Tag Archives: Trimboli

Clean Water Act marks anniversary on Saturday

October 18 is the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act, but National Wildlife Federation officials say the bill’s current ambiguity puts miles of streams and wetlands at risk of losing protection.

The questionable language was found as the result of two recent Supreme Court challenges to the act.
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Businesses big and small flock to SVSU for sustainability conference

Saginaw Valley State University is partnering with Shri Ram College of Commerce from India to host a conference on sustainability.

The event is bringing together corporate representatives and small business owners alike, in order to discuss the many aspects of sustainability on several levels.

J.J. Boehm (Baem), Director of Media Relations for SVSU, says the barriers between local and international business are getting smaller every day.

“It used to be that you could be a successful local or regional business, but in today’s marketplace you need to be able to compete globally in order to succeed even as that local or regional business. And by the same token, a local or regional business may have opportunities in an emerging economy such as India.”

Speakers will take a look at sustainability in regards to energy, family business, agribusiness, and economic development.

The conference began Wednesday, September 24 and runs through Friday the 26.
SVSU Conference on Sustainability:

CMU Institute for Great Lakes Research receives nearly quarter million in funding

wet leaf Central Michigan University’s Institute for Great Lakes Research, or IGLR, has recently received $274,157 to enhance its research of coastal wetlands.

The funding comes by grants from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois-Indiana-Wisconsin Sea Grant.

Dr. Don Uzarski, Director of the IGLR, says this research is crucial to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“Imagine a coastal wetland just along the shoreline of one of the Great Lakes. That coastal wetland is somewhere between a truly aquatic system and something upland. It’s essentially the last line of defence of anything coming off the landscape has to go through that coastal wetland, and that coastal wetland has the function of removing that material before it makes it into the great lakes.”

Uzarski says over time, the U.S. has lost half of its native wetlands.

In certain areas, like the Saginaw Bay region, up to 95 percent of the coastal wetlands have been repurposed or severely impacted by invasive species.

The newly announced funding comes on top of a five-year $10-million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that IGLR researchers are already receiving.

Environmental groups place more pressure on Governor to monitor Straits pipeline

Environmental groups are increasing their pressure on Governor Snyder to keep the pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac safe.

This increase in concern follows the recent proclamation by the Coast Guard saying it is not prepared to handle a “heavy” oil spill in the Great Lakes.

David Holtz is the Executive Committee Chair of the Sierra Club’s Michigan Chapter. He says Michigan would be in serious trouble if the pipelines were to rupture.

“Problem is that we know the effects that tar sands has had when there’s been a spill because thats what happened along the Kalamazoo River in Marshall. What we don’t know is whether other crude oil that is currently going through the pipe what the effects of that would be, but we certainly dont want to find out.”

As of now, Enbridge says they are not pumping “heavy” oil, or tar sands, through the pipeline that runs under the Straits. But, they are not specifically barred from doing so.

Environmental groups worry this may change in the future because Enbridge has decided to expand their Alberta-Clipper pipeline. This line does export tar sands and runs from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin where the Straits pipeline begins.

Time is running short for Consumers Energy to meet an April deadline

The clock is ticking down for Consumers Energy’s Karn-Weadock plant in Bay County as an April 16th deadline to meet federal air quality standards approaches.

Consumers Energy is in the midst of an upgrade to two of its coal plants in a move that could reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 95%. This would place Consumers within the federal air quality limits.

Dan Bishop, Director of Media Relations at Consumers Energy, said the reduction in sulfur emissions aren’t the only benefit Michigan residents will receive from the upgrades.

“There are other acid gases that are impacted. So customers are getting their moneys worth when it comes to this kind of investment. A side note, this means that about two hundred building trade jobs [created] out at the plant, and theres been an emphasis on hiring from Michigan based companies”, he said.

Bishop said the new filtration system will reduce toxicity by essentially working as a vacuum, pulling harmful compounds out of the air.

The compounds will be either recycled back into the filtration system or brought to a landfill.

Bishop said the project is about half way done, as upgrades have already been applied to one plant. He said work on the second will begin in the first quarter of next year.

Effects of climate change on the food web of the Great Lakes


Recently I talked to scientists at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, or GLERL, in Ann Arbor to learn more about the specific ways climate change is effecting the Great Lakes.

Dr. Ed Rutherford is a biologist at GLERL. He wasted no time in surprising me with a prediction about the future of the Great Lakes State.
“The trend is that the temperatures will rise, and since really 1998 they’ve generally been going up. So predictions are, this is by the International Panel of Climate Change and scientists from our region, predicted based on climate models that our climate will be like Arkansas or Kentucky’s in the next 40-50 years.”

Rutherford says this would have a dramatic effect on wildlife in Michigan.

Some people argue that the recent record breaking winter Michigan experienced couldn’t occur in the midst of a warming period. But, Dr. Brent Lofgren, another GLERL scientist, says; daily weather patterns and historic climate models are two very different things.

“One of the main things that I think people should know about climate change is not to just judge it by what they’re experiencing right now, but that we have very strong reasons to expect that it will continue in the future. Even though there’s variability in both time and space that can mask it on the local level as you’re looking out the window, it’s really inevitable that it will continue to creep forward if you keep putting more and more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.”

Lofgren says warmer temperatures are making the Great Lakes increasingly habitable for invasive species. These unwanted creatures abuse the natural food web of the Great Lakes Ecosystem. Invasives lock up potential energy and often outcompete natural species in the process.

Dr. Ashley Baldridge is a Benthic Ecologist at GLERL.

She says she has found a dramatic change to a very important part of the Great Lakes food web.

“The most profound change has been reduction of phytoplankton after the widespread proliferation of quagga mussels around the lake. The whole base of the food chain is now severely reduced, so less food for phytoplankton, less food for the smaller prey fish like alewife, and then for the larger predatory fish. So its just taking out productivity at the very basic of base levels.”

Scientists say one of the most significant organisms in the Great Lakes food web, Diporeia, is severely at risk. This tiny shrimp-like critter provides food for nearly every animal in the Lakes. Their position at the bottom of the food web is what makes them so pivotal.

Dr. Rutherford says he is skeptical as to whether or not this crucial crustacean will remain a viable source of energy for the Lakes.

“Well the diporeia decline has been so dramatic in four of the five great lakes that I would be surprised if they came back.”

Rutherford and his colleagues say diporeia’s decline is likely due to a virus that was introduced into the Great Lakes by quagga mussels.

Although invasives like the quagga mussel and round goby have hurt the Great Lakes ecosystem, Rutherford says the native species are not going down without a fight.

“There is a silver lining in some of these large food web changes. They’re not all drastic. The members of the food web seem to adapt in pretty unpredictable ways. The top predators in the great lakes, many have switched to eating those round gobies. The good side of this story is that were seeing reproduction of species that haven’t been able to reproduce successfully in decades.”

If animals can adapt, so can we. Dr. Baldridge says she believes people who live in the Great Lakes region will inevitably begin to make a more positive impact on their environment.

“Well theres so much regional pride, around here, and theres so much pride in the Great Lakes. Just the more people can connect their personal actions and decisions they make, what products they support, what activities they partake in, what they allow to happen in their area. . .that all impacts the Great Lakes. So hopefully that Great Lakes pride can translate into very conscientious activities.”

In the next and final portion of our three part feature on the Great Lakes and climate change, we will turn our gaze further inland: Focusing on how things we do miles away from the shore can still impact the Lakes.

Seeing the effects of climate change to the Great Lakes

Great Lakes

In short, climate change is having a negative effect on the ecosystem of the Great Lakes.

That was the overall theme of my conversation with Dr. Kevin Strychar of The Annis Water Resources Institute.

The Great Lakes are facing increasing water temperatures. That may sound nice to the average person, but Dr. Strychar explains it could have a devastating affect on wildlife.

“Five degrees is phenomenal. Thats a phenomenal change for an animal to adapt to. If waters continue either to stay at that temperature or rise from that temperature I think we’re going to see a collapse in the food web of the Great Lakes. If you’re used to cooler temperatures, and things are warming up around, but you can’t escape, what do you do? The only real option is extinction.”

Not only are the increasing temperatures bad for native inhabitants of the lakes, they also pave the way for new invasive species and diseases that wouldn’t survive there otherwise.

Trout populations in the Great Lakes have already felt the sting of their unwanted new neighbors, and Dr. Strychar says he doesn’t think it will stop there.

“Trout populations have declined, or are in continual decline, and thats because they need to find a new food resource. I think a lot of other species endemic to the area are going to find themselves up against the wall having a difficult time competing with invasive species, like the asian carp for example.”

Species of algae are also making their mark on the Great Lakes.

Some blanket the surface of lakes, devouring the oxygen that lies beneath, and creating what’s known as a dead zone. They’re called dead zones because there is so little oxygen left in the water that virtually nothing can survive beneath the surface.

Lake Erie recently had an outbreak of harmful algae. It ended up contaminating the drinking water of Toledo, OH and forcing countless people out of their homes to find a safe source of water.

Although our conversation largely took on a somber tone, there was a silver lining: Dr Strychar says we can fix this.

“I 150,000 percent believe we have the technology to make positive impacts on the Great Lakes. I think that there is a fear of using new and novel technologies.”

The problem researchers face, Dr. Strychar says, is finding the funding to begin the long road to restoration.

“Nobody wants to try new technology, they want to put a band-aid on it. They dont want to do anything about it until it smacks you in the face and you’re on your deathbed and say ‘oh my gosh I should have done something.’ I think its going to take the demise, or the virtual demise of the Great Lakes for that to happen. It’s a shame that’s what it will take.”

In financial terms, Dr. Strychar says it would take roughly 1 million dollars over a two year period to fund the equipment and costs associated with monitoring Lake Michigan. It’s a fee that Dr. Strychar says pales in comparison to the price Americans would pay should the lakes go belly up.

“If you have cancer and the drug is not available in Michigan, but it’s available in other states, would you not want that treatment. Would you not want to save your health. Maybe it wouldn’t work. But if the technology is available that would help you, or save you in this instance. If it’s available to help the Great Lakes or save the Great Lakes, why wouldn’t you try it.”

In the coming weeks I’ll be going more in depth on specific matters pertaining to climate change and the Great Lakes. The focus will include things like; invasive species, dead zones, and the food web of the lakes.