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

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

Hardwood trees one way to stop Detroit scars, film argues

By MORGAN LINN
Capital News Service

LANSING — Blight harms Detroit residents every day.

It lowers the perceived worth of a community and makes residents feel unsafe walking in their own neighborhood.

That’s why John Hantz, a finance mogul and long-time Detroit resident, decided to help replace that blight with the world’s largest urban farm.

He promised $30 million of his own money to renovate 10,000 acres of Detroit.

“It’s an investment in a livable neighborhood,” said Mike Score, a Detroit native and the president of Hantz Farms, Hantz’s company.

But Hantz met unexpected resistance from some local residents who saw the move not as charitable, but as a grab for land by a wealthy, white business executive.

The project also led to the release of the new documentary “Land Grab,” about the creation of Hantz Woodlands and the political uproar surrounding it.

Director-producer Sean O’Grady had heard about the controversy and wanted to find out why residents opposed a project that could benefit them.

O’Grady, who grew up in Saginaw, previously produced two other documentaries, “In a World” and “Big Sur.” 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

Got an idea for stopping carp? Snyder has a contest for you

By MORGAN LINN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder has called on innovators across the globe to rise to the challenge of finding a way to prevent a Great Lakes carp invasion.

His recent State of the State Address covered a variety of environmental issues, including wetland protection and environmental justice.

The Great Lakes and the “wonderful” environment in which we live are some of our greatest assets, the governor said. “We need to focus on being cleaner, safer, healthier, more sustainable.”

In his speech, Snyder named energy legislation as one of the biggest achievements in 2016, saying, “It’s going to help protect our environment, it’s going to help us meet our energy needs and it’s going to save Michiganders money.”

Sen. Rebekah Warren, D-Ann Arbor, said, “When a governor of either party pays special attention to our natural resources and our environment on the State of the State Address level, it’s always a great thing.” Continue reading

Shoe leather, high tech catch plant poachers

By CARIN TUNNEY & CHAO YAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — While uprooting a plant may seem harmless, conservationists say the environmental consequences of removing ginseng could someday be severe.

The plant is highly vulnerable due to high market demand, especially in Asia where it is made into supplements.

The native plant is already considered endangered in Michigan. That’s why conservation officers and high-tech methods are in place to prevent poachers who break laws elsewhere from coming to Michigan, where the plant is on the state list of threatened species.

A 1994 state law regulates the harvesting, sale and distribution of American ginseng, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Continue reading

State limit on emissions cheaper than plant caps

By SHRUTI SARIPALLI

Capital News Service

Otto E. Eckert Station, a coal-fired power plant in Lansing, Michigan. Image: Jennifer Kalish.

Otto E. Eckert Station, a coal-fired power plant in Lansing, Michigan. Image: Jennifer Kalish.

LANSING — Michigan can save money in the move towards clean energy by choosing

a path that limits the amount of carbon dioxide produced by power plants, says a new electric industry report.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), a non-lobbying national research institute, reports that this is possible due to the expected closures of coal-based power plants in the next 15 years.

By the year 2030, Michigan’s electric utilities have to cut emissions by almost 32 percent of their 2005 levels under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. Continue reading

Thousands celebrate bats at festivals

By MORGAN LINN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Bat enthusiasts hope to see festivals celebrating the web-winged mammal in every Great Lakes state.

Indiana bat, found in midwestern states. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Indiana bat, found in midwestern states. Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The original Great Lakes Bat Festival started in Michigan, founded by the Organization for Bat Conservation, a nonprofit group to protect bats and teach about them. The festival celebrated its 15th anniversary two weeks ago and drew more than 3,000 people to Clinton Township.

“We started the bat festival because we realized that it was really important to get all the agencies and bat experts together to educate the public and reach out to the media about how important bats are in the Great Lakes region,” said Rob Mies, the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, based at Cranbrook Indtitute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. Continue reading

Culling deer herd reduced chronic wasting disease

By CARIN TUNNEY

Capital News Service

Protruding ribs and hipbones are signs that a deer has chronic wasting disease. Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Protruding ribs and hipbones are signs that a deer has chronic wasting disease. Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

LANSING — Federal sharpshooters and more hunting permits that reduced the deer population helped fight chronic wasting disease among white-tailed deer, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports.

Results are in from the first-year management strategy for chronic wasting disease in Michigan. Wildlife officials confirmed the disease in the state’s wild deer herd in May 2015. Continue reading