Fishing with a Little Help from our Friends AC/DC

A smallmouth bass with bright markings.

A smallmouth bass with bright markings.

When scientists want to sample a fish population, they don’t rely on a rod and bait. Under certain circumstances they will use nets, and often in streams and rivers they will use electrofishing. HRWC got the chance to do a little electrofishing this past week.

To electrofish in a shallow river, a gasoline generator is put into a light boat. The generator is hooked to two long poles, called booms, that are placed into the water and create an electric field between themselves and the bottom of the boat.  The electric field does not kill fish but temporarily stuns those that get within a few feet of the booms.  While stunned, workers with nets scoop up the fish and put them in tubs filled with water. The fish are then identified and sorted, and eventually released back to the river safe and sound.

Last Wednesday, several HRWC staff went out with our partners from Environmental Consulting Technology (ECT) to sample the Huron River along Riverside Park in Ypsilanti.  We saw plenty of fish in this stretch, including several big smallmouth bass and one big walleye.  While we still need to officially work up the results, our initial observations were that the fish are indeed using the cover and deep water habitat that HRWC  installed two years ago, and the fish were bigger and more numerous than when we electrofished the same reach before the habitat was installed.

We will report back when the final results are in. Until then, enjoy some fish pictures!

pulling a eletrofishing barge at River side Park, Ypsi

ECT staff pull an eletrofishing barge at Riverside Park, Ypsilanti

watch for those teeth!

We caught a walleye at Riverside Park. Watch out for those teeth!

The fish are measured before we let them go.

The fish are measured before we let them go.



News to Us

img_3227The power of local zoning for river protection, how a changing climate affects Huron River flows, Earth Overshoot Day, 2017 and updates on two Michigan pipelines in this edition of News to Us.

Does zoning matter? It does to Michigan’s natural rivers. Like the Huron River, the Flat River is another designated Natural River in Michigan. Learn about the importance of local zoning and ordinances to river protection. Many of the approaches highlighted in this article are those we encourage in Huron River communities. We have lot of power at the local level to protect natural resources.

High Water: Climate change hits home. This article discusses how patterns in rainfall are changing in the Huron River watershed and how that can impact the river system. Learn more in HRWC’s short film.

We Will Soon Be Using More Than The Earth Can Provide.  Every year the Global Footprint Network computes Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day each year that people have used as much of the planet’s resources (water, fertile soils, forest, fish, etc.) that it can regenerate in a year. After that we are borrowing from the future. August 2nd will mark Earth Overshoot day for 2017.  The article innumerates four critical priorities that if acted upon would bring us very close to being in balance with what our planet can provide.

There are two pipelines in different phases of development that are set to run through the Huron River watershed. The Rover Pipeline runs through western Washtenaw County crossing the Huron at Portage Creek and runs near many of that areas lakes. The Nexus pipeline affects Wayne County residents and is currently slated to cross the Huron at Belleville Lake. Here are a couple of the latest news headlines on these pipelines.

Silver Lake Residents File Motion
Opponents of NEXUS Pipeline set town hall meeting

 



New Way to Stash Your Boat on the Huron River

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (2017)

New boat locker in Ann Arbor (June 2017)

A unique amenity for users of the Huron River National Water Trail (HRWT) has arrived! Canoe and kayak lockers that secure personal boats, paddles, and life jackets at Bandemer Park.

This prototype, designed and manufactured in Ann Arbor, can accommodate a majority of canoe and kayak sizes as well as stand-up paddleboards. The lockers have six compartments that can fit up to two boats each depending on boat sizes. Each locker is modular so more lockers can be added as demand grows.

By giving paddlers a chance to secure their boats, the lockers offer recreationists entré to the shops and restaurants in the HRWT’s Trail Towns. Ann Arbor, which is one of the Trail Towns, was called a “(Next) Best Paddling Town” by Canoe & Kayak Magazine so it seems fitting that it is the first one to offer this key amenity.

The City of Ann Arbor accepted the lockers as a donation from the Huron River Watershed Council, and its Parks & Recreation Department will manage the lockers beginning this season. The lockers provide a convenient option for residents looking to enjoy paddlesports on the Huron River.

Creating the Lockers
Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, paddleboards, or canoes

Each of the six compartments can fit up to two kayaks, canoes, or paddleboards.

In 2014, I approached Jen Maigret of the Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning at the University of Michigan to see if her studio would design canoe and kayak lockers. We had to charter new territory in the field of paddlesport recreation to offer the Trail Towns functional lockers with a design aesthetic appropriate to prized waterfront public spaces.

Jen and her design partner Maria Arquero de Alarcon were a perfect fit for this project because they had already shaped their design studio –MAde Studio – to explore new ways of connecting people with water through design. They enthusiastically took up the challenge. Then followed many months (years, really) of meeting with local parks and recreation professionals, paddlesport aficionados, and fabricators to find a practical, yet appealing design worthy of a riverfront view.

Jen describes their process: “We approached the design of the lockers with two goals in mind. First, the lockers should contribute to a “regional” identity for the Huron River watershed and the significant designation as a National Water Trail. Second, the lockers should also allow for a unique expression of each of the 5 water trail towns to enhance the sense of place in each location.”

Hosford & Co. fabricated the lockers at its location just a few steps away from the Huron River. In May, their crew delivered the first lockers to Ann Arbor’s Bandemer Park.boat-locker-signage

As a Trail Town on the 104-mile Huron River National Water Trail, the City of Ann Arbor offers scenic riverside parks, exciting cascades and placid stillwater trips for trail users. The new lockers are a key amenity that offer safe and sturdy storage for residents with their own boats looking for on-the-water access. HRWC, through the private-public partnership called RiverUp!, is pleased to donate the prototype storage solution for the HRWT Trail Towns with a vision of more lockers from Milford to Dexter, and Ypsilanti to Flat Rock. These other lockers may operate with a different rental option by providing hourly and daily storage options. Plans are currently underway with the other Trail Towns to host and maintain the lockers.bandameer

Would you like to see lockers in more places on the Huron River? Contributions to HRWC’s RiverUp! initiative are needed to provide day-use lockers in other riverfront communities.



Standing Strong for Clean Water

In the last 5 months HRWC has been regularly expressing our concern on changes to federal policy, legislation, and the budget.  I want to share with you a few of these letters and comments and assure you that HRWC is there to face new challenges coming while continuing our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.

hrwc20The Healing Our Waters Coalition (HOW) composed a letter defending the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which, under the President’s budget, would be cut completely.  HRWC signed on to this letter that stated, “The potential wide-ranging budget cuts impact many agencies that are critical to the success of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as well as those that ensure people throughout the country have access to safe air and clean drinking water. Millions of people in the Great Lakes region and across the country—including many communities which have borne the brunt of racial, environmental and economic injustice—will pay a steep price if Congress does not reject the proposed cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and agencies like U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and others.”

HOW Coalition’s letter pushing back against the Trump Administration’s proposed budget cuts and in support of funding Great Lakes programs attracted a record 152 groups that signed on to the letter that sent a strong message to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to fund these important programs.

In response to President Trump’s regulatory reform efforts, HRWC signed on to 3 letters and participated in a national video.

One letter outlined HRWC’s objections to this proposed regulatory reform.  “We object to the false premise that public safeguards are holding back our nation.  In reality, environmental protections have saved lives, improved health, conserved resources and spurred innovation, all while allowing for economic growth and providing far more in benefits that they cost”.  In addition, HRWC signed on to a regional Great Lakes letter that outlined environmental and economic reasons for environmental protections in the Great Lakes region and highlights the importance of policies like the Clean Water Act in protecting vulnerable communities.

I was also interviewed for a video compiled by the Clean Water Network and the River Network that includes leading river protection groups talking about the importance of federal legislation on regional clean water efforts.  This video was compiled at National River Rally in May in Grand Rapids,  a conference for over 600 river and water champions.

The Alliance for Water Efficiency led the charge on another very important program facing budget cuts.  EPA’s highly successful WaterSense® program is a voluntary public-private partnership that has saved American consumers more than $33 billion (in 2015 dollars) on their water and energy bills over the past decade. WaterSense is a voluntary program, not a regulatory one, and it costs less than $2 million dollars a year to administer. It is universally supported by consumers, manufacturers and the public and private agencies charged with supplying water to American households and businesses. Since its inception in 2006, it has been immensely successful at achieving its goal of reducing water consumption. An estimated 1.5 trillion gallons have been saved using WaterSense-labeled products.

While of lesser significance to HRWC, we also signed on to letter opposing efforts to repeal or undermine protections for national parks and monuments spearheaded by the National Parks Conservation Association.

Finally, HRWC has been providing stories of our success with federal funding, legislation, and policies to national groups, policy makers, and legislators.  These on the ground examples are being used to illustrate the importance of federal grants and programs and to provide concrete water quality improvement stories.

HRWC is lending its voice and success stories to the national dialogue on federal environmental policies, budgets, and legislation.  We believe this is an example of how to Stand Strong for Clean Water.



Moving the needle on climate adaptation

naf-mississippiriver-panelAfter four days with climate change adaptation professionals from throughout the U.S. it was clear that efforts to prepare both people and ecosystems for the impacts of increasingly altered climate systems have only amplified as the Federal Administration tries to cast doubt and roll back progress. This is heartening at a time in our society where good news is harder to come by.

Over 1000 people convened in May at the third National Adaptation Forum in St. Paul, Minnesota on the banks of the mighty Mississippi River. Over the 6 years this biennial conference has occurred, I have watched the field of climate adaptation advance at a lightning pace. Cities are upgrading stormwater systems to handle more rain. Coastal towns are utilizing natural shorelines to protect people from rising sea levels. Natural resource managers are considering a new paradigm—transforming ecosystems rather than restoring them. Front line communities are demanding environmental and climate justice and bringing innovative community-based solutions to the task at hand.

I wanafpresentations proud to represent HRWC and the progress we have made to prepare both the river and our towns for a changing climate. I presented our Preparing the Huron River for Climate Change work (that you can learn about in this short film) along with a stellar group of organizations finding climate solutions that benefit both nature and people. Our work was featured in a report by the Wildlife Conservation Society released during the conference.  And we were honored as a finalist for our Climate Resilient Communities work by the American Association of Adaptation Professionals.

HRWC has the history, relationships, knowledge and trust necessary to help Huron River communities become more prepared. Organizations like HRWC all over the planet are moving the needle on adaptation.  But we need your help. Preparation will only help to a degree. What we need is to rapidly and significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for our warming planet.

Here are two immediate opportunities. If you live in Washtenaw County, come to our Solar Power Hour June 6th to determine if your home is a good candidate for solar and get access to discounts. And, no matter where you reside, consider joining HRWC and the Michigan Climate Action Network to help elevate this important issue in our state. It will take all of us.

 



News to Us

Pointe Mouille where the Huron enters Western Lake ErieMany bright spots in local news affecting the Huron River with everything from new parks to better water housekeeping. News from the State and Federal level is a little less heartening. Read a report on the proposed State budget and efforts to get Ohio to take action to improve conditions in Lake Erie.

Brighton city manager: ‘We’re behind in some things’ – The new city manager in Brighton is putting emphasis on several tasks that will benefit the Huron and its residents. The city manager intends to implement a goose control and waste management program that aligns with state best practices. Restoring regular stormwater system maintenance is also on the list of priorities. Both of these initiatives should result in water quality improvements in the Huron.

Environmentalists want western Lake Erie declared impaired – Environmental groups are suing EPA to encourage a decision on whether or not to declare western Lake Erie in Ohio an impaired waterway. The decision, which has dragged on, would give stakeholders a clearer path forward to fix problems with the Huron River receiving waters that have led to significant algal blooms in recent years.

State says Watershed Council shouldn’t be in on Gelman plume legal talks  Gelman has challenged the trial court’s December ruling that the County, Ann Arbor, Scio Township, and HRWC can intervene. Michigan Attorney General’s office filed a response to this appeal supporting Gelman’s position that HRWC should not be granted standing. That challenge is happening while settlement negotiations continue. A decision should be made in May or June whether the challenge is successful. In the negotiations, as in the motion to intervene, HRWC is focused on the system for detecting whether dioxane may reach the surface waters in harmful concentrations, and how Gelman should respond if dioxane were detected at those harmful concentrations

New park amenities abound across Livingston County – Learn about how recreational opportunities are expanding in Livingston County this year including additions at Kensington Metropark, Brighton Mill Pond and along the Lakelands Trail. The weather is beautiful.  Get out and play!

DEQ on losing end of Michigan legislature’s 2018 budget drafts – Earlier this month, the Michigan legislature submitted its draft budget for 2018. In this budget millions are cut for toxic site clean-up and mitigation of basement vapor intrusions. Neither the House nor Senate supported the Governor’s proposal to continue the Clean Michigan Initiative (CMI) by shifting a portion of the gas tax revenue to the CMI. Other cuts include the proposed expansion of lead and copper rule drinking water systems, training for Flint water utility staff, and funds for the DEQ Air Quality Division. This is in addition to the potential loss of up to 200 positions from DEQ if the current administration does follow through on its proposal to slash EPA funding by a third.

Stop dumping your exotic fish in Michigan waters – Just a reminder that release into local water ways is not an appropriate way to deal with an unwanted fish. These fish can become a nuisance or worse. The article shares some appropriate ways to get rid of problem fish pets.



2016 Stewardship Awardees

Last night, HRWC’s Annual Meeting featured highlights from 2016: progress on the Huron River Water Trail, green infrastructure projects and plans, updates on pollution prevention initiatives like coal tar and dioxane, and efforts to ready the watershed for climate change. Our work would not be possible without the amazing support given by our donors, funders, volunteers, and peer organizations. Please join us in celebrating a few who went above and beyond in recent years. You can read more about these folks in our summer newsletter, the Huron River Report, coming out in June.

HRWC Stewardship Awardees 2017

Janet Kahan, Melissa Damaschke, John M. Erb, Sally Rutzky and Wendy Schultz

Janet Kahan
Volunteer of the Year
Janet leads HRWC’s youth streamside education program, working with volunteers of all sorts to teach stream ecology and water quality to over 1000 students per year.

Sally Rutzky
Herb Munzel Achievement Award
Sally has been a stalwart supporter of the Huron, HRWC, and local communities as she’s advocated for better zoning and planning, gotten in the way of sand mining, and used her expert plant identification skills on behalf of the watershed.

Wendy Schultz
Extraordinary Partner Award
A key ally of HRWC’s water quality monitoring program, Wendy and her staff test our samples from Washtenaw County, identify and solve programmatic problems, and graciously greet our volunteers throughout the season offering tips and encouragement for collecting much needed water samples from our streams.

Erb Family Foundation
Big Splash Award
The Erb Family Foundation has been a forerunner in funding organizational growth and new programmatic initiatives including our RiverUp! program. Long-term support like theirs is key to nonprofit organizational health.

Join us in congratulating these watershed champions!

 



Climate Change Education

Invite me to speak at your next community meeting or event!Climate Reality Project

This past March I joined the thousands of volunteers in 135 countries who have been personally trained by former Vice President Al Gore to educate the public about climate change. I traveled to Denver Colorado for “Climate Reality Leader Training” from the Climate Reality Project.  There I learned that while the scale of the problem is monumental, the opportunities to fix the problem are tremendous, with renewable energy costs plummeting and capacity skyrocketing. U.S. states and cities and many countries are already turning to solar, wind, and energy conservation at record rates.

I would love the opportunity to share what I have learned throughout the Huron River watershed! I am available to give the famous Al Gore slide presentation (there are long and short versions) to town halls, club meetings, school groups, or any kind of event or gathering. I can customize the presentation to fit your timing.

To schedule a talk please call or email me, Kris Olsson, at (734) 769-5123 x 607.

The Next Big Action for Climate will be the People’s Climate March this Saturday, April 29! Get to Washington, D.C. or find a local sister march like Detroit or Ferndale to attend.

 

 



Why I’m Marching

I will be joining the local March for Science this Saturday in my hometown of Ann Arbor. I am doing this because I have come to realize that those of us who are active scientists or who regularly use data or information produced by scientists need to do a better job communicating scientific discovery to the rest of the world. At its core, science is a systematic method of differentiating fact from opinion. Science is not a philosophy or religion. It is not a political platform. It is simply the best method we have to discover what is true about our world.

Here at HRWC, we engage in scientific discovery on a daily basis to learn about what is happening in the river, its tributaries and the land that drains to it. By utilizing the scientific approach to understanding, we can be confident that the actions we are taking, and the resources we ask our members and partners to invest have a strong likelihood of making a positive difference — to produce the high quality water resources that we want.

HRWC volunteer Larry and University of Michigan researcher Brandon installing stream sensor equipment.

HRWC volunteer Larry Scheer and University of Michigan researcher Brandon Wong installing stream sensor equipment.

The last few weeks I worked with our partners at the University of Michigan and our volunteers (our citizen scientists!) to install cutting-edge sensors and technology to make real-time observations of stream flows and water chemistry to help us better understand what happens during storms. This will lead us to recommend the best practices to capture and treat stormwater runoff in the future and improve water quality and river habitat. Without this evidence-based knowledge, we would just be guessing at what works.

What concerns me (and ultimately why I am marching) is that our current national leadership is proposing significant cuts to funding for all types of science. Further, policies are being proposed or established that run counter to well-established scientific understanding, like climate change, and the effects of environmental regulation. Science matters. Truth matters.

I encourage you all to get out and march with me or get out and contribute to our understanding by volunteering at events like Saturday’s River Round-up.



Exploring the Home Waters

A special Earth Day tribute from an HRWC volunteer

Pat Chargot water quality monitoring on a Huron River creekIf you have ever volunteered with HRWC, explored one of its many creeks on your own, or even wondered “where are these creeks HRWC keeps talking about?” you will want to read this thoughtful essay of observations from author Pat Chargot. Pat volunteered for HRWC’s Water Quality Monitoring Program in 2016. She shares what she learned about her home waters and more in Exploring the Home Waters.”

Thank you Pat for protecting the Huron River.

Enjoy and happy Earth Day!




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