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.

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.

NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab

 

This week on Points North, we follow harmful algal blooms to Six Mile Lake and talk to a Traverse City Record-Eagle reporter about septic tank issues. 

 

Robert Haase / Flickr

Gale warnings on the northern Great Lakes are in effect until late tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

Strong winds from the southeast will cause gusts that may exceed 40 miles per hour on the northern coast of Lake Michigan.

Most of Lake Superior is also under gale force winds advisory. 

The National Weather Service expects waves up to 19 feet.

They say there is an increased threat of lakeshore flooding in coastal areas throughout the weekend.

 

Jim Sorbie / Flickr

 

People who have homes on the sandy, eroding shores of Lake Michigan don’t have a lot of protections when it comes to insurance coverage. 

Regular homeowners insurance does not cover flooding or any land movement, including erosion of the land beneath a structure.

Banks that give loans to lakefront homes require flood insurance, which could possibly provide some erosion coverage.

The Association of State Floodplain Managers Alan Lulloff says erosion that happens after a storm could be covered.

Gary Langley, an FAA certified sUAS pilot / Interlochen Public Radio

 

Fishtown officials are looking to move three shanties — historic buildings — from their original location in an effort to repair foundations rotted by high water levels this summer. 

The shanties will be placed roughly 10 to 15 feet back from their current location. They will be encased in weatherproof material to protect the structures from Michigan’s harsh winter weather.

The price tag to move them and replace the foundations is about $1 million, says Amanda Holmes, executive director of Fishtown Preservation. 

Gary Langley / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, how rising water levels and shoreline erosion are threatening homeowners on the coast of Lake Michigan.

Plus, how businesses in Fishtown are already falling into the water.

A half-century ago, within the span of two years, three of America’s rivers caught fire. One of them was in Michigan. Those fires ignited the environmental movement. 

On this date, October 9th, 50 years ago, the Rouge River caught fire. 

Taylor Wizner / Interlochen Public Radio

This week on Points North, the Pere Marquette River is internationally-recognized for its brown trout, lake trout and salmon. But locals are worried that a train could soon derail and spill toxic chemicals into the river.

Plus, amidst road budget debates in the State Capitol, hear a Q&A about Michigan's crumbling bridges.

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

The federal agency that regulates pipelines across the United States announced new rules Tuesday.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) implemented regulations that increase inspections and leak detection technology on pipelines, while also increasing oversight on damaged pipelines.

You can hear a flock of geese calling, but there’s not a single goose. It’s a bunch of humans, warming up for the goose call contest at the 72nd annual Pointe Mouillee Waterfowl Festival held last weekend.

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. 

 


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.

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