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.

  • Building, maintaining, and operating a water and sewer system is generally the most expensive item on a small town’s budget.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Water and Waste Disposal Program is a lifeline for rural communities, providing Michigan towns with $963.8 million in loans and $307.1 million in grants between January 2008 and November 2020.
  • The affordability of rural water service is a “monstrous elephant in the room” when it comes to long-term rural financial viability.

Right now, scientists are on a ship taking samples and measurements of the Great Lakes. They’re trying to determine how the lakes will fare this year and watching for trends.

One trend, the warming climate, could mean changes for the base of the food web in the lakes. But, the researchers are not yet sure what those changes might be.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Canadian officials lobbied a Michigan Senate committee in March to keep the Line 5 pipeline open, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) grew frustrated with a conversation that, up to that point, had focused mainly on the immediate economic and safety implications of a possible shutdown. 


As Canadian officials lobbied a Michigan Senate committee in March to keep the Line 5 pipeline open, Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) grew frustrated with a conversation that, up to that point, had focused mainly on the immediate economic and safety implications of a possible shutdown.

The floodwaters have receded from Jefferson Chalmers for now, but evidence of the neighborhood’s recent crisis is hard to miss:

Dried algae on the sidewalks. Appliances bolted to basement walls to keep them dry. Water lines on the sides of buildings. And massive orange “tiger dams” snaking through backyards, waiting for the water to rise again.

The neighborhood — a labyrinth of canals leading to the Detroit River on the city’s far east side — is often called Detroit’s version of Venice. But for the past two summers, as Great Lakes water levels reached record highs, it has looked more like a floodplain.

Climate change in the Great Lakes region means more intense storms. Already some towns are finding they’re flooding where they never have before. One city in Michigan is finding the solution is nature.

Midland and other cities were hit hard by a flood caused by of a weak dam.

More than 2,500 homes were damaged. There was an estimated $245 million dollars in property damage.

If that flood happened a few years ago, the damage could have been worse. But, there’s been a change. One thousand acres of restored wetlands helped reduce the severity of that flood.

Birds are beginning to migrate north. The Great Lakes flyway means a large number of those birds will be flying over Michigan. It also means at night birds will be crashing into buildings with lights on. Artificial light confuses them.

“And a city that produces a lot of artificial light at night from building and industry in a place with a lot of bird migration is going to have a high risk for bird mortality,” said Ben Winger, an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan.

Deep below the cold, dark surface of Lake Superior, sensors strung like pearls along a vertical steel cable sway with the currents. Recording the lake’s dropping temperatures as winter sets in, their gentle rhythm belies their worrying readings: the lake is getting warmer.

As climate change complicates Lake Erie's algae problem, scientists say farmer must do far more to reduce phosphorus runoff. But will enough farmers change their ways without a government mandate?

White nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in the U.S. since the fungal infection came here in the early 2000’s. Some kinds of bats have been hit harder than others.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined the northern long-eared bat was threatened rather than endangered even though about 99% of the bats in its primary living area died.

The agency said 40% of the bat’s range, including Michigan, was not as severely affected and did not expect the infection to spread quickly enough to threaten extinction.

In Michigan, with public health departments fully occupied with COVID-19, septic systems have been pushed back as a priority.

But even before COVID-19, it wasn’t much of a priority in the Legislature, because the last time an attempt was made to get Michigan statewide regulations for septic systems was in 2018.

Salt-speckled sidewalks, driveways and highways are synonymous with winter in the Great Lakes region. But while road salt is highly effective at deicing surfaces, the safety that salt provides for humans places a heavy burden on freshwater ecosystems.

Parts of Watkins Lake State Park and County Preserve in Michigan are off limits for much of the year because it’s a waterfowl refuge. But in winter time, if it’s cold enough, you can go ice fishing.

“I got a couple of fish I got in there,” Mike Davis said as he ducked out of his ice fishing tent. He and his friend were catching perch and some bluegill.

Davis is from Adrian, about a half-hour away from this lake in southeast Jackson county.

These two say they love to go ice fishing on lakes in southern Michigan, but they’re seeing some changes.

It’s freezing outside and Larry Scheer is in neoprene chest waders kicking up sediment in Boyden Creek near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Canadian pipeline company Enbridge Energy has been eager to show news media its new Enbridge Straits Maritime Operations Center in Mackinaw City. Its purpose is to try to prevent another anchor strike or other damage to Line 5, the dual pipelines carrying oil and natural gas liquids.

The two dams that broke near Midland caused a massive flood that swept away bridges, roads, and damaged a lot of property. Because Midland is home to Dow’s original chemical complex, a lot of people were concerned about hazardous waste or waste in ponds at Dow.

Max Johnston

U.S. tart cherry growers and processors narrowly voted to renew the Federal Marketing Order last week. The FMO passed with 53 percent of growers and 57 percent of processors in favor.

Owners of private campgrounds Up North eager to reopen

May 19, 2020
Taylor Wizner

Ahead of the partial reopening of restaurants, bars and retail businesses in northern Michigan, some private campground owners feel that Governor Gretchen Whitmer doesn’t understand the safety of camping.

"Camping is an extremely safe way to travel and get around, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be out there enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air,” said Cathy Kuebler, owner of Traverse City Kampgrounds of America. “It should totally be allowed."

Recreational camping for individuals who otherwise have a primary residence is not permitted at this time.

Wildlife are being poisoned and much of the time people using the poisons are not even aware of the danger. One Michigan resident is on a crusade to make people understand what’s at risk when they use rat poison.

Brian Frawley / Michigan DNR

 

Early indications show the Upper Peninsula’s deer harvest is down 21 percent this year.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources uses the annual Mackinac Bridge deer count to estimate the number of deer killed.

 

Toll workers at the Mackinac Bridge add up deer using a tally clicker each time a driver brings one across the bridge. Those totals help the Michigan Department of Natural Resources estimate the harvest from the Upper Peninsula.

 

Tart cherry farmers in Michigan are suffering the fallout of an international trade war. While farmers wait to see where those political cards fall, many in northern Michigan are bearing down for the winter. 

We know that burning fossil fuels releases a lot of greenhouse gases. But there are other human-caused sources that contribute to climate change. As Lester Graham with the Environment Report found, one of them is how farmers plant crops.

Gregory Varnum

The Michigan Court of Claims ruled on Thursday in favor of Enbridge and its plan to house the Line 5 oil pipelines in a tunnel under the straits of Mackinac.

In 2018, former Gov. Rick Snyder signed a law authorizing the Mackinac Bridge Authority to oversee the construction of a tunnel for Line 5. Earlier this year Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a suit for state agencies to stop work on it. Enbridge also filed suit and now the court knocked down Whitmer and Nessel's order.

Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

In the midst of tension between the U.S. and global trade partners like Turkey, northern Michigan’s iconic cherry industry is stuck in the middle.

Tart cherry farmers have been undercut by foreign competitors for years. Many farmers thought tariffs implemented by the Trump administration would help, but they haven’t.

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