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.

State regulators sent a violation notice this week to the company managing construction of a new Meijer store in Acme Township near Traverse City. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says silt runoff from the 160-acre site is spilling into a nearby creek and Grand Traverse Bay.

Brian Jankowski runs the Water Resource Division in the DEQ’s Cadillac office. He says there are no plans at this time to seek a fine against the company.

There are plenty of questions about how we’ll generate electricity in the U.S. in the next century. But the problem is particularly pressing in the Upper Peninsula. The owners of the Presque Isle power plant in Marquette are ready to close it. The agency that regulates the energy grid won’t allow that, and residents of the UP are paying millions of dollars to keep it running.

The National Park Service is ready to build a new hiking trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

The Kettles Trail will be on a piece of parkland that is inland a number of miles—near Maple City—and not connected to the rest of the lakeshore.

Why Are The Great Lakes On The Rise?

Oct 20, 2014

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Eric Carlson / Leelanau Enterprise

In 2012, State Representative Ray Franz said he believed global climate change was a “hoax.” When asked about the issue at the same debate Thursday, Franz responded firmly with the word “still" -- and drew some applause in the Glen Arbor Township Hall.

When it was pointed out that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been awarded the Nobel Prize for its work on the issue, Franz shot back, saying concern about climate change is a first step toward global governance.

Stench angers neighbors of new business near Mesick

Oct 9, 2014

The owners of a large compost pile near Mesick promised to move their commercial composting pile after meeting with irate neighbors on Saturday.

The compost pile is a relatively new operation. Opened early this summer, Northern Composting accepts food waste from Traverse City restaurants, the National Cherry Festival, fast food restaurants and a number of other sources.            

A lot of us are curious about the oil pipeline running through the Straits of Mackinac.

Lakes Michigan and Huron have recovered after more than a decade of low water levels.

Government scientists say the lakes rose above their historic average this month.

Just two years ago, the water was at the lowest level ever recorded.

The quick recovery has stifled an effort to engineer a solution to the problem of low lake levels in Huron and Michigan.

But proponents say it would be shortsighted to forget about the issue.

Next Boardman dam removal approaches

Sep 26, 2014
Tom Carr

The second of three Boardman River dams will likely be removed next year. As those plans move forward, some residents fear a replay of 2012.

A malfunction during the first dam removal caused a flood that swamped homes and cabins. Engineers say a repeat is highly unlikely.

At the same time, a lawsuit sparked by the flood is still moving forward.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The water in Lakes Michigan and Huron has risen above its historic average. That ends an unusually long period of low water in the two lakes that began in the late 1990s.

Drew Gronewald is a scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. He says historically the lakes would rise and fall over periods of five years or less.

But around 1997, the lakes dropped a few feet and didn't recover. Gronewald says that trend will come to an end this month.

A leading producer of natural gas in Michigan is pulling out. Encana is a Canadian company that spearheaded a recent boom in drilling for shale gas in the state.

Encana has drilled most of the wells in Michigan using the method known in the industry as horizontal hydraulic fracturing. It is sometimes referred to as fracking.

These wells are expensive--millions of dollars per well, rather than hundreds of thousands for conventional wells--use huge volumes of water and tap into natural gas deposits at depths that were not explored here until 2010.

David Cassleman

An oil pipeline spanning the Straits of Mackinac continues to cause concern among many groups in Michigan.

Enbridge’s Line 5 is more than 60-years-old – and critics say it needs to be replaced or removed.

Now environmental leaders are worried the pipeline could one day carry heavy crude oils – like tar sands – into the Great Lakes region.

That's a future they want to avoid.

Federal, state, and local agencies took part in a mock oil spill Wednesday in northern Michigan along the Indian River.

The emergency drill conjured memories of the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. About a million gallons of crude oil have been cleaned up from that spill. There’s some concern about whether Enbridge has made important internal changes to avoid future pipeline problems.

Carl Weimer with the Pipeline Safety Trust said one of the reasons Enbridge failed to prevent the pipeline break near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010 is not because the company was completely unaware of corrosion and a cracks in the pipeline.

He says Enbridge inspection teams weren’t sharing information with each other.

 


A recent report from the National Audubon Society points to troubling times ahead for our bird population.


Climate change could make some huge changes for birds in North America: About half of our 650 species would be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find totally new places to live or become extinct – all of this in just the next 65 years.


Jonathan Lutz is the executive director of the Michigan Audubon Society. He says in Michigan, about 50 species are vulnerable to the changing climate.

A judge in Cheboygan says charges of fraud can proceed against Chesapeake Energy.

Michigan's attorney general accuses the Oklahoma-based energy company of swindling landowners in northern Michigan.

In 2010, Chesapeake Energy signed hundreds of leases across northern Michigan. These included the promise of a cash payment to landowners for the right to explore for oil and gas.

Even though Michigan is surrounded by more than 20 percent of the world's freshwater, fish farming is largely unheard of there.

But this summer, the aquaculture industry took a step forward. And that has touched off a debate over the appropriateness of fish farming on the Great Lakes.

There's only one company now in Michigan that raises fish for restaurants and grocery stores in large volumes. It's a family business, run by Dan Vogler, on a few acres near Harrietta, Mich., population 143.

 

Lately, that green slime in the lake has been all over the news after it shut down Toledo’s water supply.

Journalists, city and government officials have been calling that green slime  “blue-green algae”, “toxic algae” or “toxic algal blooms.”

Well, turns out that’s not exactly right.

“That’s just maddening,” said James Bull, a professor of biology and environmental science. He works at Wayne County Community College and Macomb Community College.

He says it’s not accurate to call the green slime that shut down Toledo’s water system “a toxic algal bloom.” 

He wrote to Michigan Radio because we were some of the people using the wrong term.

“It’s wrong because even though these organisms superficially look like algae, I think we ought to understand that these really are a kind of bacteria,” Bull said.

He says scientists used to call this stuff “blue-green algae.” Now they call it “cyanobacteria.” He says calling cyanobacteria "algae" is like calling a dolphin a fish.

The Michigan Senate has said “yes” to a petition-initiated measure to allow wolf hunting in the Upper Peninsula. It would also overhaul Michigan’s wildlife management rules to let a state commission decide which species can be hunted. And the measure would circumvent two ballot challenges to wolf hunting laws.

The Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management gathered almost 300,000 signatures of registered voters to put the question to the Legislature.

Gov. Snyder surveys Detroit flood damage

Aug 14, 2014
Paula C. McNichol sent to WDET

  Governor Rick Snyder says numerous state agencies are helping Detroit and surrounding communities deal with massive floods. He flew back from a trip to the Upper Peninsula to see the flood damage first-hand from a Michigan State Police helicopter.

Stand Up for Great Lakes

  Five friends from Traverse City are looking to cross Lake Michigan later this month on stand-up paddleboards. (You might have heard this called SUP. It looks something like a surfboard, but riders face forward and they use a paddle to ply through the water).

Andrew Pritchard says the team is looking forward to a serious challenge.

“You’re using almost every muscle in your body,” he says. “So it’s going to be very physically strenuous and I’m sure by the end of it it’s going to have taken a toll on our bodies and probably our minds a little bit.”

Environmental groups have asked the state to reverse a permit that allows a commercial fish hatchery to expand on a legendary northern Michigan trout stream.

The Grayling Fish Hatchery is located along the AuSable River, which is renowned for its trout fishing. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups say that trout population could be threatened by pathogens and parasites from a fish farm that’s allowed to raise as much as 300,000 pounds of fish.

“Frankly, we think it’s a lousy, lousy place for a commercial fish operation,” said the Sierra Club’s Marvin Roberson.

A giant algae bloom is still making the waters in the western part of Lake Erie look like a thick, green pea soup. Toxins in that muck seeped into the water supply of Toledo, Ohio, last weekend, forcing officials to ban nearly half a million people from using tap water. A big cause of the algae proliferation isn't a mystery — it's crop runoff. And local farmers are on the defensive.

Six miles from Lake Erie is Ron Schimming's 400-acre soybean and corn farm.

One Michigan township wants to make special deals with oil and gas drillers. 

State law does not allow townships to regulate oil and gas drilling. But with all the controversy around fracking, some wish they could.  One township in northern lower Michigan is trying to work around that rule and have a voice.  

Moehle family photo

Imagine this: you head out for a quick paddle on a small lake, someplace really close to home. And what do you discover sticking out of the muck on the lake bottom? A rack of antlers so big your first reaction is to call them “dinosaur bones.”

That’s what happened to a girl and her dad in Benzie County last Easter. Now they have test results that show they’ve likely landed on a museum piece. Evidence is very strong this is a rare example of an extinct elk that disappeared from Michigan around 1875.


Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the state Department of Environmental Quality have officially told Enbridge Energy the company has to do a better job of securing an oil pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac.

The pipeline is part of a 1,900-mile network that runs from North Dakota to Sarnia, Ontario.

DEQ Director Dan Wyant says a state inquiry found the 61-year-old Enbridge pipeline that runs through the Mackinac Straits has fewer supports anchoring it than what’s called for in its lease with the state.

Pages