Great Lakes cleanup, the Keystone pipeline, and forest health: this week in environmental news

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

This Oct. 5, 2011 satellite photo from a NASA website shows algae blooms swirling on Lake Erie. (MLive file | NASA)

$50 million cut for Great Lakes cleanup in Obama 2016 budget riles healthy waters group (MLive): President Obama’s 2016 fiscal budget was released this week and those behind an effort to clean up the Great Lakes oppose a $50 million funding cut. The new budget drops funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from $300 million to $250 million. This will impact the GLRI’s initiatives to tackle invasive species, pollution, habitat degradation, and algal bloom-causing runoff. Since the GLRI launched in 2010, about $1.9 billion has been spent on 2,000 projects in the Great Lakes states.

Keystone pipeline: Obama given boost from EPA report revisiting climate impact (The Guardian): The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said this week that falling oil prices have changed the economic viability of the Keystone XL pipeline. In a letter to the State Department, the EPA said that the recent drop in oil prices meant that Keystone would promote further expansion of Alberta tar sands, which would increase greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 27.4 metric tons per year, nearly as much as building eight coal-fired power plants. President Obama has said he will take climate change into account when deciding on the project, and those opposed to the project say he now has enough information to reject it.

New website finds Great Lakes data in minutes (Great Lakes Echo): Environmental data on the Great Lakes region can now be easily accessed through the Great Lakes Monitoring website. The new site includes an interactive map with monitoring locations, and users can see trends in levels of things like phosphorous, chlorophyll a, nitrogen, and mercury.The website was created by the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. The groups hope to expand the website to include a myriad of EPA data.

DNR releases forest health update (Upper Michigan Source): The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released the 2014 Forest Health Highlights Report this week. The report provides an overview of the condition of Michigan’s forest, breaking own health threats, forest decline, and invasive plant control. You can view the report in its entirety on the MDNR website.

One more thing: MNA is hiring! We are looking for a Land Protection Specialist. Visit the MNA website for a job description and application information.

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Asian carp, rising water levels, and a pet deer: this week in environmental news

By Allison Raeck, 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:

Great Lakes event seeks more data on Asian carp (Journal and Courier): Asian carp and other invasive species were one of the main topics of discussion last Monday at the Conference on Great Lakes Research at Purdue University. Presenters emphasized the Asian carp’s negative impact on the Great Lakes and focused on better understanding the species. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also suggested a separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems as a possible solution to eliminate Asian carp.

Lake Superior level jumps 9 inches in May (The Daily News): Though Lake Superior usually only rises about four inches each May, its water level jumped nine inches last month. The rise is a result of cold spring temperatures and late snow, which held back runoff until melting. Lakes Michigan and Huron are also quickly rising from near record-setting low water levels last winter and these higher lake levels could have positive outcomes for both recreational boaters and the Great Lakes shipping industry.

Plastic bags harm Duluth streams, Lake Superior (Great Lakes Echo): Duluth city councilor Emily Larson has teamed up with the organization Bag It Duluth to decrease plastic bag use across Minnesota. Because they are unable to fully decompose, grocery store plastic bags often clog drainage pipes, causing backflows. Bag It Duluth hopes to combat this by spreading public awareness and encouraging shoppers to recycle or reuse bags. Though the project is still in its first stages of development, it has begun to generate community interest as both citizens and businesses are looking to get involved.

Belle Isle project improves fish habitat, opportunities for anglers (Detroit Free Press): The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has offered $2 million in grants to Belle Isle park in hopes of improving fish habitat in the area. The majority of this money supports the Blue Heron Lagoon, a 41-acre wetland on the east side of the island, in hopes of improving the fishing experience at the park. Workers are expanding fish spawning areas and planting both submerged and emerged plants to diversify the lagoon’s biosystem and promote a healthy community of wildlife.

ImageLake Erie’s Record Breaking Algae Bloom of 2011 May Be a Sign of Things to Come (Great Lakes Now): A recent study from the University of Michigan revealed what may have been the cause of the harmful algae bloom on Lake Erie that occurred in 2011. In October of that year, algae covered approximately 2,000 square miles of the lake, negatively impacting its water quality and biodiversity. By using computerized climate models, researchers found that high levels of spring precipitation combined with an abundance of dissolved phosphorus from no-till farming contributed to the bloom, and the team is looking into ways to avoid the issue in the future.

Pet Deer, Lilly, Sparks Legal Battle For Michigan Family (Huffington Post): A Genesee County couple is facing controversy over their pet deer, Lilly. The couple acquired Lilly when the deer’s mother was hit by a car five years ago, and they have kept her in their home ever since. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources recently notified the owners that the deer must be released into the wild, complying with laws regarding the use of wild animals as private property. The couple has hired a lawyer in an attempt to keep the deer.