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.

National Weather Service

UPDATED 6:50 pm

Gaylord hit 35 degrees below zero this morning, one of the coldest temperatures ever recorded there. A volunteer observer noted that temperature. The thermometer at Gaylord Regional Airport went down to minus 31, according to the National Weather Service.

Other cities set records for the day, including Traverse City at minus 22, two degrees colder than the previous record for February 20th.

Neither of those approach the coldest temperature ever recorded in Michigan.

Bitter weather is back and likely to stick around

Feb 17, 2015

Highs have been in the teens for the last couple days, but it’s just been a brief reprieve from the bitter cold that returns to northern Michigan overnight and for the next couple days.

“Thursday will be the colder of the two days, where some areas are not likely to get above zero for their daytime highs,” says John Boris, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord. He says the winds won’t be as bad as they were this past weekend, when the wind made it feel like 40-below in some parts of the region. But the winds will again be a major factor.

Bat not in the way of Cass Road bridge rebuild

Feb 16, 2015
New York Department of Environmental Conservation

A bridge south of Traverse City could be rebuilt starting next year, and it turns out a troubled species of bat will not get in the way. The federal government is still weighing whether to list the northern long-eared bat as endangered or threatened.

Some drivers thought this would be the year they’d see a two-lane replacement for the outdated, one-lane bridge on Cass Road. Grand Traverse County officials had said the long-eared bat’s federal protection could mean a year’s delay of the project.

  Weather is likely to be especially dangerous overnight in the Grand Traverse Bay region. Grand Traverse Emergency Management asks people to avoid driving or going out unprotected, especially after midnight tonight through mid-Saturday morning.

If there's no other choice, they say to plan ahead layer your clothes and place a small emergency kit, including extra clothes, hats, gloves and blankets in your car.

Snow and winds are expected to intensify overnight, says Andy Sullivan, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Gaylord.

David Cassleman

Forests in Michigan are under threat – that’s what the state wrote in the report it published last week. There are diseases to worry about and invasive species like the ubiquitous emerald ash borer.

The state and federal governments spend millions in Michigan each year trying to contain these threats. 

But that effort is complicated because most forest land in the state is privately owned.


Spreading good news about clear cuts

Feb 5, 2015
Joe VanderMeulen

One of the problems in Michigan’s forests these days is there is not enough clear cutting. That might sound odd since clear cuts are usually thought of as a bad thing. But forests can get too old, at least from the perspective of migratory birds.

Once upon a time, wild fires created openings in the old growth forests, making way for new growth that provided the habitat for many types of wildlife. Today, well over half of Michigan’s forest lands are privately owned and no one wants uncontrolled fires. In fact, lots of folks want to protect all their trees.

There’s a new report card of sorts out on fish sold commercially from the Great Lakes.

It’s from Seafood Watch. That’s a program at Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

Smith Group JJR

Traverse City is moving forward with a plan to build a $9 million-dollar fishing pier out into Grand Traverse Bay but local fishing experts say the location of the pier – near the mouth of the Boardman River – is not an ideal place to fish.

Traverse City commissioners looked over the new pier design at their meeting last night. The document features colorful images of walleye, salmon, steelhead and smallmouth bass.

But fishing guide Ted Kramer told the commission the 500-foot pier is in the wrong spot for fishing.

Cass Road bridge still alive

Jan 22, 2015
Tom Carr

There may not be a “Bridge Out Ahead” sign for Traverse City drivers after all. County commissioners have backed off from a proposal to pull funding for a replacement to a Cass Road bridge.

The run-down, one-lane crossing is to be taken out when a connected dam is demolished next year. Some commissioners feel it is not worth the expense to replace, believing what is needed is a larger bridge just to the north.

Residents of northern Michigan got a surprise last summer. They found out some drilling for oil and gas can be done confidentially. That unnerved some people in Emmet County, who now want their local government to do something about it.

Spring came early in Michigan three years ago — very early — and fruit crops were later wiped out by frost. That has some researchers in Lansing asking if there's a way to delay the spring bloom in a warm year.

It's no secret what cause a cherry or apple blossom to come out in the spring — warmth. So if you want to slow down that process you just spray cold water on the tree.

Our environment laws in Michigan have become sharply more partisan in the past 14 years.

Deal would lower electricity rates in the Upper Peninsula

Jan 14, 2015
user: adamshoop / Flicker

Governor Rick Snyder has announced a preliminary agreement that would lower electricity rates in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Rates have jumped in the Upper Peninsula to subsidize an aging coal-fired power plant in Presque Isle, which lost its largest paying customer – a mining company.

The Michigan Historical Museum has a new collection of forestry artifacts from the early 1900s. The items belonged to Marcus Schaaf, an early pioneer in the reforestation of northern Michigan. The collection includes field instruments Schaaf used, like an old wooden dial compass and a 66-foot metal surveyor’s tape.

Ken Pott is field historian for the Michigan Department of Resources. IPR’s Aaron Selbig asked Pott about Marcus Schaaf’s place in Michigan history.

Oil and gas exploration could pick up near Traverse City and Manistee this year. Late last year, a company based in Colorado called Wyotex Drilling Ventures applied for permits to drill five wells in Manistee and Grand Traverse Counties.

It’s a small sign of life for an industry that has been on the decline in northern Michigan. If approved, the wells will be drilled into a formation called the A-1 Carbonate. That layer of the earth has produced a modest amount of oil and gas in Michigan. It’s been drilled in various parts of the state for more than 30 years.

Grayling Fish Hatchery

A federal business loan will help a trout farm expand production in Grayling. The development loan approved by the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce is for $210,000.

There will be no trial over a flash flood two years ago near Traverse City that happened as a dam along the Boardman River was being removed.

 

In October 2012, the deluge swamped homes, cottages and private bridges -- forcing mandatory evacuations and road closures. 

 

Thirteen property owners sued the contractors -- and local governments. At one time, they were said to be asking $6 million. Non-disclosure agreements were signed in some cases as part if the settlement.

 

Larry McGahey / USFWS Headquarters

State wildlife officials say they’re disappointed in a court decision that restores federal endangered species protections to the gray wolf in Michigan and other Great Lakes states.

A federal judge ruled Friday that the wolf was improperly removed from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s endangered species list. State wildlife officials say the decision not only blocks future wolf hunt seasons in Michigan, it denies farmers and dog owners the ability to kill wolves that threaten pets and livestock.

Our climate is already changing in the Great Lakes region. And people who manage our cities are finding ways to adapt.

“We’re seeing changes in our precipitation patterns; we’re seeing more extreme precipitation events, " says Beth Gibbons, the director of the University of Michigan’s Climate Center. Her group has released a new online tool for cities in the region. 

The city of St. Louis, Michigan would much rather be talked about as the geographic center of the Lower Peninsula.

Instead, there's a lot of focus on the legacy of pollution here.

The story of Velsicol Chemical in St. Louis, Michigan is quite complicated. 

This week, we’ve told you about efforts to clean up the old Velsicol Chemical plant. There’s a threat to the local drinking water supply after the first attempt to clean up the plant failed. Birds still die from DDT, decades after the plant stopped producing it.

But we haven't told you who's paying to fix it.


There are a lot of former industrial sites in Michigan that need to be cleaned up, but the Velsicol Superfund sites in St. Louis, Michigan are unusual in their size and in the amount of nasty chemicals lurking in the ground where people live, work and play.

The company tried to contain the pollution before, but its solution didn’t work. Ask some of the community members about that original plan and they say they could have told you it wasn’t going to work.

'Pinhole' gas leak found on Enbridge's Line 5

Dec 16, 2014
David Cassleman

The company running oil through the Straits of Mackinac says it found a gas leak in another part of the same pipeline.

Last week, Enbridge discovered what it calls a “pinhole” defect in Line 5, near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula.

All this week we're bringing you stories about the chemical company responsible for the PBB tragedy in Michigan. Michigan Chemical accidentally contaminated the state’s food supply in the 1970s, but the legacy of that company is still very much with us today.

Michigan Chemical – which later became Velsicol Chemical – made more than just PBB, and it left these toxic chemicals behind in St. Louis, Michigan.

One woman insists something is wrong with the birds

    

More than 40 years ago, Michigan’s food supply was contaminated. People’s health is being affected, even now.

All this week, we’re looking at the ripple effects left behind by the company that made that tragic mistake.

In 1973, the Michigan Chemical Corporation shipped a toxic flame retardant chemical to a livestock feed plant instead of a nutritional supplement. The chemical is called polybrominated biphenyl, or PBB. It took about a year to discover the accident. 

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