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The area around Marathon's Detroit refinery will see increased sulfur dioxide air pollution from the plant whether a new air pollution permit is approved or not.
Of the 22 additional tons of sulfur dioxide the Marathon Detroit refinery plans to add to the area's air each year, 16.5 tons are already allowed under its existing permit, and require no additional approval or review, a state Department of Environmental Quality official said.
Marathon officials, however, say they have other projects in the works — including some mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — that will, over the next few years, result in a net reduction of sulfur dioxide pollution from the refinery.
For the full article, see Keith Matheny, "DEQ: Marathon refinery already allowed to hike pollution", Detroit Free Press, February 7, 2016.
You hear an unpleasant thud; unsettled and surprised you investigate. The culprit is a bird, dead on arrival.
Like a scene out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, birds are crashing into windows at alarming rates.
Cities are dangerous for migrating birds. Image: Fatal Light Awareness Program
Between 365 million and 988 million birds die annually from window collisions in the U. S. and Canada, according to a recent study.
You may say, “Birds crash into windows, who gives a cluck?” Actually, quite a few people do.
For example, the Kalamazoo Nature Center built a preschool with windows that are easier for birds to see.
“The preschool was built at the edge of the woods and we were concerned about bird strikes,” said Sarah Reding, the center’s vice president of conservation stewardship. “The windows seem to be working really well for us.”
Preschoolers watching birds die on impact is a disturbing thought. Like the bird-safe glass, a new bill may save the birds and the preschoolers some trauma.
A member of Congress from Illinois has proposed a bill to bird-proof the windows of federal buildings.
“Birds have intrinsic, cultural, and ecological value to humanity,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, who introduced the Federal Bird-Safe Buildings Act last May. “Migratory birds are not only beautiful creatures eagerly welcomed into millions of Americans’ backyards every year, they help generate billions of dollars annually to the U.S. economy through wildlife watching activities.”
Birding is a $107 billion industry that raises $13 billion in local, state and federal tax revenue, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Great Lakes cities, such as Detroit, Chicago and Toronto, are beneath the flyways of birds that migrate between the north and the south, according to the Audubon Society. When tired birds hit the city for the night, tall buildings covered in glass windows morph into a sinister house of mirrors.
Toronto residents have advocated for ordinances geared to prevent bird and building collisions with the Fatal Light Awareness Program since the mid-2000s. They require that windows have decals or bird-safe glass, said Michael Mesure, founder of the Fatal Light Awareness Program and co-author of the new study from the University of Toronto.
In 1989, Mesure didn’t believe that bird window collisions were a leading cause of migratory bird death.
He changed his mind when he “saw bird after bird lying dead on the street” during a night walk in Toronto. He started collecting dead birds and recording information on buildings with high body counts. This became the model for 40 citizen science projects across North America that collect and count the avian victims of building strikes.
But even with a pocket full of dead birds, Mesure struggled to get building managers interested in the problem.
“People don’t like change, they have priorities that don’t include saving birds,” he said.
That changed when one of Canada’s largest commercial property owners faced charges for bird deaths in 2010. The company’s Yonge Corporate Center had killed hundreds of migrating birds, due to its highly reflective window surface.
“Experts were able to prove that the reflection of light coming off the building was technically radiation that was killing birds,” Mesure said. “The radiation could be considered a contaminant and the companies could be charged.”
The company was acquitted because the court said it was taking steps to prevent future bird strikes, such as using window decals.
The judge’s ruling means that the Ontario Ministry of Environment must determine a plan for buildings that are incurring high death rates for migrating birds, EcoJustice lawyer Aaron Koehl said.
Anti-bird strike ordinances have created a new demand for bird-safe technology, Mesure said.
The Kalamazoo Nature Center knew that decals and fish wire could keep birds away, Reding said. But the group wanted the outside forest to be seen from inside the building.
Birds can see ultra-violet light. Some spiders incorporate UV reflective strands of silk in their webs to make them visible to birds.
Bird-safe glass has an ultraviolet pattern within the glass that is invisible to the human eye, but gives birds a heads up.
The bird-safe glass “breaks up the forest for the birds, so they are less likely to fly into the windows, thinking it is forest,” Reding said. “But it’s also great because we can still use our windows for seeing outside”.
Fatal Light Awareness Program: http://www.flap.org/
“Window Collisions by Migratory Bird Species: Urban Geographical Patterns and Habitat Associations”: http://www.flap.org/pdfs/Window%20Collisions%20by%20Migratory%20Bird%20Species%202015.pdf
Source : Kayla Smith, "Bird-safe glass helps birdbrains avoid windows", Capital News Service, February 5, 2016.
A new study by researchers based in Ann Arbor suggests that Asian carp would disrupt the food web and decimate native species like walleye if they invade Lake Erie.
And that could blunt the economic impact anglers have on nearby communities.
A second study by a Michigan State University economics researcher will compare the study’s predicted changes in fish population and the number of fishing trips taken in the region.
Invasive silver and bighead carp are already abundant in nearby Great Lakes watersheds . They devour microscopic plants called phytoplankton and animals called zooplankton, the first food of popular fish like walleye and Chinook salmon.
By out-eating native fish, they comprise 80 to 90 percent of the total fish weight in parts of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, said study author and food web modeler Hongyan Zhang, research scientist at the University of Michigan.
So far a $300 million federal effort has blocked silver and bighead carp from Lake Erie. But invasion is “still a big concern because one-third of Lake Erie’s total biomass would be Asian carp,” Zhang said.
The study measures the potential impacts of silver and bighead carp invasion by using almost 500 computer simulations.
The model relies on existing predator-prey relationships across the Lake Erie basin and incorporates carp data from already-invaded areas.
Eleven experts on Asian carp biology and Great Lakes fish ecology provided information to develop a reliable range of potential consequences, Zhang said.
Researchers evaluated “what would happen if carp got into Lake Erie, how big their population would grow, what they would eat and what fishes would eat them,” said fisheries biologist and co-author Ed Rutherford.
Lake Erie is the shallowest and warmest of the Great Lakes. It’s also the most productive, meaning a constant influx of nutrients like phosphorous promote plankton growth – and harmful algal blooms.
Asian carp would likely be more abundant in Lake Erie than any other Great Lake if they enter the system, said Rutherford, who works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor.
Even during a massive algal bloom, silver carp would thrive, targeting and feeding on surface water algae but not suppressing it, he said.
That’s not good.
Silver and bighead carp would wreak havoc on the current ecosystem, he said.
Invasive carp could reach 34 percent of the total fish weight. That’s twice as much as gizzard shad, the most common plankton-eating fish in the lake today.
Shad and other fish that eat zooplankton and algae would sharply decline as carp eat much of their food. ¬And the impact cascades. These fish, including alewife and shiner, are important food for gamefish like walleye and perch.
The model suggests carp could force more than a 10-percent decline in walleye and as much as a 15-percent decline in burbot and rainbow trout.
But other native fish could benefit from a carp invasion, researchers found.
Young Asian carp could provide more food for fish-eating fish like smallmouth bass, which could see its population increase by as much as 15 percent, the study reports.
Even more surprising is the predicted effect of carp on yellow perch, Rutherford said.
“Yellow perch eat plankton when they’re young and start eating fish after age 3. So, they’d likely be affected negatively early in life and positively later in life,” he said.
Not only would young Asian carp provide food for yellow perch, they would significantly reduce the white perch that eat them. After weighing all those factors, the model predicts a modest 5- percent increase in yellow perch.
While significant, the predicted changes in native fish populations are not as severe as in other places like the Illinois and Mississippi rivers.
“In Lake Erie, relative to the rivers, there are more predators that can feed on Asian carp, which may help keep the population size down a bit,” Rutherford said.
To further investigate potential Asian carp impacts on other food webs, researchers are developing models for lakes Michigan, Huron and Ontario, as well as models for Muskegon Lake and Green Bay.
Changes in fish abundance will also be translated into economic impacts.
Frank Lupi, a natural resources economist at Michigan State, said, “We know roughly how anglers respond to changes in the fish population.
“In scenarios where species abundance doesn’t change much, there likely won’t be a big impact to the fishery,” Lupi said. “But the economic impacts for this assessment will be driven primarily by changes in key game and commercial fish, like yellow perch and walleye.”
The economic assessment won’t consider carp’s effect on non-game fishing or coastal property aesthetics in Lake Erie.
The study appeared in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.
“Forecasting the Impacts of Silver and Bighead Carp on the Lake Erie Food Web” — http://www.tandfonline.com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/doi/full/10.1080/00028487.2015.1069211
Source : Kevin Duffy, "Asian carp would change fish species in Lake Erie", Capital News Service, February 5, 2016.
Some Michigan communities are calling on state officials to shut down an aging oil pipeline between the state’s Upper and Lower peninsulas, even though they lack jurisdiction in the matter.
Line 5 is a 63-year-old oil pipeline owned by Enbridge Inc., a private Canadian company, at the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet.
Line 5 now operates at more than 80 percent of its original design capacity. Environmentalists say they are afraid it will rupture.
A 2014 University of Michigan study called it the worst possible place to have an oil spill in the Great Lakes.
Michigan officials are looking at alternatives for moving the oil. A Traverse City-based environmental group says alternative routes exist that do not pass through the Great Lakes.
“The issue of Line 5 is one of the top environmental issues of the Great Lakes,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director at For Love of Water. “It is a painful reminder that we must prioritize to protect our water over any thing else.”
Kirkwood said she wonders why state officials are not acting immediately, and local communities increasingly send resolutions opposing the pipeline to the governor and state lawmakers. Among them:
• Cheyboygan County recommended Line 5 be restricted to non-oil products including liquid petroleum, gas and propane until a thorough review can be done.
• On Feb. 1, Traverse City passed a resolution to stop the transportation of oil under the Great Lakes and shut down Line 5.
“We feel the risk is too great,” said Benjamin Marentette, city clerk of Traverse City. He says he is concerned with how long state officials are taking to respond.
“Our area would be probably hit first if a catastrophic oil spill occurred,” said Juli Wallin, the Emmet County clerk. Emmet County also passed a resolution suggesting that the pipeline be restricted to its original design capacity and carry only non-oil products.
At least 15 townships and counties have voiced concerns to state officials about how detrimental Line 5 could be to the Great Lakes, according to the Michigan Environmental Council, a coalition of environmental groups.
“Communities sending resolutions is great,” said Andy McGlashen, communications director at Michigan Environmental Council.
“This is a good indication that people are really concerned. It’s not just the coastal communities you’d expect. Genesee County is landlocked and has sent a resolution,” McGlashen said.
“It’s up to leaders at the state level to ultimately decide the fate of the Line 5 pipeline, but we think these local resolutions are an important way to influence that decision by showing that people all over Michigan are concerned about the pipeline and committed to protecting the Great Lakes,” he said.
For the full article, see Jasmine Watts, "Opposition to pipeline spreading across state", Capital News Service, February 5, 2016.
A proposal to farm fish in Michigan’s Great Lakes may violate the rights of some Native American tribes in the state, according to representatives from several of Michigan’s five Native American tribes.
This new method, called net pen aquaculture, raises fish in enclosed areas within the Great Lakes. Separate bills promoting and banning commercial net pen aquaculture were recently debated in the House committees on natural resources and agriculture,
Opponents of commercial net pen aquaculture in the Great Lakes say the method threatens the lakes’ water quality and fish by creating new opportunities for the spread of disease and invasive species.
“There is no question that net pen aquaculture will cause water quality degradation that could result in an adverse impact on the citizens relying on the fish that live in the water for jobs and food,” said Kathryn Tierney, tribal attorney for the Bay Mills Indian Community.
Proponents say they believe the fish farming method will create jobs while posing minimal threat to the lakes’ water quality and fish.
They include Jim Diana, a University of Michigan professor of fisheries and wildlife who served on a state advisory panel that explored the issue’s potential upsides and hazards.
“We had a disease specialist on our panel, and he didn’t think a well-managed aquaculture farm was a threat. There are some instances where disease has been an issue. It is possible. However our methods have improved substantially for preventing this,” Diana said.
Diana pointed to net pens already operated by the state.
“The biggest net pen system in the Great Lakes now is operated by the (Department of Natural Resources) to catch and rear chinook salmon. I don’t know how you can ban private industry net pen systems but not state ones.”
However some in the tribes argue these state operated net pens are different from the proposed commercial ones.
“They are basically in lieu of a chinook salmon hatchery. The fish are in the pen for a much shorter time frame and the state pens operate on a much smaller scale than the proposed commercial net pens. There is no comparison. It must just be a claim by the aquaculture industry. We are talking apples and bananas difference,” said Tom Gorenflo, director of the Inter-tribal Fisheries and Assessment Program.
The tribes are in a greater position to affect the potential introduction of commercial net pen aquaculture in areas falling under their jurisdiction under the 1836 Treaty of Washington, according to some Native American officials. This treaty grants Michigan tribes occupancy and access rights to the Great Lakes and their neighboring lands.
The rights granted by the treaty were further specified in a 2000 consent agreement among the state, the federal government and Michigan’s five Native American tribes.
“The privilege of occupancy means basically we live here, but what it does not mean is that we don’t evolve. It’s not that we have to live here as we lived 200 years ago. In order for us to continue to exist as we do the environment cannot be degraded. This would infringe on our rights,” Martin Reinhardt, Northern Michigan University Native American studies associate professor, said.
However some tribal representatives urge caution when it comes to viewing net pen aquaculture as a threat to the rights outlined in the treaty and consent agreement.
“We are talking about the abstract since no decision has been made if net pen aquaculture violates tribal rights,” Tierney said. “These are possibilities, not likelihoods, since the language of the legislation has yet to be solidified and passed into law.”
Gorenflo agreed with Tierney’s assessment.
“My feeling is that for the tribes right now, it’s a time to sit back and see what happens. The whole process is in more of an exploratory stage right now and we are really reviewing the information presented to us as we receive it and decisions are made,” Gorenflo said.
However Gorenflo expressed anxiety about the impact the potential expansion would have on the tribes.
“The tribal fishing industry has just been pounded by invasive species and other outside forces. It feels like just sitting back helplessly,” Gorenflo said. “It’s just more of the same, more damage to the lakes. I’d characterize this as a high-risk venture more than anything.”
The loss of fishing opportunities has a negative impact on overall tribal welfare, according to Gorenflo.
“We have five tribes, the state government and the federal government, and the pie has just gotten smaller. It puts greater stress on these previous agreements and promotes political instability within the tribes,” Gorenflo said.
Source : Joshua Bender, "Some Native American tribes in Michigan battle fish farming proposal", Capital News Service, February 5, 2016.
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