Environment & Science

Environment & Science
3:11 pm
Wed March 5, 2014

Great Lakes ice levels approaching record set in 1979

Great Lakes ice levels as of March 4th, 2014. The blue areas show open water.
Credit NOAA

The last time I posted on this (on Feb. 26), the ice levels on the Great Lakes had dropped off.

There had been a slight warm-up and some strong winds that had opened up the water.

But it's been cold since then, and the ice levels have increased on the Great Lakes. Here's a graphic showing you where the ice levels stand as of yesterday. The blue areas show the open water:

As I mentioned in my previous post, ice formation on the lakes is dynamic – constantly changing.

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Environment & Science
8:13 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Obama's proposed budget includes money for MSU's FRIB project

Mark Burnham, vice president of government affairs at MSU, says the president’s budget proposal “will keep FRIB on schedule as planned.”
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A big-ticket construction project on the Michigan State University campus is in President Barack Obama's proposed budget.

The Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, or F-Rib for short, may turn MSU into a destination for advanced nuclear science research. But its $730 million price tag has raised questions about whether it will get the funding it needs to get built.

The president’s fiscal year 2015 budget calls for investing $90 million in the project.

Mark Burnham is the vice president of government affairs at MSU.

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The Environment Report
5:03 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

Building owners try their own 'Biggest Loser' competition

Building owners will be competing for bragging rights.
Photo courtesy of Fellowship of the Rich, Flickr

There’s a battle brewing in West Michigan. It’s a competition among building owners who want to cut their carbon emissions.

This battle is not a real knock-down, drag-out blood battle – it's more like a friendly wager for bragging rights. It’s a race to see which building can reduce the most energy use per square foot.

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The Environment Report
8:55 am
Tue March 4, 2014

Invasive lampreys getting too comfortable in Michigan's Inland Waterway?

A face only its mother could love.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

You can listen to today's Environment Report here.

We spend about $21 million a year keeping invasive sea lampreys in check in the Great Lakes.

But they’re resilient creatures. Even after we spend all that money, we still can’t get rid of them.

Scientists now suspect lampreys are getting a little too comfortable up north.

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Stateside
5:16 pm
Mon March 3, 2014

Help is on the way for Michigan's fragile honeybee population

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honey_bee

This winter has been especially tough for the already-fragile population of Michigan honeybees.

Beekeepers are coping with a nearly decade-long decline in commercial honeybees and their wild cousins. It's called "colony collapse disorder".

Now comes the unrelenting cold of this record-setting winter, and beekeepers in Michigan and other states are reporting staggering losses that could endanger crop production all over the nation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it's spending $3 million on a new program to help honeybees. 

Let's find out why this is so crucial and what it means for Michigan's farmers and beekeepers.

Mike Hansen is the State Apiarist with Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Environment & Science
3:32 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Ohio explores return of sturgeon to Lake Erie

Lake Sturgeon
Credit MI DNR website

PORT CLINTON, Ohio (AP) - Ohio's wildlife agency is looking at bringing a prehistoric fish back to Lake Erie. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is looking into whether it can reintroduce breeding populations of sturgeon to the lake. 

Sturgeon were once plentiful but thought to be all but gone from Lake Erie less than two decades ago.

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Environment & Science
3:14 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

Mardi Gras beads may present a health hazard

The Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center tested the beads … mainly produced in China … and found they contain unusually high amounts of lead and flame retardant chemicals.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

It’s Mardi Gras time. But there’s a warning for people who want to ‘Let the Good Times Roll’.

People will go to great lengths to grab a necklace of Mardi Gras beads. But the Ecology Center’s Jeff Gearhart says they should think twice.

The Ann Arbor environmental group tested beads from different sources and found many contained high amounts of highly toxic substances,

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The Environment Report
2:52 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

What all the snow and ice will mean for Great Lakes water levels

Icy Lake Michigan channel at Grand Haven in 2011.
R. Greaves NOAA GLERL

Listen to Drew Gronewold talking about what our snowy winter means for our summer beach and boating trips.

It might seem a little counterintuitive, but right now, a bunch of scientists are thinking about how high the water at Great Lakes beaches will be this summer.

Early last year, the Lake Michigan-Lake Huron system hit record low water levels.

It made life tougher for the shipping industry, and it’s hard on people who run Great Lakes ports.

Russell Dzuba is the harbor master in Leland.

“For us, it’s shallow. When we went to dredge this year we had to go a foot deeper and the world was a foot shorter, if you will,” he says.

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Environment & Science
12:43 pm
Thu February 27, 2014

More action needed to clean up Lake Erie, says international agency

Algae blooms have once again become common in western Lake Erie.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Massive algae blooms and dead zones in Lake Erie: These used to be major environmental problems around the most urbanized Great Lake back in the '60s and '70s, but they are problems once again.

Now, an international agency that keeps an eye on the health of the Great Lakes is calling for more action.

The International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian agency, wants sharp cutbacks on phosphorus runoff getting into Lake Erie.

The amount of phosphorus available in rivers and lakes is one of the main drivers of algae growth. The more you have, the more the algae blooms.

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Environment & Science
11:17 am
Wed February 26, 2014

Watch a time-lapse video of the ice forming on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes on Feb. 16, 2014.
GLERL

Update: March 5, 2014, 3:36 p.m.

The Great Lakes are again icing up and approaching the 1979 record. See this post for more.

Original post: February 26th, 2014, 11:17 a.m.

This frigid winter has us watching the record books again. The record for the most amount of ice cover on the Great Lakes was set back in 1979. That's when the ice cover reached the 95% mark.

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Environment & Science
11:36 am
Tue February 25, 2014

Isle Royale wolf dies after escaping

The "West Pack" on Isle Royale.
www.isleroyalewolf.org

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A scientist says one of the few remaining gray wolves of Isle Royale National Park has been found dead after escaping to the mainland across a Lake Superior ice bridge.

Michigan Technological University biologist Rolf Peterson tells The Associated Press on Tuesday that the 5-year-old female's body was discovered this month along the lakeshore on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota.

Peterson says the wolf wore a radio collar and its serial numbers confirmed her identity. Scientists had nicknamed her "Isabelle."

The cause of her death is unknown. Peterson says she apparently wasn't shot. She was wounded last year in attacks by other wolves.

Scientists hoped that mainland wolves would migrate to Isle Royale across ice bridges this winter but none have. The island's population now totals nine.

The Environment Report
12:43 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Enbridge has a new plan for dredging parts of the Kalamazoo River

The Benteler site (green) is where Enbridge will set up for their dredging project.
Enbridge

Enbridge Energy is still cleaning up oil left over from its pipeline spill in the Kalamazoo River.  

The company has already recovered most of the oil, but it's still working to comply with an order from the federal regulators, who say they need to clean up another 180,000 gallons. 

According to Enbridge's new plan, they can start that cleanup March 15. But that's all dependent on this crazy weather. Right now, everything is frozen. But, if spring warms things up and there's flooding, that can also be problematic for the dredging process. 

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Environment & Science
9:11 am
Thu February 20, 2014

EPA says decision about Kalamazoo’s ‘Mount PCB’ will come this summer

Many residents can see the 80-acre, fenced-off Allied site from their backyards in Kalamazoo.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency hopes to select a cleanup plan by this summer for an old landfill site in Kalamazoo that's full of toxic material.

The Allied site served as a dumping ground for the paper mill industry for decades. There are 1.5 million cubic yards of material at the site laced with polychlorinated biphenyl, or PCBs. Some neighbors have dubbed it Mount PCB.

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Environment & Science
4:54 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

What's behind Michigan's propane emergency?

A propane tank covered in snow.
sierrafoothillsreport.com

Last month, in the midst of the polar vortex, Gov. Rick Snyder declared an energy emergency in the state as propane supplies dropped.

The shortage continues as Michiganders who rely on propane  for their heat have to worry about getting propane – and when they do, dealing with major price increases.

What's behind the shortage? And what does it mean for the 9 to 10 percent of Michigan homes that use propane for heat?

Listen to the full interview above. 

Environment & Science
12:24 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Even winter haters think these ice caves are awesome

Ice caves in northern Michigan
Lizzy Freed

Very few people are amused with what this winter has brought Michigan.

The Associated Press wrote that the polar vortex (let's be honest, vortices) covered 79% of the Great Lakes in ice. 

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

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Environment & Science
8:42 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Experts say it's time to plan for the worst when it comes to Asian carp

The USGS says it could take decades to deal with Asian carp threat. State officials say that's too long to wait.
flickr Kate Gardiner

State lawmakers say they’re concerned about the time and expense of plans to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. And some experts say it’s time to plan for the worst.

State invasive species experts say Michigan does not have the luxury of waiting for a final plan to ensure Asian carp don’t infest the Great Lakes and upset the food chain. 

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The Environment Report
11:10 am
Tue February 18, 2014

New farm bill shakes up the way we pay for land conservation

user acrylicartist MorgueFile.com

You can listen to today's Environment Report above.

The farm bill has about $57 billion for conservation.

Director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says a lot of people don't realize the farm bill is where we find the largest source of conservation money from the federal government.

"That’s because there are so many activities that happen on the land that bring us our food, that if done improperly can have a very adverse impact on the soil and also to surrounding waterways," he says.

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Environment & Science
8:55 am
Tue February 18, 2014

Now with local approval, Enbridge hopes to finish dredging Kalamazoo River by fall

The Kalamazoo River near Ceresco, Michigan.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy can move forward with plans to dredge thousands of truck loads worth of contaminated sediment from the Kalamazoo River - 135,000 cubic yards to be exact. The cleanup is related to the pipeline company’s 2010 oil spill. 

On Monday night, Comstock Township’s planning commission unanimously approved the company’s plans to dredge. The heavy crude oil has broken down and mixed with the river sediment.

Enbridge was supposed to finish dredging contaminated river sediment a couple of months ago, but it failed to meet the deadline in part because the first set of plans it had in Comstock Township were rejected last summer.

The township said the operation was too close to homes and businesses, among other reasons.

About a dozen residents came to the meeting to raise specific concerns about pollution, smells and noise.

But in the end, the concerns were not enough to prevent the temporary operation in a district zoned for heavy manufacturing.

“I do think that this is the best site of all of the ones that we looked at with a minimum amount of impact,” Township Supervisor Ann Nieuwenhuis said. “And what’s most important is that the river is going to get clean.”

“All of the work will be done under the oversight of the federal and state regulators, and any comments or questions or concerns, we’ll do our best to address those as well," Enbridge spokeswoman Lorraine Little said after the vote.

Getting rid of the oiled sediment is key to meeting standards under the federal Clean Water Act.

Enbridge hopes to start work in a month and wrap it up by fall.

Environment & Science
5:55 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Lawmakers question $18 billion price tag to protect Great Lakes

Will it really take 25 years and $18 billion to protect the Lakes?
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

State lawmakers want to know whether the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is inflating the cost and time it would take to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes.

Army Corp officials will face questions from legislators Tuesday about a report it released last month.

It says separating the lakes from the Mississippi River would take more than two decades and up to $18 billion to complete.

Many state officials and environmental groups say separating the two watersheds is the best way to prevent Asian carp and other species from moving into the Great Lakes.

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Environment & Science
4:11 pm
Mon February 17, 2014

Solar power in the not-so-sunny UP

Can solar power be used the Upper Peninsula?
Ford Motor Company Flickr

When we think solar power and solar panels, what comes to mind? 

The sun, of course. So what are the prospects for solar power in areas that tend to be cloudy, snowy, and cold? Places with short days and long nights? Places like Michigan's Upper Peninsula?

Upper Peninsula Second Wave writer Sam Eggleston joins us from Marquette to discuss what might happen when solar power meets the UP.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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