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.

Michigan lawmakers are talking about banning tiny balls of plastic in products sold in Michigan.

A lot of us use products with microbeads in them. They’re tiny, perfectly round plastic beads that companies add to face and body scrubs and toothpaste.

We wash them down the drain, but they’re so small that wastewater treatment plants can’t filter them out.

Confused about corrosion control? We were too.

In Flint, lead levels in some children's blood have spiked dramatically. Scientists believe the Flint River is part of the problem. Flint switched from Detroit’s water system and started pulling water from the Flint River last year.

Michigan's U.S. senators have unveiled legislation they say will protect the Great Lakes from oil spills.

The bill would require a review of all pipelines in the Great Lakes region, plus it would ban transporting crude oil on tanker ships. That's something that doesn't happen at all right now, but Sen. Gary Peters says it could be a threat in the future.

"This has been a possibility that's being discussed," Peters says. "It has not been done up to this point because people frankly believe that it's just unacceptable."

There are more than 180 species in the Great Lakes that are not supposed to be here.

Euan Reavie is a researcher with the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“Duluth-Superior harbor is the most invaded freshwater port in the world,” Reavie says. “This is kind of the end of the water road for a lot of ships that come in here.”

The spotted wing drosophila is a nasty invasive fruit fly that's turning into a nightmare for Michigan berry growers.

Blueberries and cherries are major cash crops in the state.

Kevin Robson is a horticulture specialist with the Michigan Farm Bureau. He says the fly showed up in Michigan five years ago.

Mapping Michigan wetland loss

Sep 10, 2015

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has released its first status report on the wetlands in our state. 

You can think of wetlands as nature’s kidneys — they filter water.

Wetlands also help control floodwater and all kinds of creatures live in them.

Rewind a few thousand years to a time before grocery stores existed. You would have gotten a lot of your food by finding it out in the wild.

Foraging is no longer a necessary skill … but some people like to do it as a hobby. Rachel Mifsud is one of those people. 

The changing role of women in farming

Sep 3, 2015

During the 1970s and 80s, America lost millions of family farms. Agriculture was specializing, and getting bigger    large dairies and croplands; monocultures of corn and soybeans.

Since then, there have been other changes: the local food movement, for example. And women have taken a bigger role in agriculture.

The number of farms owned and operated by women has tripled in the U.S. in recent decades.

David Cassleman

A new report in Bridge Magazine this month questions how much state and federal officials know about the condition of an oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

Reporter Ted Roelofs also details the inspection process governing oil and gas pipelines in the United States.

“The pipeline network in this country, which is about 2.5 million miles, it’s essentially self-regulated by the industry," Roelofs says.

"The federal agency that oversees it [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA] essentially outsources the inspection to the industry itself.”


Steve Stinson

An environmental group is warning the new Meijer east of Traverse City could cause more trouble for Grand Traverse Bay.

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay says the system to catch storm water runoff from the Meijer parking lot is deficient. The organization sent a letter to the township last week saying the system doesn’t meet basic state requirements to protect nearby Acme Creek.

The center’s executive director, Christine Crissman, says the permit for the development calls for an “innovative” system to address this issue.

Senator Gary Peters says he's still "weighing all the issues" on President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran. Congress is expected to vote on the agreement early in September, when lawmakers return from summer recess.

“This will probably be one of the most serious votes that I will make no matter how long I’m in the United States Senate," Peters said in an interview last week with Interlochen Public Radio.

Peters also took time to discuss the controversial oil pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac.

“I am not satisfied that it’s safe," Peters said.  "I’m very concerned about it. Quite frankly I don’t even believe that it probably should be in the Straits."


Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.

And so far, newer methods of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, are not producing a new boom for the industry.

The number of permits issued for new oil and gas wells so far this year is on track to be the lowest in more than 80 years.

There are just three wolves left on Isle Royale in Lake Superior.  And researchers estimate there are 1,250 moose.  

The National Park Service is deciding whether or not to step in.

The park service is in the early stages of creating a management plan for the wolves and moose on the island.

Bob Allen

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.  And there is no reason to expect the industry will get a boost anytime soon.

Mark Snow handles permits for new oil and gas wells at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and says they are on track to issue about 120 permits this year. That would be the lowest number since 1931 when 111 were issued. As recently as 2008, more than 900 permits were issued.

In northern Michigan, the water problems of California seem far away. But water scarcity is a growing problem in the world, and the crisis out west has inspired a group of journalists and scientists based in Traverse City who are studying the issue.

Circle of Blue is leading a series of seven online town hall discussions about California's water crisis and what it means for the rest of the world. It's called 'Catalyst: California,' and Interlochen Public Radio is providing the group a base of operations for the project.

“What we learn in California can be applied in the Great Lakes," says J. Carl Ganter. He's co-founder and director of Circle of Blue.


Washing away invasive hitchhikers

Aug 18, 2015

Invasive species love to sneak a ride on boats.

There are more than 180 exotic species in the Great Lakes, and we help move them around.

Jo Latimore is an outreach specialist with the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

“Research has shown that boats and trailers moving from one lake to another are the number one vector, the number one pathway of invasive species moving from one water body to the next,” she says.

Sex, death and sea lampreys

Aug 13, 2015

Each invasive sea lamprey can kill 40 pounds of fish a year in the Great Lakes.

We spend more than $28 million in federal money each year to control the lampreys (according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, $20.9 million goes to sea lamprey control measures and more than $3 million is spent on sea lamprey research).

Michael Wagner is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University.

Morgan Springer

 

For duck hunters and competition duck callers, sounding like a duck is important. And these duck callers are pretty good. Want to hear them? Here's a person pretending to be a mallard duck.

Google Images

 

Michigan is fortunate to have one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world. And much of it is protected by the Great Lakes Compact. Many other states are not so fortunate.

 

Interlochen Public Radio is hosting the Circle of Blue, a Michigan-based source of news about the world’s water supply founded by journalists and scientists, on a series of virtual town halls about the future of water. To find out more, visit h2ocatalyst.org.

 

Bob Allen

Michigan, like every other state, is trying to figure out how to keep the lights on in the future. One answer could be more homeowners producing energy for themselves using wind or solar power.

Right now, fewer than 1,800 people in Michigan participate in a program called "net metering." That's where homeowners produce electricity for themselves, and then sell surplus energy to utility companies.

The small group of energy producers faces an uncertain future under a Senate plan (Bill 438) that would rewrite the rules governing net metering.

If you’re eating right now, you might want to take a little break.

We’re going to take a moment to talk about fecal bacteria.

Researchers at Michigan State University have done some detective work on septic tanks in Michigan, and they’ve found these tanks are leaking bacteria.

Firefighters take on wildfire in Marquette County

Jul 31, 2015
Department of Natural Resources

A wildfire has spread to roughly 70 acres at a logging operation in Marquette County. Department of Natural Resources and township firefighters had the fire 60 percent contained by Thursday night. 

Containment efforts will continue today. The cause has not been determined.

The danger of wildfires is high to extremely high in Michigan right now. 

There’s a bloom of cyanobacteria in Lake Erie right now. Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are predicting it could become the second worst on record.

Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world by surface area, and it has something the other Great Lakes don’t — stable populations of mostly native fish species.

But scientists say a key fish in Superior’s food web is now in trouble because of mild winters and an appetite for caviar in Europe.

Five years ago today, an oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan split open, starting the biggest inland oil spill in U.S. history.

The heavy tar sands oil came from Enbridge Energy's pipeline 6B. The oil flowed into Talmadge Creek and then into the Kalamazoo River.

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