The alewife was once the scourge of the Great Lakes. The small, silver herring made its way into the basin through the St. Lawrence River in the late 19th century and proceeded to wreak havoc on the ecosystem. If you were around the region in the 1960s, you might remember the stench of thousands of dead alewives washing up on Great Lakes beaches. Now, scientists are concerned with a decline in the population of this invasive species and how the shrinking numbers of alewives could impact their main predator, the popular Chinook salmon.
In the coming year, nine of Michigan’s coal-fired power plants are scheduled to retire. That has environmentalists and renewable energy advocates cheering. And the state’s two major utilities, Consumer’s Energy and DTE, say they are ready to invest in a more sustainable energy future. But first, the companies say, Michigan has to return to a fully regulated electricity market.
There’s no shortage of talk in Michigan about renewable energy sources. But despite all our efforts to go green, our state is still very dependent on fossil fuels. Recently, a Traverse City-based oil and gas company has been looking at an area in and around the city of Mason as a possible drilling site.
Think about an everyday substance like pollen. There’s lots of it floating around right now. It’s probably on your car windows. Botanists think of pollen’s role in the world as helping propagate new plants. Allergists think of pollen’s role as being something that causes sneezing.
State officials and other stakeholders are asking Michigan commuters a question: do you drive to work alone? If so, they want to remind you of options that could not only reduce air pollution, but lower your gas budget and benefit your health. Governor Rick Snyder has declared May Commuter Challenge Month. Part of the effort is aimed at the many drive alone commuters that you see on the state’s roads every day.
Along with the spring tulips and early morning birds, you might have also started to notice a few butterflies now that the weather has warmed up. Michigan is home to over 150 species of butterflies, from swallowtails to monarchs. And that means that soon, volunteer monitors will be out in full force for the annual state butterfly survey.
At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we’re focusing on agriculture and water across the country, from California to the Great Lakes.
Nitrogen plays an essential role in plant growth, but it’s a scarce resource in nature. Farmers used to have to use beans or legumes to fix the nutrient into their fields. But with the advent of artificial fertilizers, agriculture has been able to bypass that step and put the nitrogen directly into the soil. While this has allowed farmers to increase production of nutrient intensive crops like corn, it’s had some other, not so great, side effects.
In the natural world, it’s fair to say that if amphibians aren’t happy, then nobody’s happy. Frogs and toads are incredibly sensitive to water quality, and an upcoming volunteer survey in Michigan aims to check on amphibian well-being in the state.
Take a look in your medicine cabinet or your shower and you’re likely to find microbeads. Those are the small plastic spheres used as exfoliants in products like face wash or toothpaste. The tiny beads have been big news since scientists found them showing up in the Great Lakes several years ago. Last week, Michigan became the latest state to introduce legislation that would ban products containing microbeads.
Developers are about to become the owners of 30 acres of city land straddling Lansing and East Lansing. Monday evening, the Lansing City Council approved the sale of the former Red Cedar Golf Course property to Ferguson/Continental Lansing LLC. Developer Joel Ferguson and his partner Frank Kass want to build a $276-million complex at the site that could include a ten-story hotel, restaurant and housing. Part of the site would remain green space.
Have you ever been strolling along the Red Cedar River and noticed a group of people in waders hunting for bugs? If you have, there’s a good chance they were volunteers with the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council. The grassroots group has been around for over 20 years and focuses on environmental issues in the mid-Michigan area, including river protection, green transportation, land use and sustainability. The organization recently hired a new executive director. Jeremy Orr is a Spartan alum and is returning to Lansing to take the reins of MMEAC.
Barriers have developed that are standing in the way of advanced energy use in Michigan. That’s according to a report released recently by Michigan’s Institute for Energy Innovation. The institute says its report is the first serious effort to identify those barriers.
For years, environmentalists have been calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate coal ash. That’s the byproduct of coal that’s produced when it’s burned for electricity. In December, the agency did just that, issuing the first ever federal guidelines about its storage and disposal.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, some rural businesses in Michigan’s Thumb region faced a difficult request. At the peak of the fall harvest, Consumers Energy asked several customers to voluntarily curtail their natural gas usage for 10 hours a day. The shutoff didn’t last long, but agri-business leaders say it highlighted an ongoing concern for the future of Michigan’s energy infrastructure.
At the end of each month, Current State checks in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we talk about the dramatic rise in lake levels this fall, the latest legal updates on Asian carp, and the U-N’s stance on the Detroit water shut-offs.
Where you live in Michigan makes a big difference when it comes to the price you pay for electricity, especially if you’re living in the Upper Peninsula. Turning on a light bulb there could cost you more than double than it would in the Lower Peninsula, and energy bills in the UP are expected to grow even bigger now that the power plant supplying most of the region’s electricity could be retired.
Stopping new invasive species from taking hold in the basin has become a top priority for Michigan and other Great Lakes states. At the top of their hit list: Asian carp. The non-native fish have already infiltrated the Mississippi River system, crowding out native species and creating a nuisance for boaters.
We were first introduced to drones by the United States military, which has been using them, controversially, it must be pointed out, for years in places like Afghanistan, northern Pakistan and Yemen. But like many other technologies that have been pioneered by the military, such as computers, duct tape and GPS, drones have numerous commercial applications. And one of the biggest sectors where drones could become a game-changer is in agriculture.
In several Michigan communities, planning for a future affected by climate change is beginning. Monroe, East Jordan, Ludington, St. Joseph and Grand Haven are all taking part in a new program called “Resilient Michigan”.
The boom in oil production in North Dakota and Western Canada has turned the Great Lakes region into a transportation corridor for crude oil. The domestic production of oil has become a cornerstone of energy policy in both the U.S. and Canada. But several high-profile spills, including the one into the Kalamazoo River in 2010, have raised questions about the safety of how we transport oil.
At the end of each month, we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review, we talk about a summit on water resources led by the region’s mayors and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s update to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Residents of Michigan’s Thumb region are looking across Lake Huron with some concern these days. The Canadian utility provider, Ontario Power Generation, is seeking approval to build an underground nuclear waste disposal site near the town of Kincardine, Ontario.
Here on Current State we do lots of reporting on environmental programs and policies in the Great Lakes region, but it’s always good to remember that taking care of our waters often happens because someone decides to fight pollution one empty bottle at a time. That’s happening in Jackson this coming weekend.
In the wake of another massive algae bloom in Lake Erie, farmers in the Great Lakes Basin are trying to convey message that they will regulate their own use of fertilizers in order to avoid more government regulation.
At the end of each month, we check in with Great Lakes commentator and journalist Gary Wilson for updates on environmental stories from around the basin. For today’s Great Lakes Month in Review we’re focusing on the Toledo water crisis, which was in the news for several weeks this month, and could be again.
The National Wildlife Federation has a new president and CEO. Collin O’Mara was recently in Michigan for an environmental tour of the Detroit Area, and stopped by Current State. For a CEO, he’s fairly young at 30 years old. Current State’s Melissa Benmark asked him what environmental values he brings to this position that might be different than someone in their fifties or sixties.
We recently reported on a snakebite incident in Lower Michigan. A young, barefoot visitor to an Ann Arbor botanical garden was bitten by an Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, the only rattlesnake native to our state. The young girl was hospitalized and recovered. The incident has triggered an advisory from a group of Michigan naturalists of the risk of an encounter with this species of snake in our state.