Start 2017 at our volunteer events this week!
Thursday, January 19
1100 N Main Street, Ann Arbor
Join HRWC staff, volunteers and partner organizations in recapping and appreciating the 2016 field season. We collect and analyze a lot of data that tells us about the health of the Huron River and its watershed. HRWC will present results and share stories to entertain and enchant at this must-go event!
This evening you will witness… The amazing and mesmerizing Stevi Kosloskey as she daringly describes the results from HRWC’s Water Quality Monitoring Program. Always magical and mysterious, Dr. Paul Steen will spin a story about benthic macroinvertebrates that is not for the faint of heart! The one, the only, Thursday night only, Ric Lawson will fill your head with Water Quality data in mere minutes. Last, but not least, Kris Olsson, our Bioreserve leader (wooooo aaaahhhhh) will tell you tales from beautiful, far away lands (natural areas in the ‘shed).
Please register with the man behind the curtain: JFrenzel@hrwc.org.
Saturday, January 21
9 or 10:30am, for 3-4 hours
Throughout the watershed
We have ordered up the best of winter weather just for you! Enjoy March in January as you help us collect water quality data that supports long-term decisions by our partner organizations and informs much of the program work we do here at HRWC! This year only, with a predicted high of 51 degrees, the weather is going fast! In 2014 it was negative 20 degrees for this event!
Register and info: www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly
We have a very large whiteboard in the conference room at HRWC, and the holidays prompted some doodling across its vast expanse. Suddenly, the Huron River was populated with all sorts of creatures having some winter fun, skating away…you know, like they do.
The scientists loved it – mostly. Just a few quibbles, really, and what struck me was that the concerns were NOT that the scene included Santa and his reindeer, a snowman, and that all the watershed animals were on skates. Oh, no. That was all fine! The two issues were:
- the crayfish was skating forward and not backward as nature intended
- there was a bear in the scene, and there are no bears in the watershed
The ensuing conversation, while amusing (the 2011 black bear sighting at Hudson Mills was submitted, and rejected, as evidence as it seems he/she was “just passing through”), showed the depth and breadth of scientific inquiry that is the norm at HRWC. We take a good hard look at everything, and that is to the advantage of the river, the watershed and all the creatures in it.
You just can’t get away with fake news at HRWC. A skating bear on the Huron is going to get fact-checked in all directions. A crayfish with forward momentum is simply not right, and all the
scientists on staff are going to let you know this (nicely, of course!), and then you are going to get to examine the crayfish poster (yes, we have a crayfish poster!) for information, and the conversation spirals off into what are common to the watershed (virile, northern clearwater and others) and can you eat them like crawdads (yes) and what kind of crayfish are crawdads anyway (red swamp crayfish – invasive to Michigan).
And when you have that level of examination over a cartoon crayfish, you can imagine what happens here on the more serious issues. Impacts of 1,4 dioxane on aquatic life? We are searching globally for the latest science. PAH content of “synthetic” coal tar sealants? We’re on it.
Because that’s how we do things here.
To learn more about the science behind our work, please join us on Thurs, Jan 19, 6-8pm for our Volunteer Appreciation and Season Results Presentation. Through the lens of the Huron’s many creeksheds, HRWC staff will share stories and lessons learned from our 2016 field season at this fun annual event. We will feature 2016 highlights and 2017 plans from our Bioreserve, Fish Habitat, River Bug Studies, and Water Quality programs. NEW Center, 2nd Floor, 1100 North Main Street, Ann Arbor. Register by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Rebecca Foster, Development Associate
Lively Discussions Lead to Learning
Over 60 people from the Huron River watershed and beyond gathered at the Freedom Township Hall to learn about Community Techniques for Protecting Water Quality. Elected and appointed officials from six townships attended the December forum on the vital role local governments play in protecting our region’s lakes, rivers, and streams and the natural areas that contribute to their quality. Attendees also included members of a variety of water protection groups and interested citizens, some driving as far as 200 miles from northern Michigan and Ohio.
Planning for community growth that protects natural areas is the key to ensuring clean water and vibrant communities for residents, businesses and farms. The goal of the forum was to share concepts, ideas and programs and to provide participants with an opportunity to learn from each other what works.
Harry Sheehan, the Deputy Water Resource Commissioner from Washtenaw County led the morning with an important overview on protecting water quality. Then Sally Rutzky and Erica Perry, Planning Commissioners from Lyndon and Webster Townships, communities HRWC has worked with to develop Green Infrastructure maps and plans, shared challenges and unique solutions to water and land protection issues. Monica Day, Michigan State University Extension educator, connected local water quality protection to statewide issues on the news like the Flint water crisis and algae problems in Toledo.
The forum was organized by HRWC, Mchigan State University Extension, Freedom Township, Pleasant Lake Property Owners Association, Michigan Lake and Stream Associations, the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner, Citizens Respecting Our Waters, and Washtenaw County Emergency Management.
Forum presentations are available at HRWC’s Green Infrastructure page.
HRWC has received funding from the Knight Foundation to provide Green Infrastructure Planning Services to local governments. This includes a workshop where residents and officials map out their community’s natural areas and greenways, an audit of their zoning ordinance, master plan and other policies, and technical support in enhancing policies to protect water quality and natural areas. If your local government would like Green Infrastructure Planning Services, email Kris Olsson or call her at (734) 769-5123 x 607.
Kindness matters. We experience that every day through our donors. It comes in the mail, through an email, in a Facebook post, or my favorite–fan mail notes included with year-end gifts that encourage us to keep doing the work. All from the kindness and generosity of our friends, members and donors. I know many people think of donations as “support” and it is that. But to me, it the person’s kindness that makes the gifts of support happen.
We continue to build a future on hope in a rapidly changing world. We know how, because the Huron River Watershed Council takes the long view and stands up for what is right for our home river. It is an environmental success story, built over fifty years, that has been a powerful force for good in our watershed community.
Thanks to your generosity HRWC has built a strong track record of upholding protections, advocating for our community’s safety and health, investigating our home waters and teaching tomorrow’s scientists. We are able to stand strong for our free-flowing Huron River and ensure ample clean water for the 650,000 residents of our watershed. Together we make a difference every day for clean water in our community.
During this season of caring, and just before the late December madness really sets in, I wanted to thank all of you for your many acts kindness to HRWC. Thank you ever so much.
HRWC and EPA have taken action recently pertaining to 1,4 dioxane – the chemical contaminating groundwater in the Huron River watershed. During road salt season, consider alternatives to reduce impacts to our lakes and rivers. Huron River residents and the Great Lakes received good news this week on funding for natural resource protection and recreation. All in this edition of News to Us.
Dioxane makes list of 10 toxic chemicals EPA giving closer look This past summer the act that governs the regulation of chemicals in the US underwent major reform which arguably reduced barriers to regulate toxic substances. The 30 year old act had made it notoriously difficult to regulate chemicals. Under the reformed act, EPA was tasked with selecting ten substances to evaluate first. 1,4-dioxane is on that list, meaning the chemical that is contaminating groundwater under Scio Township and Ann Arbor will undergo a thorough risk evaluation over the next three years.
Huron River Watershed Council and county take legal action on dioxane Last week, HRWC filed a motion to intervene in the Gelman case that would amend the consent judgement that put cleanup of the 1,4 dioxane plume contaminating local groundwater in the hands of MDEQ and Gelman Sciences. HRWC and Washtenaw County, who also filed a motion to intervene, argue that cleanup efforts have failed. Should the court choose to open the case again, HRWC would provide a voice for the river, aquatic life and river recreation.
Road Salt Sex Change: How Deicing Messes with Tadpole Biology In the season of ice and snow, Huron River residents will be bringing out the road salt. There is mounting evidence of negative impacts to rivers and lakes due to high salt concentrations. This article discusses new research findings that implicate road salt in developmental issues in tadpoles, particularly by altering sex ratios. For some alternative practices for safe sidewalks visit our tips page.
Coalition Applauds Great Lakes Investments in Bill Great news for the Great Lakes. The federal government has authorized another round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Funding. GLRI will provide $1.5 billion in funding over the next five years for projects that help restore our water resources. GLRI has funded projects in the Huron and throughout Southeast Michigan to the benefit of people, businesses and the natural resources.
Gov. Rick Snyder applauds Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund board recommendations Several projects in the watershed were awarded grants from the Michigan Natural Resource Trust fund. These projects will advance trail systems in our area including the Washtenaw County Border-to-Border (B2B) trail segment from Dexter to Ann Arbor. Trail projects also build out the Huron Waterloo loop in Lyndon Township and a segment of the Iron Belle trail in Ypsilanti Township.
New benches at Barton Pond offer peaceful waterfront viewing
Visitors to the dam at Ann Arbor’s Barton Nature Area are in for a pleasant surprise. This fall, the Huron River Watershed Council with funding from the DTE Energy Foundation installed a set of three unique riverside viewing benches along Barton Pond.
The benches are the result of an artistic collaboration between Rizzolo Brown Design and local contractor IronWoodStone. The benches are inspired by nature and designed to be beautiful in form and innovative in function. HRWC engaged Rizzolo Brown Design to survey the river corridor from Milford to Lake Erie for places that could feature inspired design or art as part of the Huron River Water Trail project. HRWC, which in 2015 earned the Huron a National Water Trail designation, seeks to bring people to the river for enjoyment and recreation. Rizzolo Brown developed an “ideas book” based on site visits to numerous park locations along the river that HRWC has shared with communities all along the Water Trail for potential projects.
We hope you will visit and enjoy the benches!
Aquatic insect sampling on the Huron River and its creeks
Thanks to 154 volunteers who contributed approximately 600 volunteer hours, the October 2016 River Roundup was a great success! As always, HRWC 100% guarantees good weather for its volunteer events or your money back. We were once again able to fulfill that promise!
It was a very full house here in the HRWC conference rooms before the 18 teams split up and traveled to 36 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community. This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to understand how the water quality of the river and creeks may be changing. From the data collected at this semi-annual event, we are able to keep abreast of the health of our waterways throughout the watershed. You can see a summary below, or detailed results in the October 10 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
HRWC gives a rating to each site that we monitor (Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor). The graph above shows this breakdown for the 61 locations that HRWC considers representative for the watershed. The detailed River Roundup report gives the site condition for each location.
Overall, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady, though there are particular areas getting worse or better. 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 4 sites are too new to make this judgment.
Fifteen sites are declining, and these include locations on Norton Creek, Horseshoe Creek, and Honey Creek (Washtenaw Co). Ten of the declining sites are in Livingston County, 3 are in Washtenaw, 1 is in Oakland, and 1 is in Wayne.
Twelve sites are significantly improving. Eleven of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including locations on Mill Creek, Malletts Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River. One site is improving in Livingston County (Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).
There were a lot of highly diverse samples collected this season. The team at Pettibone Creek: Commerce Road in Milford collected the most diverse sample ever taken at the site (sampling started here in 2001).
Two sites on South Ore Creek were diverse enough to pull these creeks out of a statistically significant decline and into the “declining but not significantly so” range.
The sample taken at Davis Creek off of Silver Road was the best sample taken in about 8 years.
For some teams, sampling conditions were difficult. The Huron River was running fast and deep after the area received heavy rain just a few days before the event started. The sample taken at the Huron River at Zeeb Road was particularly bad and far outside the range of normal variation. Based on the volunteer’s feedback and the difficulty of sampling the river, this sample was marked as an outlier and will not be included in the long-term record for the site.
Want to learn more about the data that HRWC collected this past year? On January 19th at 6 pm at our office on 1100 N. Main Street, HRWC staff will present results and interpretation for all of the field projects conducted within the past year. Good indoor weather guaranteed!
Do you consider yourself a Michigander, or aspire to be one? Then you should brave the cold and join the Winter Stonefly Search on January 21. It is like the River Roundup, only much snowier and usually colder. Good weather guaranteed or your money back… but of course these events are always free! You can register for the event here.
Earlier this year, 20 hardy paddlers stepped up to serve as the first class of HRWC’s new volunteer-led program to monitor the river for recreation. Huron River Water Trail Ambassadors adopt sections of the river to check conditions for safe and accessible paddling. This class covered 17 sections of the water trail ranging in length from 3.5 to nearly 10 miles.
Ambassadors check river conditions in the early spring before most paddlers are out on the river, as well as at the end of the paddling season in the fall. Their efforts make the river more enjoyable, protect its health and scenic beauty, and assist HRWC and the water trail partners with prioritizing improvements.
What does an Ambassador do?
1. Paddles a section of the Huron River once in early spring and a second time in the fall, at a minimum.
2. Makes general observations about the conditions of water trail launches, signs and portages, the shoreline, woody debris, spills and how people are using the river.
3. Represents HRWC by answering questions from the public, helping people out on the river and teaching responsible river use.
4. Takes photos of areas of interest or concern.
5. Submits information and photos to HRWC.
Some Ambassadors also clean-up trash and measure water temperature and conductivity with HRWC equipment.
How do you spot an Ambassador?
Check their hat! All Ambassadors are outfitted in brimmed hats with the water trail logo and the “Ambassador” title.
Contact Jason Frenzel if you’d like more information on becoming an Ambassador.
Short stories from four of our members on what giving to HRWC means to them.
On this Giving Tuesday, November 29th, a global day of giving, we hope to inspire and encourage you to stand strong for clean water with us. All gifts to HRWC and our local home waters — the Huron, will be matched dollar for dollar. Click HERE to donate today.
Thank you to our videographer and editor David Brown and our storytellers, Dieter Bouma, Chatura Vaidya and Jeremy and Aubrey Lopatin of Arbor Teas for your gracious contribution to our cause.
Dear HRWC Family,
Given the uncertainty of future environmental protection, I want to assure you that HRWC will stand strong to protect clean water. In this past presidential election, we saw a lack of conversation or priority placed on environmental issues. We saw a denigration and disregard for environmental agencies and regulations. And we saw a discrediting of science. All things that deeply concern us at HRWC.
Our strength has been and will continue to be making progress on environmental policy, science, and citizen stewardship and engagement at the local level. We are the crucial link between environmental problems and effective solutions. We educate the public, businesses, and decision makers on the problems and the solutions. We secure funds for these solutions. We advocate for policy changes. We identify emerging threats and demand action. We get out in the rivers, lakes, and woods to monitor the conditions and measure progress.
Our programs start small and local. They are built around volunteer monitoring and science, local government leadership and citizen stewards, and political advocacy. They grow from collaboration with a slew of partners and funders who share our commitment to clean water. They are based on the belief that individuals can make a difference and small changes can lead to large impacts. From local ordinances that protect us from coal tar to fish habitat improvements, from pollution reduction partnerships to building a Huron River Water Trail, we believe that our future is one of clean and plentiful water for people and nature where we all are effective and courageous champions for the Huron River and its watershed.
In the next 6 months, we will learn more about the direction of our federal and state government’s environmental agenda. I want to assure you that HRWC will be there to face any new challenges coming and will continue our work to protect and restore the river for healthy and vibrant communities.
With your support, we will stand strong and focus on our core values to generate sound science to ensure reliable supplies of clean water and a resilient natural system, to work collaboratively with all partners to engage an inclusive community of river guardians, and to passionately advocate for the health of the river and lands around it.
As I go in to the holiday season I am I am thankful that we — this community that calls the Huron its home waters — have the courage to protect the river for current and future generations. Your donation helps us stand strong. Thank you.
For the river,
Laura Rubin, Executive Director