Governor Snyder elevates chief medical executive

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Governor Rick Snyder is boosting the position of Michigan chief medical executive to his official inner circle. The governor says he wants to streamline how critical public health information reaches him. That was one of the problems identified by a task force that looked into how the Flint water crisis occurred.

In the-not-too-distant past, chief medical executive in the Snyder administration was a part-time job. Now, the governor is elevating it to a cabinet-level position reporting directly to him. Continue reading

Push for wind farms along Great Lakes sparks controversy

wind_farm_story_pic_mediumOn the Atwater Farm, a commercial dairy farm near Lake Ontario, the sound of diesel trucks thunders through the air as they bring in loads of harvested corn for cow feed.

Susan Atwater and her husband Ben are the sixth generation to run this farm. It’s been around since the mid-1800s and is one of the oldest in New York State.

It hasn’t been easy making it in the dairy business. With the summer drought, this year been has been a particular challenge. Now, the Atwaters are turning to the wind for financial help.

“I have all these tractors and tractor trailers to harvest the corn, our monthly cost of diesel is well into the six digits on a harvest season,”Susan Atwater said. “If I can help that with a supplement from a consistent energy producing wind turbine, it’s going to be huge for our business.”

They’re one of several local land owners who signed leases with Apex Clean Energy. The Virginia-based company plans to install 71 wind turbines, generating enough energy to power 53,000 homes.

Apex has nearly a dozen projects planned for communities in the Great Lakes region, including four in Ohio, one in Michigan and four in New York.

This particular project, which stretches 12 miles through the towns of Somerset and Yates, has been met with both fierce support and intense opposition.

“The shores of Lake Ontario is not the place for industrial wind energy period,” said Town Supervisor Dan Engert.

He’s frustrated, and says the town’s right to site the project has been stripped away by state law.

“How would you feel if you had no say? If the state came in and told you,” he said. “They’re not just going to put up a building. We’re not going to just have something that impacts one part of your town or your city we’re going to completely litter your entire town from one end to the other with these industrialized structures.

“How would you feel?”

Article 10 of the Power NY Act gives the task of siting the project to a board. It’s staffed with five state representatives and two community members.

The state says leaving siting decisions up to the board offers a streamlined process for permitting power plants greater than 25 megawatts. The state plans to expand its infrastructure — to generate 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The Great Lakes is a prime area for harvesting wind energy and developers are taking advantage of that. A U.S. Geological Survey map shows more than 500 wind turbines forming clusters along the Great Lakes Watershed.

Apex representative Dan Fitzgerald says the fresh water source is an open resource for energy.

“The lake area provides more open resource for us,” he said, adding that “there’s no back stop there’s no hills behind it.”

“There’s almost a drawing effect of the lake that actually accelerates the wind and gives us a better wind resource. So by locating a wind project near the better wind areas, which in this case are certain portions near Lake Ontario, we’ll have a more productive project.”

Apex has yet to submit an application for the Lake Ontario project. Fitzgerald says they hope to do so before the end of the year. The project’s expected completion date 2019.

Third part of Michigan water strategy announced

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The Michigan Office of the Great Lakes has released the third part of its water strategy for the state. It’s part of a 30 year strategy to ensure clean water is available across the state.


Part three of Michigan’s water plan focuses on the restoration of water quality and the protection public health.

Officials said 158 million dollars in low interest loans will be awarded to local communities to fund infrastructure projects.

Jon Allan is the director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes.

“These investments help communities piece by piece make sure that we’re delivering back to the citizens clean and safe drinking water. But also clean and safe rivers, beaches, harbors, and lakes as we deal with the waste issue as well.”

Allan said communities will be reimbursed for the cost of eligible projects once they’re complete.

The state is expected to announce a fourth part of its water strategy within the next month.

Conservation projects designed to connect Saginaw residents with nature

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The Saginaw Basin Conservancy has launched several major projects in Saginaw… designed to create natural beauty and reconnect residents with nature.


The conservancy is calling these “tipping point projects.”

There are four total, including a trail system at Saginaw State University, the cleaning of 10 vacant lots across the city, the renovation of 16-acres at Celebration Square, and a newly paved trail along the city’s riverfront.

Zachary Branigan is the executive director of the Saginaw Basin Conservancy. He said they decided to launch projects in the city a few years ago…

“One thing we really wanted to do is reach out the the community. So over the past year before we started these projects we did a community engagement process. That really involved us going into the community and listening and looking for projects that made sense.”

Branigan said the conservancy is performing around 300 thousand dollars worth of work in the city. He says if all goes as planned, the projects should be completed next year.