Wetlands mitigation may get cheaper for local governments

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — A new partnership of state and local agencies is working to set aside state land to make it easier for public entities with expansion needs to fulfill wetlands replacement requirements.

Because wetlands play a vital role in the health of the state’s environment and its tourism economy, the Wetlands Protection Act requires damage to wetlands that happens under a permit be compensated by creating a wetland someplace else.

The Michigan Municipal Wetland Alliance (MMWA) is developing a wetlands mitigation bank system using Department of Natural Resources (DNR) property as bank sites.

“By us using state-owned lands, we are saving on the purchase of lands for the development sites and restoration sites,” Stephen Shine, the wetland mitigation bank administrator for the DNR, said. “And we are creating an added benefit for those state-owned lands by enhancing recreational opportunities for a whole variety of enthusiasts — everything from birdwatchers, people who like to hike, hunters.” Continue reading

Porcupine Mountains drilling raises environmental concern

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Fierce public reaction greeted the news that a copper company had a use permit to drill at the west edge of one of Michigan’s most remote state parks.

Orvana Resources U.S. Corp.—a subsidiary of Highland Copper—is doing exploratory drilling near Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in the western Upper Peninsula. It’s not producing copper, but many members of the public aren’t happy with what it may mean.

“It’s a wild state park to begin with, and having industrial activity there is a shame,” said Steve Garske, a board member of the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition Mining Action Group. “It seems like mining companies keep targeting areas that are important to the state.” Continue reading

Poet researched Great Lakes’ wrecks for new collection

By KATE HABREL

Capital News Service

LANSING — A 200-pound ship’s radiator interrupted a funeral in 1922 when it plunged from the sky and into the Falk Undertaking Parlors on Military Street in Port Huron.

It came from the Omar D. Conger, a ship blown to pieces when its boiler exploded while docked at Port Huron.

“That part is accurate! It happened! And that’s just bizarre!” said poet Cindy Hunter Morgan, an assistant professor of creative writing at Michigan State University. “When I read that, I thought, I’ve got to build a poem around that.”

And she did. From that poem: Continue reading

Rain, evaporation make predicting lake levels tricky

By STEVEN MAIER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Predicting water levels in the Great Lakes isn’t as straightforward as it would seem.

A warm winter has led to lower ice coverage — just 5 percent of the Great Lakes was covered with ice as of March 1. The average coverage at this time for the last 40 years has been 43 percent, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.

Less ice means less protection from evaporation and, theoretically, lower water levels, said Jacob Bruxer, a senior water resources engineer with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

But it’s not quite that simple. And not the case now.

That’s because water levels are a function of many factors, Bruxer said.

“Everyone wants to make that into a big story — about how ice cover is affecting water in the lakes,” Bruxer said. “I would just stress that evaporation is very complicated.” Continue reading

Trump’s budget cuts could devastate Great Lakes restoration

By LAINA STEBBINS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Eliminating the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could lead to devastating natural and economic effects on coastal Michigan communities, defenders of the program said.

President Donald Trump has proposed killing the initiative, along with the Michigan Sea Grant and nearly a third of the funding for the Environmental Protection Agency.

The possible elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has compelled Michigan lawmakers, environmentalists, scientists and business owners to make a case for the program.

“It has benefited Muskegon greatly, hugely. We’ve received millions in dollars in federal funding to clean up White Lake and Muskegon Lake,” said Bob Lukens, Muskegon County community development director. Continue reading

Behind that romantic stand of pines, a history of abuse

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Long before “Pure Michigan” lured tourists and vacationers Up North, images of pristine forests and sparkling streams were doing the same thing — even if what tourists would see was neither pure nor pristine.

While the state’s slick tourism campaigns of the recent decades are familiar, people might not know that they hark back to post-Civil War advertising that romanticized the state’s nature “and gave it the transcendent qualities that remain in tourists’ imaginations today,” according to a recent study.

The study by Camden Burd, who grew up in Grand Rapids and spent summer vacations on Green Lake in Interlochen, dates the current “Pure Michigan” theme to a 2008 rebranding of the state’s tourism industry. Continue reading

Marches in 10 Michigan cities will celebrate science April 22

By CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists and advocates across 10 Michigan cities will step out of their labs and call attention to the value of science in the March for Science on April 22.

Launched by groups of scientists and researchers in Washington, D.C., earlier this year, the nonpartisan March for Science has expanded into 294 planned satellite marches across the nation and 394 worldwide.

The 10 Michigan cities scheduled to participate on Earth Day are Lansing, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Midland, Houghton, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie and Petoskey.

Michigan efforts and the Lansing march were started by science enthusiasts Sara Pack and Sierra Owen of Lansing. Continue reading

Sentinel spiders are new superhero to scientists

By NATALIE SPRATT

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have discovered an environmental contaminant in a creature that many people would like to avoid: spiders.

That discovery made in the Upper Peninsula puts spiders in the role of environmental sentinels — guardians that help scientists understand where to concentrate cleanup efforts.

A study published in the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry looked at a heavily polluted area of the Manistique River. Scientists studied spiders there because of their place in the food web and their ability to accumulate PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in measurable quantities without harming themselves.

The findings suggest that spiders living along riverbanks “may be useful sentinels of relative PCB availability to aquatic and riparian food webs in aquatic ecosystems like rivermouths,” the study said. Continue reading

Fluctuating weather complicates harvesting for farmers

By LAURA BOHANNON

Capital News Service

LANSING — As the weather continues to fluctuate around the state, farmers are being forced to adapt to changing conditions.

Amanda Shreve, the program director for the Michigan Farmers Market Association, said farmers can adapt to virtually any weather condition. She also said that as a result of warmer weather for longer periods throughout the year, farmers markets open earlier in the year and close later than they used to.

“We used to have a general farmers market season of July – September, but now we see a lot of markets starting in May and going all the way through October or November,” Shreve said.

Some crops come in early as a result of the warmer temperatures, too. Maple syrup is set to come in about a month early, said Savannah Halleaux, a public affairs officer for Michigan’s Federal Service Agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Continue reading

Environmentalists wonder about impact of brownfield bills

By ISAAC CONSTANS
Capital News Service

LANSING– For once, many environmental advocates would rather that investors not go green.

Rather than developing new properties, environmentalists prefer brownfields sites that are contaminated and require clean-up. They say legislation that passed the Senate might encourage more urban redevelopment and less expansion outwards.

Under the proposal, five brownfield transformation projects would be eligible for tax benefits for decontaminating and preparing new structures on polluted land.

Whether in the form of grants or tax relief, such incentives are imperative to facilitate purchasing of brownfields, said Carrie Geyer, a supervisor of the Brownfield Redevelopment Unit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Continue reading