yard to rummage for food.

Last spring, hundreds of people in Traverse City flocked to a tree with a bear in it near the airport. State wildlife officials captured the young male and moved it to a distant swamp.

But an incident from last fall near the Bear River in Emmet County continues to raise concerns.

On an October evening, three yearling bears and their mother attacked a bow hunter up a tree in his stand.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says the problem likely had been brewing over the summer.

“There were reports of a sow with three cubs showing up in people’s yards and on their porches and people feeding the bears. They liked looking at them and thought they were amusing. People do things like that. They ought not to.”

In this case, the deer hunter says he kicked and hit a couple of the cubs when they climbed up his stand.

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for parts of Michigan as more severe thunderstorms were in the forecast.

The weather service says that Tuesday temperatures were expected to reach the lower 90s. The heat advisory was to be in effect until Tuesday evening in a number of counties as well as cities including Detroit, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, Port Huron and Ann Arbor.

The weather service says severe thunderstorms could move across the state Tuesday afternoon and evening, bringing damaging winds or hail.

The forecast comes as power restoration efforts continue following severe thunderstorms on Sunday that spawned three tornadoes in Michigan.

Mosquito Invasion!

May 29, 2011
user trebol-a / Flickr

Mosquitoes are expected to be an even bigger annoyance than usual for Michiganders this summer.  Heavy rains in April and May have set the stage for a big burst of mosquitoes in Michigan this year. 

Yesterday, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality announced new requirements to address public concern about potential pollution connected with horizontal fracturing (fracking) for natural gas.

From the DEQ news release:

The requirements, issued as New Permitting Instructions by the state Supervisor of Wells, include:

user ladydragonflycc / Flickr

I've heard people talk about the thrill of morel hunting in Michigan, but have never stalked one myself. My neighbor recently gave us a few morels she plucked from her backyard.

So now that we've got some in the house, what to do with them? Eat them, or course, but what's a good way to prepare them?

Here are five moral recipes to try out this season:

Photo courtesy of the State of Michigan

The Enbridge pipeline that broke and spilled into the Kalamazoo River last summer was carrying raw tar sands oil.

Enbridge spokesperson Lorraine Grymala says the company ships both conventional crude, and tar sands oil through its pipelines. She says in recent years they’ve been getting an increasing amount of tar sands oil.

“Because there’s being more produced (sic), and there’s more of a demand for it in the United States.”

This increase in tar sands oil transport worries environmentalists and pipeline safety advocates.

Tom Grundy / Flickr

Update: 5/26/11 6:52 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - Thunderstorms have dumped more than 4 inches of rain on parts of southern Michigan, causing widespread flooding of streets, expressways and basements. The National Weather Service says 4.15 inches of rain fell in a 12-hour period Wednesday in Detroit, while 3.12 inches fell in Ann Arbor and 3.1 inches in Wayne County's Canton Township. Flood warnings were in effect across several southeastern counties Wednesday night.

You can view photos and video of the storms at these links below:

epa.gov

It's probably the second sticker you look at (the first being the price sticker).

The new fuel economy and environment labels will take effect with model year 2013 cars and trucks. The EPA is calling the new labels "the most dramatic overhaul to fuel economy labels since the program began more than 30 years ago."

The new labels show more information about fuel economy, such as predicted annual fuel costs (based on $3.70 per gallon), and how much in fuel you would save compared to an average car (an "average" car's mpg is set at 22 mpg). The labels also give a greenhouse gas rating, and a smog rating.

And it wouldn't be an updated label without a way to load it into your smarty-pants phone. Here's a video from the EPA on how that works:

NOAA

UPDATE 9:51 pm: Officials in Joplin, Missouri now report at least 122 people have been confirmed dead as a result of the tornado.

 

In Joplin, Missouri, at least 117 people were killed by an F4 tornado and more than 1,000 are unaccounted for, according to the New York Times.

It's the worst tornado to hit the United States in 64 years (181 people were killed by a tornado in Woodward, Oklahoma in 1947), and it surpasses the death toll of Michigan's worst tornado which struck in 1953.

The 1953 Flint-Beecher Tornado killed 116 people in a community just north of Flint. The F5 tornado is listed as the country's 10th deadliest tornado by NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

The tornado had winds in excess of 200 miles per hour, was 800 yards wide, and traveled on a path for 27 miles. From NOAA:

So great a number were killed by the monstrous tornado that the National Guard Armory building, along with other shelters, was turned into a temporary morgue. The scene of bodies pouring into the Armory (as an intermittent light rain poured outside) was incredibly bleak and horrifying, especially for the families and friends of the victims. At least 100 people waited outside into the rainy night before they could move inside to try and identify the bodies.

User: Ozarks Red Cross / Flickr

The Red Cross of Washtenaw County is prepared to send volunteers to Joplin, Mo. where a tornado killed at least 117 people. The Red Cross chapter in Ann Arbor is already deploying one of its 150 volunteers to the disaster area.

Ashley Cieslinski is the Emergency Services Director of Washtenaw County’s Red Cross. She says Red Cross chapters across Michigan are prepared to help with relief efforts. 

Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

The pipeline break that spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River last summer is still being cleaned up. It has left some Michigan residents with questions about the safety of sending heavy crude oil through those lines.

Dick Denuyl is a retired school teacher in Marysville. When he bought his home along the St. Clair River, he loved the beautiful setting. And he wasn’t worried about the pipelines running under the water.

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