Lake Michigan oil spill, Asian Carp, and the Washington landslide: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment from all over the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

BP more than doubles estimate of Lake Michigan oil spill (Chicago Tribune): On Monday, oil leaked from BP Plc’s Whiting refinery in Indiana into Lake Michigan. The latest estimate says that 1,638 gallons of oil spilled into the lake, more than double the estimate given immediately following the spill. Officials from the EPA say the spill likely poses no long-term risks to the lake.

St. Louis River Estuary restoration: Cleaning up the past (Great Lakes Echo): Local, state, federal and non-governmental organizations are banding together to help restore the St. Louis River Estuary. It has suffered major environmental problems since the 1800s when people began destroying and shaping the landscape to make way for shipping traffic. Collaborative efforts are being made to clean up the mess.

Experts say that hydrological separation is the best way at keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Experts say that hydrological separation is the best way at keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Roger Germann: Working to keep the Asian carp out of our Great Lakes (mlive): most experts agree that hydrological separation is the best way to keep the Asian carp from getting into the Great Lakes. Roger Germann, executive vice president for Great Lakes and sustainability at the Shedd Aquarium, stated the long term key is prevention and that he thinks the invasive species issues should be looked at as a national issue.

Flood insurance rates rising: Database shows impact on Michigan communities (mlive):  At least 1.1 million policy holders nationwide and more than 14,000 in Michigan with government-subsidized insurance are expected to experience steadily rising rates in the coming years as the NFIP struggles with debt created by a series of storms. Exactly how high the rates will go is undetermined.

Elusive Whale Sets New Record for Depth and Length of Dives Among Mammals (National Geographic): A new study of Curvier’s beaked whales shows that they can dive to nearly 10,000 feet. Scientists are interested in these whales because sonar activity had stranded individuals on beaches. They studied them by attaching trackers to eight whales in southern California and followed them for several months.

Danger Lingers After Landslide Kills 8 in Washington State (New York Times): A landslide that slid down from a rain-saturated mountain slope left eight people dead and at least 18 missing in Washington State. The slide reduced homes to shattered fragments and buried a state highway. Many people spent Saturday night in an emergency shelter for those who had to evacuate their homes.

 

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Geoengineering, zebra mussel bacterium and beaver fur dealers: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

The North American beaver. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The North American beaver. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Fur dealers could trap beavers under proposed law change (Great Lakes Echo): Licensed fur dealers could trap beavers under new legislation. Beavers can be trapped now, but this measure would allow fur dealers to trap, which is something that has been outlawed as far back as the early 1900s. The law was originally made when the population of beavers was low and needed to be increased. Today, the population of beavers in Michigan has grown considerably since the prohibition against fur dealers trapping them was made.

Geoengineering side effects could be potentially disastrous, research shows (the guardian): Human engineering of the Earth’s climate to prevent global warming would prove to be ineffective as well as have severe side effects that could not be safely stopped, according to new research. Ocean up welling or bringing up of deep, cold waters would reduce sea ice melting, but would unbalance the global heat budget and affect oxygen levels in the oceans. Each of the five climate engineering methods has advantages and disadvantages, but they are all limited.

Zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread to hundreds of lakes and rivers throughout the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Zebra mussels were introduced to the Great Lakes in the 1980s and have since spread to hundreds of lakes and rivers throughout the United States. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Science Takes On a Silent Invader (The New York Times): Two species of mussels, the quagga and zebra mussels, have disrupted ecosystems since they arrived in the Great Lakes and since spread to lakes and rivers in 34 states. Biologist Daniel P. Molloy has discovered a bacterium that kills the mussels but has little to no effect on other organisms. New York State has awarded a license to develop a commercial formulation of the bacterium.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources calls for “laser-like” focus on invasive species eradication (mlive): There have been positive DNA findings for Asian Carp in Lake Erie, suggesting that there may be a residual population in the lake, but there have been no live fish discovered. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder allocated more than $6 million to support and supplement state funding for aquatic species management. Earlier this year, hydro separation between the Great Lakes and the Chicago River basin was the next step to prevent Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes.

California Endangered Species: Plastic Bags (The New York Times): Los Angeles became the largest city in the country this year to enforce the ban on plastic bags. Many policy makers in California have come to see the plastic bag as a symbol of environmental wastefulness. The measure would ban single use bags at supermarkets, liquor stores and other locations, but paper bags and other reusable bags will be available for a 10-cent fee. Some disagree with the ban saying it will cost the state up to 2,000 jobs and cost them millions of dollars.

 

Climate change, monarch butterflies and a snowy owl invasion: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA gathers news stories related to conservation and the environment from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

A monarch butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Monarch butterfly feeding on swamp milkweed. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Michigan cities brace for a changing climate (Great Lakes Echo): Several cities across Michigan are preparing for climate trends that are already apparent in our state. Flooding, intense storms, extreme heat and falling water levels are all impacts that have developed in recent years. Some preparation plans include planting trees, putting solar panels on 360 state-owned buildings and setting a 100 percent renewable energy goal by the year 2020.

Possibility of oil fracking in Genesee County stokes environmental fears (mlive): Employees from the Western Land Services in the area are offering deals to people to sell the oil and minerals off their land, but the use of fracking is controversial. Environmental groups claim the process of oil fracking can harm groundwater and cause seismic disturbances, but supporters say it is done too far down below the aquifer to do damage. If there is enough interest to drill in the area, a permit would have to be granted in order to do so.

Asian carp issue seen as not stopping river barge concept for Muskegon Lake (mlive): The Army Corps of Engineers released a report to congress outlining eight possible approaches to stopping Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through barges. Some solutions include separating the river system from the Great Lakes, but that would cost an estimated $18 billion. Many people fear the carp will threaten the Great Lakes fishing industry and are concerned about the river barge operation.

North American Leaders Urged to Restore Monarch Butterfly’s Habitat (New York Times): The leaders of Mexico, the United States and Canada have been urged to commit to restore habitat that supports the Monarch butterfly and its migration. A proposal to plant milkweed along its migratory route was issued, as milkweed has been disappearing over the past decade in America.

Snowy owls invade ‘south’; cold affects waterfowl (Associated Press): This winter has shown an invasion of snowy owls in 25 states. More than 2,500 snowy owls were reported in the U.S. and Canada this winter. The frigid cold is also causing unusual movements of waterfowl.  Due to the Great Lakes being almost entirely frozen over, some species of waterfowl are moving closer inland where they are not usually found.

 

Severe drought in California, new study on Asian Carp prevention and the Keystone pipeline: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares news stories related to conservation from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental news:

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The new farm bill will expand crop insurance and other benefits for the agriculture business. Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons

Severe Drought Has U.S. West Fearing Worst (The New York Times): 17 rural communities in California that provide water to 40,000 people could possibly run out of water soon. Officials are saying this drought is on track to be the worst in 500 years and it has already produced dry fields, starving livestock and dense areas of smog. Farmers are being forced to give up on planting and have had to sell animals because there is not enough water. Recreational activities like fishing and camping have been banned and water use is extremely limited among residents living there.

Study: Physical, electric barriers best defenses against Asian Carp (Detroit Free Press): A recent study has found that the most effective defense against Asian Carp reaching the Great Lakes is placing dam-like structures or less expensive electric barrier systems in Chicago waterways. Other methods that were considered are strobe lights, noise makers and depleting oxygen levels in the water, but these were deemed less effective. The study found that physical separation could prevent 95 to 100 percent of Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

Herbicides may not be sole cause of declining plant diversity (Science Daily): The declining plant biodiversity has often been blamed by herbicides, but other factors may be a cause. A study found that rare and common plant species had similar tolerances to three commonly used herbicides, which means they do not have a strong effect in shaping plant communities. During the time that herbicide use was on the rise, crop segregation and increased mechanical use were growing and diminishing habitat loss.

Report: Keystone pipeline would have minimal environmental impact (NBC News): A pipeline that would be used to carry crude oil from Canada to refineries in the United States was found to have minimal impact on the environment if it were to be constructed. There has been increased pressure on the president to approve the project, who will only do so if the project does not have a negative effect on the climate. Republicans, on the other hand, have been demanding for the approval of the project for a while because it will provide jobs, but climate and environmental concern are the main priority in the decision making process.

Senate Passes Long-Stalled Farm Bill, With Clear Winners and Losers (The New York Times): The Senate passed a farm bill on Tuesday that expanded crop insurance and other benefits for agriculture business. It is estimated to cut $17 billion from the budget of government spending over a decade. Anti hunger advocates and other critics, though, oppose the bill and say it would harm thousands of American households by causing them to lose money due to cuts in food stamps and they think that the industry does not need more support.

Asian carp, sea cows disappearing, and invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Alyssa Kobylarek, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares news stories related to conservation from around the state and country. Here is some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Tab to keep Asian carp out of Great Lakes could hit $18 billion, federal report says (Detroit Free Press): Some of the most effective alternatives to keeping asian carp out of the Great Lakes could possibly take decades and cost up to $18 billion. The Army Corps of Engineers released a report stating various options to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Some of the debated options included physically separating the waterways by creating flood management basins and runoff tunnels, electronic barriers, herbicides and screened gates.

Where have all Florida’s sea cows gone? (The Guardian): More manatees died last year in Florida than ever recorded and Earth Island Journal reports that scientists are unsure as to what is killing them. The record die-off of Florida in 2013 was 829 manatees out of an estimated population of 5,000. Officials are working on improving water quality and expanding storage and flow capacities to improve the population.

Rivers in wintry cities remain salty year-round (Great Lakes Echo): Much of the salt that is applied to roads in the United States during the winter months winds up in rivers. The salt remains toxic throughout two-thirds of the year and could be harmful to fish and other creatures that rely on the rivers, as well as humans if the salt reaches groundwater. Amphibians are the most sensitive to the runoff and develop developmental deformities when exposed to salt. Streams in Maryland, New Hampshire and New York exceeded the chloride toxicity guideline of 230 parts per million.

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Florida’s manatees are members of the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Alaska’s Bristol Bay Region could be devastated by mining, EPA report finds (The Guardian): The EPA reports that Pebble Mine, a large gold and copper mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, could be devastating to the world’s largest salmon fisheries. Bristol bay produces about half of the world’s sockeye salmon and the mine footprint would affect up to 94 miles of streams. The mine has strong opponents that include some jewelery chains who will refuse gold from the mine. The oppositions have negatively affected the project and there are strong allegations that the report will inevitably shut down the project.

Studies show invasive species not as abundant as some assume (Great Lakes Echo): A new study by the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that invasive species are not as big of an issue as previously believed. Most populations do not grow very large and ones that do get out of control are very uncommon. On average, the invaders live at three times the abundance of their native counterparts. Evaluating the abundance and identifying the areas where their populations are more likely to grow too large will better able scientists to approach the invasive species issue.

Modified poplars, Asian carp and a new invasive species: this week in environmental news

By Sally Zimmerman, MNA Intern

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplar trees. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Poplars modified for ethanol production still fight bugs (Great Lakes Echo): A recent University of Wisconsin study found that genetically modifying poplar trees to more easily produce ethanol had little to no effect on the tree’s susceptibility to insects. The trees were modified in two ways, making the production of ethanol easier. These findings may bring genetically modified poplar trees closer to commercial use for a biofuel made from the cellulose in plant cell walls.

Asian carp DNA detected in Lake Michigan sample (ABC News): Sturgeon Bay in Wisconsin has tested positive for the invasive Asian carp, which is the second water sample to test positive for the invasive species in recent years. The Asian carp was accidentally introduced into the Mississippi River and has made its way north. Scientists fear the Asian carp could out-compete native species in the Great Lakes and damage the $7 billion fishing industry. Scientists say it is unknown whether the sample came from a live fish or not, so the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will take more samples.

New invasive species battle brewing in northern Michigan (Up North Live): The Department of Natural Resources has turned their attention to a new aquatic invasive plant called the European frog-bit. This species has been detected in Saginaw Bay, Alpena and Munuscong Bay in Chippewa County. Frog-bit shades out submerged native plants, which reduces plant biodiversity, disrupts natural water flow and may adversely affect fish and wildlife habitat. Control measures are underway, including removing 1,500 pounds of the free-floating plant.

Crying wolf: Michigan’s first hunt heavily influenced by outside interests; follow the money (MLive): The Humane Society of the United States has donated more than $300,000 in an effort to end the Michigan wolf hunt. More than $600,000 was donated in total. Jill Fritz, the director of the Keep Michigan Wolves Protected campaign said the newest petition drive is all volunteers. Other opponents to the hunt include native tribes, the Doris Day Animal League and individual contributors from outside the state. Many of these people provided statements to Michigan lawmakers.

Tsunami debris ‘island’ isn’t Texas-sized, but it is headed toward the U.S. (Mother Nature Network): About 1.5 million tons of debris from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 is drifting across the Pacific Ocean toward the United States. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration cannot accurately predict when the debris will arrive on U.S. shores. Debris has been washing up along the shores of Oregon, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska. The docks that washed ashore in Washington and Oregon contained large amounts of marine life that had to be decontaminated to prevent invasive species from entering the U.S. coast.

Asian carp, algae blooms and the Kirtland’s warbler: this week in environmental news

Every Friday, MNA shares recent environmental news stories from around the state and country. Here’s some of what happened this week in environmental and nature news:

The Kirtland's warbler. Photo by Cindy Mead.

The Kirtland’s warbler. Photo by Cindy Mead.

Asian carp spawning moves closer to Lake Michigan (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel): New evidence shows that spawning Asian carp have been found nearly 100 miles upstream from their previous spawning sites, putting them closer to Lake Michigan. Last month, President Obama introduced efforts to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp, including upgrading electronic barriers.

Huron Pines receives grant to help fund Kirtland warbler efforts (Alpena News): Huron Pines has received a $171,000 grant to continue its work building a support network for the Kirtland’s warbler. The organization will use the funds to continue to build relationships between federal, state, regional and private partners to support the bird when it’s removed from the Endangered Species List.

Lake Erie algae bloom intensifying (ABC 13): A new report shows that the algae bloom in Lake Erie is intensifying. At Ohio’s Maumee Bay State Park, a health advisory posted at the beach indicates there are unsafe levels of bacteria in the water. This bloom is not as large as Lake Erie’s 2011 bloom, but it is larger than last year.

Speed limits affect birds’ behavior (Conservation Magazine): A new study shows that European birds fly away from cars sooner on roads with higher speed limits. The study, conducted on roads in France, observed 134 flights by birds from 21 species, mainly carrion crows, house sparrows, and common blackbirds. It was noted that the actual speed of the vehicle did not affect the birds’ flights.

Catch a close view of some iconic fish (Up North Live): On Friday, August 30, the Black River sturgeon hatchery will be offering public tours from 9 a.m. to noon. During the tours, researchers from the DNR and Michigan State University will discuss lake sturgeon biology, reproductive ecology, and research. The hatchery is located in Cheboygan County on the Upper Black River. Tours are free of charge.