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.

Kevin Donner

This week on Points North, tribes try to bring sturgeon back to Michigan’s waters. Plus one man realizes his dream of running a curling league. 

Sturgeon are a prehistoric fish that can live up to 100 years old, but overfishing and habitat destruction has decimated their population across the state.

Baby sturgeon were released last weekend as part of a joint effort between the state, tribes and conservation groups to restore populations of this ancient fish. 

Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy

The invasive aquatic plant called European frogbit was found in Oceana and Ottawa counties this summer. 

Frogbit is a small green plant that looks like a water lily. Kevin Walters with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy said it can form dense mats on the water's surface.

"So there’s no light penetration in the water, it makes movement of waterfowl and fish difficult," Walters said. "For humans it makes access to the water for fishing, swimming, boating, things like that can become very difficult."

Researchers are finding some of the chemicals used in pavement and driveway sealants are making their way into the environment. That could be putting the health of people and aquatic life at risk.

These chemicals are called Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons, PAHs. They’re commonly found in low levels just about anywhere something is burned. But, the levels of PAHs are much, much higher in certain pavement sealing products, coal tar based sealants.

From January 2018 through May 2019, 6.7 billion gallons of diluted or partially treated sewage, called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) spilled into Michigan waters.

CSOs are the result of sewer systems that drain both stormwater runoff AND human and industrial waste. Eighty municipalities in Michigan have such systems, known as combined sewer systems.

Peter Payette / I

Fruit growers in northern Michigan are having a tough time with all the rain this year, because that moisture helps fungus and bacteria thrive.

Wikimedia Commons

Environmentalists are calling for Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club to remove golf balls from Lake Michigan. Arcadia Bluffs is a popular course north of Manistee.

Enbridge Energy

A tribe in northern Wisconsin is suing Enbridge Energy to try to force the closure of Line 5.

PFAS are toxic chemicals that don’t really break down, so they can remain in the environment and in people for a long time.
MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY / FLICKR

Over the past few years, Michiganders have become all too familiar with a class of chemicals known as per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS. They’re toxic chemicals that have been found in water and land across the state.


Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, the water is so high in Michigan this summer that shorelines are disappearing, docks are underwater and rivers are overflowing. Plus hear how high water is affecting public access to beaches and research on avian botulism. 

 


People living in a Livonia neighborhood met Thursday to call on Ford Motor Company to clean up chemicals from the site of its nearby transmission plant.

Alden Village is on top of a plume of groundwater contaminated with vinyl chloride and trichlorethylene - both known carcinogens. The plume originated from the Ford property.

The U.S. and Canada are working to restore populations of a prehistoric fish in the Great Lakes that was nearly wiped out. We went out with a crew of researchers to see what they’re doing to bring the sturgeon back.

Peter Payette / Interlochen Public Radio

The U.S. International Trade Commission and the Department of Commerce announced Friday that they will investigate cherries imported from Turkey.

Tart cherries are the largest crop in northwestern lower Michigan, and growers here say they can't compete with Turkey. Some Turkish tart cherry products sell for half the price of domestic ones.

Ben LaCross, a grower in Leelanau County, says to break even he needs to make around 25 cents per pound for his tart cherries.

Each year hundreds of millions of birds die in the U.S. after colliding with windows. Skyscrapers are not the chief cause, but mostly mid-rise buildings. 

My guide in trying to understand why birds are more likely to collide in three and four-story buildings is Heidi Trudell. She’s an avian collision specialist who works with groups such as Washtenaw Safe Passage.

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)

Newly released images from Enbridge Energy show damage sustained to the Line 5 oil pipelines from an anchor strike last April.

The video and photos given to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation show a gash across the east pipeline, and several dents and scrapes on the west pipeline. In written testimony Enbridge identifies three dents on the pipelines caused by the anchor strike, the longest was more than 23 inches.

Enbridge also provided all this information to the U.S. Coast Guard who is investigating the strike.

Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, a U.S. soldier was injured in a training exercise and discharged from the army. Then he found an unusual way to cope with his depression and serve his country: beekeeping.

 


Adam Ingrao, founder of Heroes to Hives, checks on some beehives owned by Michigan State University, in Traverse City.
Dan Wanschura / Interlochen Public Radio

When military veterans leave the service, many of them struggle with their return to civilian life. Adam Ingrao was no different.


A river flows through a wooded landscape. The banks are lined with hemlock trees and half-melted piles of snow.
Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

The Environmental Protection Agency is currently seeking public comment on an application for the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) to set their own water quality standards. The KBIC is based out of L'Anse Township in the Upper Peninsula.

Stephanie Cree, water resources specialist for the tribe, says they would be the first one in Michigan to have that authority.

“It's gonna allow us to set our own water quality standards for the waters here on the reservation, where right now we follow the standards of state and federal guidelines," she says.

DTE Energy

DTE Energy is among 60 Fortune 500 companies that did not pay federal income taxes in 2018. That’s according to the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

DTE spokesperson Peter Ternes confirmed in an email they did not pay those taxes last year.

Ternes says the company, which provides electricity and natural gas to millions of customers in Michigan, follows current federal tax laws and claims their capital investments as deductions.

GREGORY VARNUM

Electrical cables in the Straits of Mackinac were severed when an anchor struck them last year. More than 400 gallons of mineral oil, acting as a coolant, leaked out.

The Line 5 oil pipelines were damaged during the same incident.

A proposed tunnel would house Line 5 and the electrical cables to avoid more damage, an idea Enbridge Energy supports and Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she is open to.

But in a letter, Vice President of American Transmission Company Tom Finco says that plan could be dangerous.

GREGORY VARNUM

The Line 5 oil pipelines in the straits of Mackinac were struck by an anchor last April. Then at a hearing held by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) in August, Enbridge Energy Vice President David Bryson pledged to release information on the strike.

Courtesty of Theresa Schurman

This week on Points North, a hunter was shot and killed by another hunter on opening day of deer hunting season last fall. It was ruled an accident, but it became apparent there was more to the story. Plus, the bond between a hunter and his dog.


Kaye LaFond / Interlochen Public Radio

A controversial plan for a wind farm in the Upper Peninsula has been cancelled. Renewable Energy Systems was behind the project which aimed to put 49 wind turbines across 28,000 acres in L’Anse Township.

In a statement, RES said the project was no longer financially or logistically viable.

Kaye LaFond

Over four million people crossed the Straits of Mackinac last year. But they are also one of the busiest migration spots for raptors, or birds of prey, in the United States.

MARK BRUSH / MICHIGAN RADIO

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview with the Detroit News that she is considering a tunnel for an oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac. A tunnel is one of several proposed alternatives to the Line 5 oil pipelines.

China is not taking as much U.S. recycled material as it has in the past. The Chinese economy is slowing down and it doesn’t need to import as much paper and plastic. It’s also finding that so much U.S. recycled material is contaminated that it ends up in China’s landfills.

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