Michigan Energy & Environment

IPR brings you the stories and sounds of nature Up North. Hear about our changing natural world, and the challenges northern Michigan faces with a growing economy and a fragile ecosystem.

When Peter Annin, director of the Burke Center for Freshwater Innovation at Northland College, was completing research for an updated version of his book The Great Lakes Water Wars, he discovered a detail about Great Lakes water diversions that had gone unnoticed for 8 years.

According to his findings, the state of Wisconsin never announced it had approved the village of Pleasant Prairie's request to extract seven million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan, the largest water diversion in the state.

PFAS firefighting foams are still housed at fire stations across the state, according to the state fire marshal. PFAS are a family of chemical compounds that have been found at multiple sites across the state and have been linked to health problems including cancer.

Kevin Sehlmeyer is the State Fire Marshal. He said his office surveyed one thousand fire stations across the state to determine how many still have firefighting foams with PFAS in them.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

State officials will begin using drones to find water contamination. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will use drones to look for PFAS in Lake Margrethe near Grayling this week.

Elevated levels of PFAS were found at Camp Grayling on Lake Margrethe in 2017. PFAS compounds come from fire fighting foam among other things. They can cause cancer and reproductive problems. 

Two years ago, residents of Alden Village, a small subdivision directly east of Ford Motor Company's Livonia Transmission, got a letter from the automaker.

It was not good news.

Voices of the Boardman River: Tawny Hammond

Aug 29, 2018
Naina Rao

Two years ago, Tawny Hammond fulfilled a lifelong dream when she moved Up North and took over a kayak rental business on Boardman Lake. Even when she was a teenager, Hammond knew she would end up in Traverse City.

“it just felt home to me, I felt like I belonged here,” Hammond says.


Colin Shea

Saturdays are for selling fish. On this Saturday, Ed and Cindi John aim to earn a week's income in only five hours.

Cindi unfolds the tables while Ed drags big, blue coolers off their truck bed. They’re filled to the brim with fish – cisco, lake trout and lake trout patties.

“We come out rain or shine,” says Cindi. “If it’s pouring rain, we’ll be here.”

 

Morgan Springer

Lake whitefish are the most important commercial fish species in Michigan. But in the last decade, state biologists say fishers are harvesting about a third of what they used to get. 

The U.S. Coast Guard

Environmental groups say the U.S. Coast Guard is not ready for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

 

The Coast Guard is required by law to have a plan for a spill.

Voices of the Boardman River: the Gibbs Family

Aug 22, 2018
Naina Rao

Old dams are being removed from the Boardman River. That’s because they are costly to maintain and harmful to the river’s wildlife.

But not everyone is excited about losing the dams. The Gibbs family has been here for generations and their ancestors helped build the dams.


Voices of the Boardman River: Hank Bailey

Aug 16, 2018
Naina Rao

Ottawa Indians have been in Northern Michigan for centuries. They witnessed the Ottoway River become the Boardman River when it was renamed by settlers.

When a series of dams was proposed for the river, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians was against it. So when word got out that the city might remove the dams, the tribe jumped at the opportunity to help.

But things didn’t go as smoothly as they expected.

Max Johnston

Traverse City will rely entirely on renewable energy by the year 2040, according to Traverse City Light & Power. TCL&P’s board of directors approved the energy plan at their meeting Tuesday night.

Executive Director Tim Arends says all the city’s non-renewable energy contracts will expire by 2040.

“We’re feeling pretty assured that by then, based on comments from Consumers Energy and DTE that the coal plants we’ve invested in will be shuttered,” Arends said. “The thought is to replace those contracts with renewable energy.”

How can cities reduce flooding caused by increasingly intense rain storms?

More often, it's flooding in areas not known for a lot of flooding in the past. That happened in Detroit in 2014. It caught everyone by surprise as interstates and neighborhoods were suddenly under water.

U.S. Coast Guard

Torch Lake in Antrim County is often the site of huge Fourth of July parties. But not this year.

In the past, the parties have attracted as many as 10,000 people who play loud music and tend to leave a pile of trash. But this year, the crowds were smaller and more law enforcement officers were on patrol.

“One thing that helped a lot this year is Fourth of July was on a Wednesday,” said Joe Clark, marine deputy for the Antrim County Sheriff’s office. “So there wasn’t as many people on the sandbar as there’s been in the past.”

Beaches along Lake Michigan are closed when E. coli bacteria gets too high. But a nasty critter found on the bottom of the lake might help keep the beaches open.

New laws signed by Governor Rick Snyder last Friday set up commissions to oversee the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Environmentalists say those commissions will be stacked with business and industry people and give them more influence in the environmental rulemaking process.

NASA

Thirty years ago, global warming became front page news in the United States. That was when a NASA scientist first told the U.S. Senate that carbon pollution was warming the earth. In this call-in hour, we discuss how we’re doing communicating on the issue in northern Michigan today, and how we can do better at this divisive time.

Plus we talk about how people in northern Michigan are taking action.


Endangered plovers face new threat: snowy owls

Jun 20, 2018
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A new predator has emerged for piping plovers in the Great Lakes.

Snowy owls were recently seen eating plovers in several locations along the Great Lakes, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in lower Michigan and Vermilion Point in the Upper Peninsula.

Warm temperatures help cherry crop

Jun 19, 2018
Peter Payette

After a slow start to the growing season, cherry farmers are gearing up for the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City starting June 30.  Cherries are some of the first crops to bloom in Michigan, and officials say early spring weather can significantly impact their growth.

Until recently, if a home solar array produced more electricity than the house used, it would go through the meter onto the grid. Residents with solar power arrays got paid for that power at the same rate as the power company charged other residents.  Power that comes in/power that goes out: same price. This even exchange is called net metering.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Some members of the U.S. House of Representatives are meeting in northern Michigan on Monday to discuss lethal control of a fish-eating bird. 

University of Wisconsin

A large number of dead fish have been washing up on the shores of a lake near Gaylord. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the dead fish along Otsego Lake are adult white suckers that have died after spawning.

DNR biologist Dave Borgeson says fish die-offs happen in Michigan’s inland lakes every year, but this one is unusually large.

“There’s a lot more suckers this year,” says Borgeson. “I think it had to do with a late spring and then that really rapid warm up, which caused it to be a little more dramatic this year.”

Eleven years ago on a cold January day, volunteers for the Huron River Watershed Council, Rochelle Breitenbach and Mary Bajcz trudged through the snow and thicket to get to a pristine little stream that flows into the Huron River.

Dan Kennedy / Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Environmentalists will celebrate the return of the Kirtland’s warbler this weekend.

The small songbird has been on the brink of extinction since 1973. It was put on the endangered species list that same year.

David Cassleman

Thousands of households in Michigan generate their own electricity with solar panels. They’re reimbursed by utility companies for any extra power they put into the grid under a program called net metering. 

But under new rules, those customers are going to get less in return. 

 


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