Bob Allen

News Producer and Reporter

Bob Allen reports on a variety of issues that reflect the changes and challenges that affect northern Michigan including rapid population growth in a region of unsurpassed natural beauty. Bob has often noted that he is proud inform and enrich lives in the local community by presenting an array of fine programming through Interlochen Public Radio.

He and his wife Jane enjoy their small house in the woods of northern Michigan where they grow a garden, watch the birds and shovel a ton of snow. They have one grown daughter, Jessie.

Ways to Connect

Holland To Phase Out Coal

Dec 19, 2013

The city of Holland will phase out the burning of coal to generate electricity. Holland reached a settlement with the Sierra Club to stop burning coal in one of three units at its city-owned power plant in 2016. The other two units will be off coal in ten years.

The Sierra Club claims the DeYoung plant is pumping out air pollutants at 3.5 times the limit set by the EPA to protect public health.

Sierra Club had challenged coal burning permits issued by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to Holland and to Wolverine Power Cooperative based in Cadillac.

freestockphotos.biz

Electric customers in northern Michigan will not be paying for a new coal fired power plant.

Wolverine Power Cooperative announced Tuesday that it will not build its Clean Energy Venture near Rogers City. The Cadillac-based utility supplier put an estimated $20 million dollars into developing plans for the plant over the last seven years.

  Michigan’s two U.S. Senators are raising a series of questions about the safety of an oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin are asking for a response from the federal agency that oversees pipeline safety.

Earlier this year Enbridge Energy increased the flow in line 5 by 50,000 barrels a day. That also meant increased pressure in the 60 year old line.

The senators point out that a spill in the waters of the Straits would have devastating effects on the Great lakes and on the region’s economy.

A state board awarded $31 million dollars Wednesday to buy or improve properties for public recreation in Michigan. Several of the grants are slated for the Grand Traverse area.The state would spend up to $2.5 million dollars to buy just over eight acres at the northeast tip of the Old Mission Peninsula. The former private campground and marina would be developed into a boat launch that Peninsula Township has agreed to maintain.“The recreational resources that we have in northern Michigan help drive our economy.

EPA.gov

Researchers have found evidence of a small invasive fish in southern Lake Michigan for the first time. It could be an early warning that the species may be spreading and could migrate into the Mississippi River system.

The Eurasian ruffe entered the northern Great Lakes 25 years ago in the ballast water of a ship in Duluth harbor.

Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy will defend its wind farm before a Mason County appeals board Wednesday night. The utility is resisting an order by the county to tone down the noise from several of its turbines.

Last summer, a consultant found that noise from four of the eight turbines it tested exceeded what’s allowed by Mason County’s wind ordinance. In September, the planning commission ordered Consumers Energy to submit a plan to reduce the noise.

NOAA

100 years ago this week, the deadliest storm ever hit the Great Lakes. What’s known as the White Hurricane delivered a one-two punch of blizzard conditions and 90 mile an hour winds.

In its wake, it left more than 250 mariners dead and a dozen ships driven to the bottom.

It’s nearly a lost episode in Great Lakes lore except to those in the maritime trades. But meteorologist Jim Keysor with the National Weather Service in Gaylord thinks it’s important to remember.

Long-time community activist Bob Russell has died. He was a leading voice for environmental protection in the Grand Traverse region for more than three decades.

Russell and his wife Sally Van Vleck founded the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council to raise concerns during a time of booming growth in the 1980’s. He served for years on boards dealing with recycling and water protection in Grand Traverse County and he was instrumental in developing a state-of-the-art upgrade to Traverse City’s wastewater treatment plant.

Earlier this summer, a Kalkaska company spread industrial waste on roads in Benzie County. The toxic contaminants were mixed with brine from oil wells that is used to keep down dust on gravel roads.

The pollutants tested way above what’s allowed for human contact. And some residents think the DEQ is treating the oil and gas industry with kid gloves.

Set of Coincidences

If Bryan Black hadn’t been out tending his garden one morning in early June, it’s likely nobody would even know about the toxic chemicals spread on nearby roads.

A new kind of community garden officially opened with a ribbon cutting today near Traverse City. It’s a solar energy garden funded by customers who lease solar panels from Cherryland Electric Cooperative.

The SUN Alliance, is the first of its kind in Michigan. Electric customers can buy a share in a solar project that’s installed and maintained by the company.

The co-op already has installed the first array of 80 panels on its property and 80 more customers are on a list waiting for panels to arrive for a second array.

As summer water temperatures warm-up, more people are enticed into playing in the big waves. And warnings about dangerous currents are being posted at more beaches.

The number of people who have drowned in the Great Lakes or been rescued has gone up in each of the last three years. And researchers are testing ways to better forecast dangerous nearshore currents.

Nearly Drowned

A medical center in Ludington is pursuing a merger with Spectrum Health based in Grand Rapids.

Memorial Medical Center signed a non-binding letter of intent to negotiate exclusively with Spectrum. Officials say it’s a good time to merge when the medical center is financially healthy. They say the partnership would put them in a better position to weather future changes in the health care industry.

The City of Waukesha, Wisconsin says it has nowhere else to go for water but to the Great Lakes. This week, it submitted an application to take 10 million gallons a day, on average, from Lake Michigan. But first it would have to meet a number of strict requirements that all eight Great Lakes states have agreed to.

Exception to Ban

The states hammered out a ban on water diversions over several years and the governors signed it and the Congress ratified it five years ago.

A group that wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in Michigan says the state didn’t follow its own rules in disposing fluid from wells that were fracked. Millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals is used to get oil and gas out of deep shale wells.

Ban Michigan Fracking has learned that some wastewater from those wells was spread on public roads. And this was done close to a lake and in a campground near the Mackinaw Bridge last summer.

The breach of a dam south of Traverse City over the weekend gave residents along the Boardman River a scare.

Officials declared a state of emergency for several hours and issued evacuation orders. Floodwaters damaged a number of homes in low spots along the river but there were no injuries.

Containment Fails
The Boardman River is supposed to gradually return to a natural flow as three dams are removed. But Saturday morning, as contractors got ready to slowly lower the pond behind Brown Bridge Dam, their containment system gave way.

Michigan lawmakers will consider opening a hunting season for gray wolves. A state representative from the Upper Peninsula introduced a bill last week.

Federal wildlife officials just removed the animals from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes area earlier this year, but the population has been way above the target set for recovery for most of the last decade.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs have been pushing to classify wolves as game animals, saying money from hunting licenses would help to better manage wolves.

Michigan lawmakers will consider opening a hunting season for gray wolves. A state representative from the Upper Peninsula introduced a bill last week.

Federal wildlife officials just removed the animals from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes area earlier this year, but the population has been way above the target set for recovery for most of the last decade.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs have been pushing to classify wolves as game animals, saying money from hunting licenses would help to better manage wolves.

Michigan lawmakers will consider opening a hunting season for gray wolves. A state representative from the Upper Peninsula introduced a bill last week.

Federal wildlife officials just removed the animals from the endangered species list in the Great Lakes area earlier this year, but the population has been way above the target set for recovery for most of the last decade.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs have been pushing to classify wolves as game animals, saying money from hunting licenses would help to better manage wolves.

New research this fall will try to find a better way to predict dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. The number of deaths attributed to rip currents has been rising each of the last few summers.

Using Doppler
The experiment will see if Doppler radar can predict rip currents. That’s the same technology that can look at how the air moves inside fast developing storms.

It was a deadly weekend on the Great Lakes. Seven people drowned, including three in Lake Michigan.

Kevin Schlake, 40, of Cincinnati, died Sunday after swimming at Peterson Beach, toward the southern end of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Schlake was caught in a rip current. The family says he was trying to rescue a 12-year-old nephew. Schlake’s brother-in-law was able to make it to shore after a struggle in strong surf.

Also this weekend, a Chicago doctor drowned at St. Joseph beach while trying to rescue two children.

Controversy over a migrant housing proposal in Benzie County got uglier Wednesday night.

A packed house showed up to hear village officials explain a decision to deny a permit for housing for migrant labor. The meeting had to be postponed because the required officials weren’t present. But on a table where people signed-in for the meeting someone put copies of a news article about beheadings in Mexico related to Mexican drug cartels.

The Elberta Village clerk says it was unfortunate and terrible and village officials are trying to find out who did it.

State foresters are trying to get a better handle on a disease that’s taking out mature red oak trees across the state. “Oak wilt” can spread quickly. An outbreak nearly shut down one of the most popular state parks in Michigan this year.

A Decision No One Wants 
Loggers took more than 800 dead or diseased trees out of Interlochen State Park this past winter, including nearly every red oak in the park.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has refused to hear arguments against removing the Golden Lotus Dam near Vanderbilt. That puts the case of the Pigeon River dam back in the hands of a circuit court that has already found the entire dam must be removed..

A new report shows wolves on Isle Royale have taken a sudden turn towards extinction.

For half-a-century, scientists have studied the predator-prey behavior of wolves and moose on the island. It's the longest running wildlife study in the world. 

The National Park Service manages Isle Royale as a wilderness, with a hand-off policy of not intervening. But some researchers say if the wolves die out, the moose will radically change the island's ecology. 

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Starting today, gray wolves are no longer under federal protection in the Upper Great Lakes region. That means states have a free hand to go after wolves that cause problems for people.

Wildlife officials say delisting is long overdue, but court battles had blocked their efforts.

Wolf numbers in the Upper Great Lakes have rebounded dramatically over the last decade. It's a success story of recovery under the Endangered Species Act.

Pages