Environment & Science

Environment
10:18 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Swimming Upstream: Fending off sturgeon poachers (part 4)

A juvenile lake sturgeon.
Photo courtesy of USFS, Rob Elliott

This week, we're focusing on fish for our series Swimming Upstream. And today, Dustin Dwyer has a story about one of the most fascinating fish in the Great Lakes. Sturgeon have been around for more than 100 million years.  Each fish can live more than a hundred years, weigh more than a hundred pounds and stretch eight or nine feet long. But sturgeon have also been the target of overfishing and poaching. Dustin caught up with one group in northern Michigan that's trying to save them.  Here's his story:

So about a month or two ago, I was sitting along the bank of the Black River, way up near Onaway. And I was next to Jesse Hide, who has lived in this area all his life, and watched sturgeon all his life. We were keeping an eye out for sturgeon heading up the river to spawn.

“There's one coming up right there ... he's coming back down now.”

The long, spear-like fish occasionally poke their heads out of the water, like a submarine coming to the surface.

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Environment
4:43 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Report: Michigan's old coal plants costing residents $1.5 billion

A new report from the Michigan Environmental Council says Michigan’s oldest coal-burning power plants are costing state residents $1.5 billion dollars in health care costs each year. 

The report focuses on the state’s nine oldest coal-burning power plants.  It highlights particle pollution.  This type of pollution comes from power plants and factories as well as car and trucks.

James Clift is the policy director for the MEC.

“If you think of smog, kind of the black cloudy stuff, the really tiny particles, they lodge deep in your lungs and those are the ones they’re seeing causing the most impacts.”

He says these tiny particles are linked to a variety of heart and lung problems, including asthma.

He says on average, a family of four spends more than 500 dollars a year on health care expenses that can be attributed to the particle pollution from the power plants.

DTE Energy owns four of the power plants targeted in the report. 

John Austerberry is a spokesperson with DTE.

“All Detroit Edison power plants meet or exceed federal standards for sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.  And it’s those constituents that can contribute to the formation of fine particles under certain atmospheric conditions.”

The report calls on DTE and Consumers Energy to gradually phase out the oldest coal-burning power plants.

Environment
1:23 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Swimming Upstream: A dam problem (part 3)

Chris Pierce painstakingly removing part of a dam on the Manistee River.
Photo by Dustin Dwyer

All this week, we're focusing on stories about fish for our series, Swimming Upstream. Dustin Dwyer traveled all around the Lower Peninsula for the series, and for today's story, he went to the site of a former trout farm along the headwaters of the Manistee River, near Grayling. Dustin went to learn about the complex world of dam removal.  Here's his story:

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Health
11:48 am
Mon June 27, 2011

Eastern Michigan considers campuswide smoking ban

Eastern Michigan University will test a campus-wide smoking ban this fall.
Pratibha Varshney Flickr

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) - Eastern Michigan University is considering a campuswide smoking ban as the University of Michigan gears up to go smoke-free.

AnnArbor.com reports that the Eastern Michigan will try out a two-week smoking ban at its Ypsilanti campus this fall to see how that works. Ellen Gold, executive director of EMU Health Services, says the two-week ban is being called "Heads up, butts out."

If all goes well, Gold says smoking could be banned on campus within a year-and-a-half of the practice run.

Officials at Eastern Michigan will be watching to see how things go with University of Michigan's ban on smoking outdoors and indoors, which takes effect Friday. The university has banned smoking inside its buildings since 1987.

Environment
4:52 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Your Story: a small business owner thinking about leaving the state

Gary Stock on his land near the Paw Paw River. Preserving this land is what keeps Stock, sometimes reluctantly, in the state.
Photo submitted by Gary Stock

Gary Stock calls himself a member of the “creative class.”He is a longtime resident of Kalamazoo, Mich.

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Environment
10:47 am
Fri June 24, 2011

Swimming Upstream: The Fish Monger's Wife (part 2)

The Petersens sell fresh whitefish filets at the Muskegon Farmer's Market.
Photo by Dustin Dwyer

Today we continue our series, Swimming Upstream. Dustin Dwyer took a road trip around the Lower Peninsula to bring us stories about fish. Yesterday we heard about the Petersens. They’re one of the few remaining non-tribal commercial fishing families in the state.

Today Dustin tells the story of the Fish Mongers Wife:


It's a grey day at the Muskegon Farmer's Market, but Amber Mae Petersen is selling the heck out of some fresh Michigan whitefish.

“We're based here in Muskegon, my husband's family has been commercial fishing here for 75 years. So we sell what we catch.”

The vacuum-sealed bags of whitefish filets, and packages of smoked whitefish are disappearing quickly. Petersen's husband Eric stands next to her, packing the fish in ice and wrapping it in old copies of The Muskegon Chronicle.

“It's the only way to do it.”

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Environment
10:11 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Swimming Upstream: The shrinking commercial fishing industry (part 1)

Left to right: Walleye, Dustin Dwyer.
Image by Josh Leo/Rick Treur

Today we begin a series called Swimming Upstream. It's about one of Michigan's most valuable natural resources: fish. These slimy, scaly water dwellers contribute to the ecology of the Great Lakes, our economy, and, of course, our dinner plate.

Reporter Dustin Dwyer has traveled all over the lower peninsula to gather these fish stories for us, and he starts with a simple question: why can it sometimes be so difficult to buy fresh fish caught in Michigan? 

Here's Dustin's story:

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Environment
1:49 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Crews ramping up cleanup efforts in Kalamazoo River near Marshall

Last summer an oil sheen could be seen along the Kalamazoo River. Now crews are working to clean up the oil that sunk to the bottom.
State of Michigan

Cleanup crews are collecting oil that remains at the bottom of the Kalamazoo River this week.

It’s been nearly a year since more than 840,000 gallons of heavy crude oil leaked from a broken pipeline near Marshall. More than 90% of the oil has been cleaned up already.

Becky Haase is a spokesperson for Enbridge Energy, the company that owns the pipeline.

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Environment
11:23 am
Tue June 21, 2011

West Michigan residents voice opposition to offshore wind turbines

Business owners and residents in Pentwater, Michigan put up signs expressing opposition to Scandia Wind's offshore turbine proposal.
Photo by Suzy Vuljevic

There’s been a lot of outside interest in Michigan’s coastal wind supply. There have been multiple proposals for land-based wind farms in Michigan. But only a couple of companies have set their sights offshore.

One company in particular has met some tough opposition.

Scandia Wind came to Michigan last year looking to install 50 to 100 wind turbines in Lake Michigan. They had plans to site a wind farm six miles outside of Mason and Oceana counties.

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Science/Medicine
4:51 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Science: Black hole eats star, sparks gamma rays

A composite picture of two black holes merging from 2009
Nasa's Marshall Space Flight Center Flickr

Here's your Friday "Science is awesome" moment, care of the Washington Post.

The story is about a black hole eating a star like our sun and shooting out gamma rays.

Oh...and it only happens once every 100 million years.

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Environment
3:07 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

State asks federal officials to assess storm damage in Calhoun County

Rhondda Flickr

The Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) hasve requested support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to conduct joint Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDA) in the City of Battle Creek and Calhoun County.

Beginning Friday, teams made up of local, state and federal officials will conduct joint PDAs in areas most severely impacted by the storms on May 29. The teams will review and verify damage to homes, businesses and public infrastructure. This information will assist state officials in determining whether a federal declaration should be requested.

“We look forward to FEMA’s assistance in reviewing the impacted areas,” said Capt. W. Thomas Sands, commander of the MSP/EMHSD. “Their support greatly enhances the state’s capabilities to obtain a clear and accurate assessment, and determine the potential need for requesting federal assistance.”

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Environment
1:00 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Officials expand testing of cancer-causing chemical in Lake St. Clair

Carp in Lake St. Clair have the highest levels of PCB. Carp have levels that are 10 times what is considered safe.
User: Lebatihem Flickr

State health and environmental officials are expanding the scope of their testing for PCB in fish in Lake St. Clair.

PCB is a toxic compound that was used in electrical and industrial equipment. The chemical was banned in the 70s for its toxicity.  

Joe Bohr is with the Department for Environmental Quality. He says while the PCB found in the fish is 10 times what is considered safe, the amount of PCB in Michigan’s waters is decreasing.  

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Environment
12:18 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Power plants killing millions of Great Lakes fish every year

The Bay Shore Power Plant on Maumee Bay in Lake Erie. Lake Erie Waterkeeper Sandy Binh says this power plant is "probably the largest fish-killing plant in the Great Lakes."
screen grab from YouTube video sWestern Lake Erie Waterkeepers and Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund

Power plants around the region are responsible for killing hundreds of millions of fish each year, according to an investigative report from the Chicago Tribune.

The Tribune's environmental reporter, Michael Hawthorne, looked at thousands of pages of industry reports documenting fish kills obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Hawthorne reports that the reports "highlight a threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem that has largely gone unaddressed for years."

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Environment
10:55 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Lawmakers wrestling with wild hogs

Wild hogs in a breeding facility.
Photo by Peter Payette

Wild hogs have been the talk of the state legislature this week. Hunting ranches call the hogs Russian boars. They’re brown and hairy and the males have little tusks. The hogs are bred and raised to be hunted. Wild hog hunts typically go for around 500 or 600 bucks.

The Department of Natural Resources says wild hogs have gotten out of hand. The DNR says the hogs have gotten loose and are running around... doing things like tearing up the soil, destroying crops and competing with other animals for food.

The agency points out that wild hog breeding and hunting within these fenced facilities is currently unregulated. Last year, the DNR director signed an order. It will make it illegal to possess a wild hog in Michigan. The order goes into effect July 8th... unless a law is passed to regulate wild hogs on hunting ranches.

Ted Nugent is possibly the most outspoken critic of a ban on wild hogs. He owns a hunting ranch near Jackson.

“There’s this voodoo subculture out there that is misrepresenting that there are pigs loose and there are pigs out there destroying the environment and destroying family farms, when none of that is true.”

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Environment
10:42 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Climate change & Great Lakes restoration

Photo by Rebecca Williams

There’s an enormous project underway to clean up and protect the Great Lakes. It’s called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. People are doing things like cleaning up toxic hot spots... restoring wetlands... and trying to keep Asian Carp out of Lake Michigan.

Melinda Koslow is with the National Wildlife Federation. She’s an author of a new report on how climate change might affect these projects. She says scientists are finding the climate in the Great Lakes region is already changing.

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Environment
1:19 pm
Wed June 15, 2011

Bear sighting confirmed in Washtenaw County

This young black bear, believed to be about a year old, was sighted Tuesday near Dexter. A homeowner said the animal was attracted to beehives on the property.
Courtesy Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department

Police and Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials are confirming the sighting of a black bear near Dexter this week.  

The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department says there were two reports of a bear at Hudson Mills Metropark last weekend. Then on Tuesday, a nearby homeowner spotted the bear, and took  photos.

Mary Dettloff is with the DNR. She says conservation officers confirmed evidence of a bear on the property.

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Accolades
4:43 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Radio's Environment Report wins national Edward R. Murrow award

Edward R. Murrow through the eyes of artist John Tebeau.
John Tebeau Artist/Illustrator

The Environment Report from Michigan Radio has been recognized for excellence in broadcast journalism by the Radio Television Digital News Association with a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award.

The Environment Report received the award for Best Audio News Documentary in the Radio: Large Market category for “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future.

In the series, The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams, Mark Brush, Lester Graham and Shawn Allee take an in-depth look at the future of coal in this country and the true costs of our dependence on coal. The series explores the role that coal plays in our lives and in the lives of those who depend on coal mining for a living. “Coal: Dirty Past, Hazy Future” takes listeners on a journey from their light switch back to America’s coal fields, and takes a closer look at the technologies that promise to deliver coal into the new green economy.

The Environment Report was the only news organization in Michigan to receive a 2011 National Edward R. Murrow Award, and one of seven public radio stations nationwide. This award is the third national Murrow Award that The Environment Report has received. The news service also received a National Murrow Award in 2010 for the five-part series “Dioxin Delays” and in 2002 for a story about the reproductive decline of mallard ducks in the Great Lakes region.

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Environment
11:29 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Lake trout on life support in Lake Michigan

Lake trout were once the big game fish in all of the Great Lakes. Some people still love catching and eating them.
Photo courtesy of Michigan Sea Grant

For twenty years now the federal government has been trying to restore wild lake trout in Lake Michigan. Lake trout are native to the Great Lakes and were once the big game fish in all the lakes. The species is doing well in Lakes Superior and Huron these days. But recovery efforts in Lake Michigan have been almost a total failure.

Lake trout don’t have a big fan club. Anglers would prefer to land a salmon. And retail markets for lake trout are weak.

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Environment
11:00 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Fish-killing virus rears its head again in mid-Michigan lake

VHS has been found in a mid-Michigan lake. The virus kills fish, and sport fisherman worry it will decrease the stocks of big fish like muskie. (Fishing guide Rich Clarke of Clayton, NY).
Rich Clarke

The fish-killing virus is known as viral hemorrhagic septicemia and it has been found in this region since 2003, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University. Massive fish die-offs were first recorded in the 2005.

Now, another die-off has been found. From the Associated Press:

HARRISON, Mich. (AP) - A fish-killing virus has been detected again in a lake near the mid-Michigan community of Harrison.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday announced that viral hemorrhagic septicemia, or VHS, has been confirmed in Budd Lake.

The 175-acre lake in Clare County experienced a die-off of largemouth and smallmouth bass, bluegills, and pumpkinseed sunfish in April and May. Test results indicate that largemouth and smallmouth bass were positive for VHS. Other results were pending.

A similar die-off involving bluegill, black crappie, largemouth bass and muskellunge occurred in the spring of 2007, and VHS was identified in the lake after those deaths. The state says VHS was undetected through 2010 in testing that took place each year.

Budd Lake is one two Michigan inland lakes where VHS has been confirmed.

The virus is troubling, especially when it attacks 60 pound sport fish like the muskellunge. The Environment Report captured what the virus means to sport fisherman in a piece by David Sommerstein.

Sommerstein reports that fish exposed to the virus can develop immunity, but biologists worry that new generations of fish won't carry that immunity with them, so they're vulnerable when the virus comes around.

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Environment
1:53 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Report calls for fracking ban

An environmental group is calling on Michigan lawmakers and President Obama to ban the natural gas extraction process known as “fracking.”

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals into underground rock formations to release natural gas.

Food and Water Watch says fracking poses an “unacceptable risk” to water supplies and human health. Several recent investigations have shown that fracking contaminated groundwater in several states.

Lynna Kaucheck is with Food and Water Watch in Detroit. She says northern Michigan is a current hotspot for fracking exploration.

“The northern part of the lower Peninsula sits on the Collingwood-Utica shale which is very deep deposits of shale gas. And so right now a lot of out of-state-companies are purchasing mineral rights so they can begin horizontal fracking for natural gas.”

Kauchek says that could to lead to chemically-contaminated groundwater, and pose a risk to the state’s agricultural and tourism industries.

“We don’t believe that fracking can be done safely. Especially not the way that they’re doing it right now.”

State environmental regulators say the gas is so deep in the ground that fracking shouldn’t affect water supplies. They acknowledge some concerns, but say the practice is generally safe.

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