Environment & Science

Environment & Science
9:12 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

Power back for Consumers Energy, DTE customers, but some LBWL customers still wait

Finally. 

The lights are back on, and the heat is warming the house, for the roughly 670,000 Consumers Energy and DTE customers who lost electricity from a severe ice storm.

"It was one of the worst storms in our history," says Debra Dodd of Consumers Energy.

Heavy ice brought down hundreds of lines, and in some cases, pulled the poles down with it.

Dodd says customers were patient, understanding and grateful to the line crews, who worked 16-hour days to repair the damage.

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Ice storm
3:46 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

As new ice storm worries loom, customers find ways to cope

This was Christmas dinner at the Putnam house
Judy Putnam

There are times when warm weather is not a good thing, and this is one such time.

Brian Wheeler is with Consumers Energy.  He says the severe ice storm that struck a big portion of the state early Sunday left extremely heavy ice on the trees.

"The ice has been pushing trees and tree limbs into different positions," says Wheeler.  "A rapid melt could cause them to snap back into a different position pretty quickly too, and as they move suddenly, they could interfere with power lines yet again."

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Environment & Science
1:46 pm
Wed December 25, 2013

Weather, altered behavior could be reasons few wolves killed in state hunt

The federal government wants to turn management of gray wolves in the western Great Lakes over to the states.
USFWS

The state Department of Natural Resources says hunters are unlikely to bag the limit of 43 wolves before the season ends on December 31. In fact, it’s been two and a half weeks since the last wolf was taken on December 5.        

State wildlife officials say an extreme cold snap in the Upper Peninsula may be responsible. They say it’s also possible wolves have learned to avoid hunters.

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Ice storm
5:51 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Ice storm followed by high winds could mean more bad news

Power lines
Christoper Sessums Flickr

High winds are forecast for Wednesday.

And that could slow down the work to restore power to thousands of people after the weekend's severe ice storm.

The storm's path went through Lansing, Owosso and Flint.

Mary Palkovich is with Consumers Energy.

"This is the worst storm that Consumers Energy has had during Christmas week in its 120 year history," says Palkovich.  "It's unprecedented."

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Ice storm
5:42 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Shelters trying to make Christmas bright for people without heat

digging out
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Several hundred people across the state may be spending Christmas in an emergency shelter, after a severe ice storm on Saturday.

Dick Beauchamp is with the Red Cross in Genessee County.

The agency turned the second floor of its Flint office into a shelter.

About 50 people were there as of Tuesday morning.

Beauchamp said he expects more to show up.

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Weather
2:38 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Update: Ice storms knock out power to 294,000 in Michigan

Credit weather.gov

JACKSON, Mich. (AP) - Winter has arrived in Michigan with an icy blast, sending freezing rain across a wide section of the Lower Peninsula and knocking out electrical service to 294,000 homes and businesses.

The state's largest utilities say it will be days before most of those blacked out get their power back because of the difficulty of working around ice-broken lines.

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Environment & Science
1:31 pm
Sun December 22, 2013

Michigan agencies step up invasive species fight

quagga mussel
lakescientist.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan officials say after years of planning, they're ready to put in place a strategy for controlling the spread of invasive species in the state's waterways.

The plan is described in the annual "State of the Great Lakes" report released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Quality.

Aquatic invaders such as quagga mussels cost the region hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

The newly developed strategy focuses on early detection of new invaders and a rapid response to rein them in.

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The Environment Report
8:06 am
Thu December 19, 2013

Ypsilanti family finds happiness in living off the land

Julia, Amelie, Eliah & Jason Gold.
Credit Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

Meet the Gold family. They're modern day homesteaders. 

Their goal is to live as self-sufficiently as possible on their three-acre farm in Ypsilanti. (They often say they use yesterday's knowledge combined with today's technology.)

Two years ago they started the Michigan Folk School. The school promotes traditional folk arts and the preservation of forest and farmland.

To find out why the family started the school, and why they became homesteaders in the first place, listen to this week's Environment Report, right here.

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Environment & Science
12:39 pm
Tue December 17, 2013

Groups ask EPA to study Lake Superior basin mining

NOAA

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP)  -- A coalition of 59 groups from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a broad review of the cumulative effects of expanded mining in the Lake Superior basin.

They've written to the EPA's regional administrator in Chicago, Susan Hedman, to ask the federal agency to study the long-term effects of mining activities, including copper mines proposed or planned for northeastern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as well as a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

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Environment Report
7:58 am
Tue December 17, 2013

Why are Great Lakes birds dying from botulism?

The common loon
Credit Steve Maslowski/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Imagine walking down a picturesque beach along Lake Michigan, and stumbling upon the carcasses of dead birds. That’s a very real and unpleasant problem along Lakes Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie. (It’s not as big of an issue in Lake Superior because of the lake’s colder water temperatures.)

Loons and other deep-diving birds are suffering from a disease called avian botulism. It’s form of food poisoning that kills wild birds in the Great Lakes ecosystem.

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Environment & Science
5:32 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

Governor to release energy plan this week

warrenski Creative Commons

Governor Rick Snyder intends to deliver the broad outlines of an energy plan for Michigan this week.

In a message delivered in November of 2012, the governor focused on energy efficiency. This year, the governor is expected to put more attention on renewable energy.

The state Public Service Commission released a report last month. It says Michigan utilities could afford to generate almost a third of their electricity using wind, solar, and other renewable resources.

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Environment & Science
3:08 pm
Sun December 15, 2013

Lake Erie to be focus of Ohio legislative group

Sport fishing boat on Lake Erie.
Credit Mark Brush/Michigan Radio

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A bipartisan group of Ohio lawmakers plans to make Lake Erie the focus of discussions next year.

State Sens. Randy Gardner, a Bowling Green Republican, and Capri Cafaro, a Democrat from Hubbard, say the Lake Erie Caucus will meet in January to address state and federal policies related to the body of water.

The group will look at ways to preserve the environmental health of the lake and to work on related economic growth and tourism issues.

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Environment & Science
10:38 am
Sun December 15, 2013

Study finds food supplies drop in Lakes Huron, Michigan

NOAA

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Food supplies for fish and other organisms are declining in some areas of the Great Lakes, particularly Lakes Huron and Michigan, according to a newly released scientific report.

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Environment & Science
12:30 pm
Sat December 14, 2013

Fewer wolves than expected have died so far in Michigan's wolf hunt

USFWS Midwest

It’s been a month since hunters took to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to hunt wolves.

So far, the wolves have been doing better than expected.  

Since the start of the hunt, only about 20 wolves have been killed. That's less than half of the 43 wolves state wildlife officials set as the goal to be killed in the hunt.   The hunt ends December 31st. 

Adam Bump is the Department of Natural Resources’ point man on wolves.  He admits he’s not sure why hunters have had more success bagging wolves in some parts of the U.P. than in other parts.

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Environment & Science
11:52 am
Fri December 13, 2013

If its name is any indication, this winter storm headed for Michigan could be really fierce

Doesn't she look ferocious?
Credit screenshot from weather.gov

The most recent winter storm on the National Weather Service's radar is on her way. The Weather Channel named her Electra. 

This is what she looks like:

According to the NWS, there's a prediction of "a complex storm system impacting much of the Central and Eastern U.S. this weekend."

Here are the states that have a winter storm warning. The blue and purple are areas under warnings and advisories.

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Stateside
4:30 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Michigan students begin drone start-up

One of the robots built by SkySpecs
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science University of Michigan

Jeffrey P. Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, recently turned a few heads with his announcement that within a few years he expects deliveries to your home courtesy of unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as drones.

It’s been predicted that by 2025, there could be 175,000 of these UAVs in United States airspace — ranging from teeny, tiny nano-sized UAVs to a full-sized, pilotless airplane hauling cargo for UPS.

Development of these drones are popping up everywhere, including right here in Michigan. SkySpecs, a start-up coming out of the University of Michigan, is developing new ways to use UAVs — creating drones that can inspect everything from bridges to wind turbines and make sure these structures are safe.

We talked to Danny Ellis, the CEO of SkySpecs.

Listen to the full interview above.

The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu December 12, 2013

Go lake trout! Native fish overcome seemingly ‘insurmountable’ challenges in Lake Huron

Ellen Marsden examines an egg trap on what is left of the historic spawning reef in Thunder Bay. This reef was buried in cement kiln dust which filled in the spaces between the stones where fish would otherwise deposit their eggs.
NOAA

A fish that was almost wiped out in the Great Lakes is making a comeback in Lake Huron.

Lake trout are suddenly doing what biologists have been trying to get them to do for more than 40 years: They’re making babies.

Lake trout used to be a mainstay of Great Lakes commercial fishing in the first half of the twentieth century. The Lakes would produce 15 million pounds of the fish every year.

Then the sea lamprey came in and sucked the life out of the lake trout populations.

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Environment & Science
5:14 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

U.S. Senators want more info on Enbridge pipeline running through Straits of Mackinac

Enbridge Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
NWF screenshot from YouTube video

Three U.S. senators want a federal agency to check on the safety of an oil pipeline that runs beneath Great Lakes waters.

The 60-year-old pipeline passes beneath the Straits of Mackinac, where Lakes Huron and Michigan meet. It was the first pipeline Enbridge built through Michigan.

Environmentalists protested the pipeline expansion earlier this year. They sent divers down to check out the condition of the pipeline firsthand.

Democrats Dick Durbin of Illinois and Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan want the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to provide details of the agency’s safety tests on the line. PHMSA is a division of the Department of Transportation.

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Stateside
4:38 pm
Wed December 11, 2013

Can Michigan reach 30% renewable energy sources by 2035?

warrenski Creative Commons

Our state is working to get its energy needs met by wind and other renewable sources.

Right now, state law mandates that electric providers must obtain 10% of their electricity sales from renewable resources by 2015.

We're on track to do that.

But a recent report turned in to Governor Snyder says we could boost that to 30% by 2035. And when compared to neighboring states, Michigan's Renewable Portfolio Standard, the RPS, is not as robust as it could be.

John Quackenbush is the Chairman of the State Public Service Commission who led the renewable energy study at the Governor's request, and James Clift is the director of the Michigan Environmental Council. They joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:14 pm
Tue December 10, 2013

After 150 years, Keystone State steamer discovered in the Lake Huron

Divers found the shipwreck submerged in Lake Huron.
user Brucegirl wikimedia commons

It's been a mystery that has haunted Lake Huron since the Civil War: What happened to the Keystone State?

The wooden steamer set out from Detroit, bound for Milwaukee, around November 9th, 1861.

She never made it — and no one knew the Keystone State had run into trouble until wreckage washed up on the shore near Lexington.

But thanks to David Trotter, the Keystone State has been found — in nearly 175 feet of water.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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