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

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

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

Elk Lake trout may be new hope for Lake Michigan

Elk Lake trout. Credit: Kyle Broadway

Elk Lake trout. Credit: Kyle Broadway

By STEVEN MAIER

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have found a potential new ally in the fight to restore lake trout in Lake Michigan.

Elk Lake in Antrim and Grand Traverse counties is home to a strain of fish that researchers say can contribute uniquely to trout restoration in Lake Michigan.

Elk Lake trout have been self-sustaining and reproducing for years. That’s unusual in the Great Lakes Basin.

The fish, which can grow up to 32 inches long, ruled the waters of Lake Michigan prior to the 1800s. They diversified massively then. Different strains live in different habitats, reproduce at different times and forage differently for food.

By the 1940s, commercial fishing and the parasitic sea lamprey decimated lake trout throughout the Great Lakes. By the 1960s, the fish had been wiped out. Continue reading

Childhood interest in Great Lakes freighters grew into book

By NATASHA BLAKELY

Capital News Service

LANSING — Power is clear in every curve and edge of the freighters that cut through the blue-gray waters of the Great Lakes.

It’s a familiar sight to those living within view of the shipping industry that plays such a key role in the region’s economy.

And it’s one that fascinated Frank Boles, who grew up in Lincoln Park and fed his interest in large cargo ships during childhood trips to Bishop Park on the Detroit River.

“I realized early on that I did not have the stomach to be a good sailor,” Boles said. “Roller coasters persuaded me of that. I admired them from afar.” Continue reading

Great Lakes greatly stressed–Commentary

Research director Anthony Taabu-Munyaho of the Uganda National Fisheries Resources Research Institute. image: Eric Freedman

Research director Anthony Taabu-Munyaho of the Uganda National Fisheries Resources Research Institute. image: Eric Freedman

 

By ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The future of the Great Lakes is imperiled, right?

Invasive species endangering native plants, animals and habitat?  Check.

Ag and industrial runoff of toxic chemicals causing pollution and disease?  Check.

Illegal fishing?  Check.

Micro-plastics showing up in the water?  Check.

Damage to fish spawning areas?  Check. Continue reading

Scientists worry about lake herring crash, say new restrictions may help

The lake herring, also called cisco, is similar to herring found in northern Europe used to make a popular caviar. Image: Peter Payette

The lake herring, also called cisco, is similar to herring found in northern Europe used to make a popular caviar. Image: Peter Payette

By SAM CORDEN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Scientists have been worried about the lake herring population in Lake Superior recently. In fact, last year they warned it could be headed towards a collapse.

Lake Superior is the only Great Lake that still has a significant population of herring – or cisco as they’re commonly called.

This fall, new rules protecting herring took effect in Wisconsin and Minnesota and things appear more stable. But there may still be a big problem lying beneath the surface. Continue reading