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community weblog - [ Environment ]

More algae, more problems

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The mild winter could mean a spring and summer where algae blooms are a bigger problem than usual in Lake Ontario and other local waterways.

Last week, Color Brighton Green held a presentation on local water quality issues. Charles Knauf, the department's chief water quality analyst, told the crowd that algae tends to be worse in years when there are no big winter storms to disrupt algae growth.

"I got called out on two algae blooms already, and it's not even April," he said. Both involved inland water bodies.  more...



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Lake Erie: can toxic algae blooms be limited?

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PORT CLINTON -- Toxic blue-green algae was so thick in some spots last year that Jerry Abele's boat slowed down at times when he was crossing Lake Erie.

Anglers had trouble catching fish through the masses of algae, said Abele, who owns Head Hunter Charters in Danbury Township. 2011 was the worst year on record for the toxic algae, and blooms stretched into the Central Basin, farther than ever found before.

Phosphorus running into the lake's tributaries is the culprit, and scientists have identified agriculture as the main source. Other sources include combined sewer overflows of untreated sewage dumping into the lake and its tributaries during big storms.  more...



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Stop trying to control Great Lakes levels, panel says

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Dams and gates near the International Bridge control water flows from Lake Superior through the St. Marys River toward Lake Huron. Trying to control water levels would be expensive and damage the environment, a study said.A

U.S.-Canadian advisory panel ended a five-year study Wednesday with a recommendation against large-scale engineering projects to prevent swings in Great Lakes water levels, saying people across the region should adapt to nature's ups and downs.

The $14.6-million investigation concluded that trying to control levels by placing more structures at choke points such as the St. Clair River at the south end of Lake Huron would be too expensive and damage the environment.  more...



Environment  Other  

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Scientists play down price tag on invasive species in Great Lakes

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A new U.S. report says foreign species carried into the Great Lakes by ships are causing tens of millions of dollars in damage to the ecosystem.

However, Canadian experts are questioning the figures, saying you cannot easily put a price on damages caused by invasive species. While they say the problem is real, the lakes are in no danger of dying anytime soon.

The report states that an average of $138 million in annual damages are made to the Great Lakes from ship-borne invaders, but that the figure could reach more than $800 million a year. These foreign species are said to originate from the ballast of ships — water that is taken aboard vessels to stabilize the load. more...



Environment  Other  

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With gobies on the menu, snake species rebounds

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Masters student Jenny Smith holds a male gobie at the University of Windsor Biology Building on Tuesday, March 20, 2012. The university is conducting research into scent male gobies use to attract females. The researchers are hoping to recreate the scent allowing them to trap the females.

Gobies, a despised invasive fish, are helping the endangered Lake Erie water snake make a comeback - by being dinner.

"I think it's kind of ironic," Ronald Brooks, of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, said Wednesday.

"Invasive species are considered to be a major threat to native species diversity but in this case it worked the opposite way."

Last year the snake, which is found only on a bunch of Lake Erie islands, including Pelee Island, and in Ohio, was removed from the U.S. endangered species list. It had been listed as threatened.

In Canada, COSEWIC reviews the status of species every 10 years and the last look at the endangered snake was in 2006.  more...



Environment  Other  

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Great Lakes residents clash over water levels

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Brian Ramler longs for the days when his marina on Lake Huron's Georgian Bay could handle 50 boats -- before water levels began dropping steadily more than a decade ago. He can accommodate fewer than half as many now and wants the government to help bring the water back.

Forget it, says Philip Lunsford, who lives on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. He recalls beach homes being washed away by high water during the mid-1980s and fears it could happen again if authorities boost the level of Lake Huron, which is connected to Lake Michigan by a 5-mile-wide straits area.

"It would be a disastrous situation," Lunsford said. "They need to keep their hands off."  more...



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Summer in March: more all-time March temperature records in U.S., Canada

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Summer in March continued for the eighth day yesterday, toppling dozens of records for hottest March day in both the U.S. and Canada. Nearly every major airport in Michigan's Lower Peninsula tied or set records for their hottest March temperature, including Detroit (82°), Flint (84°F), Saginaw (83°F), Grand Rapids (83°), Muskegon (82°), Lansing (83°), Alpena (84°), Gaylord (80°), Pellston (84°), Traverse City (86°), and Houghton Lake (81°).  more...


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Low water levels threaten fish migration

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A conservation group has worries about low water levels in rivers flowing into Lake Superior this spring.

Tom Whalley, president of the North Shore Steelhead Association, said the Ministry of Natural Resources has told him precipitation levels are just over half what they should have been the last 12 months.

Whalley said that could affect fish trying to swim upstream.

"So when they can't migrate into the headwater streams, that means they can't spawn in the headwaters,” Whalley said. “[That] means, in subsequent years, there's less productivity or fewer young fish are produced to replace them."  more...



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Living Near Palisades

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This is the Environment Report. I’m Rebecca Williams.

This year, federal regulators will keep a close eye on the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant. The plant had three safety violations last year. That makes it one of only four nuclear plants in the nation with such a bad safety rating.

Lindsey Smith reports people who live by the plant near South Haven are still trying to figure out what the safety violations mean to them:

About 700 people work at Palisades every day. It’s one of the largest employers in Van Buren County. The plant is the county's largest taxpayer too, with money going to a number of public schools, libraries, a hospital and local governments.  more...



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Stop all the trickery toward stopping assault of Asian carp

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A clear and present danger looms larger by the day in the Great Lakes region that threatens the economic and environmental livelihood of 35 million residents.

To many in our region, that danger remains invisible. To all in our region, that danger poses significant risks that must be tackled pronto.

That danger is the deadly Asian carp, a breed of fish that can grow as large as 4 feet long and can weigh as much as 100 pounds. These underwater enemies eat like hogs, breed like bunnies and rip asunder any ecosystem in their path.

The Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative call the carp the greatest damaging invasive species that has entered the Great Lakes in the last century.  more...



Environment  Other  

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Chinese Fish for Meaning in U.S. Carp Rampage

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Sometimes, Chinese netizens pay more attention to a U.S. news story than Americans do. President Barack Obama’s Feb. 23 decision to allocate $51.5 million to eradicate an invasive species known as the Asian carp is a prime example.

Outside of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins, news of this carp-control strategy barely registered with the U.S. public. But on March 6, it hit China and, like a jazz trio riffing for an hour on just a few notes, microbloggers took to the minor news topic with gusto, using it to explore issues ranging from corrupt civil servants to U.S. sovereign debt. Soon it even had its own hash tag, roughly translated as #Asian Carp on an American Rampage#more...



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Minnesota DNR re-evaluates Lake Superior rainbow stocking

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Just as the sun rises over Lake Superior on Tuesday morning, a lone angler hooks a Kamloops rainbow trout just west of the French River. He plays the fish quickly and slides it onto the pebbled beach. Without ceremony, he extracts his hook and walks the fish over the cobblestones, away from the lake.

The fish is a 6- or 7-pound male, sleek of body, long of jaw, silver with a blush of rose down its flank. A gorgeous fish. In the soft peach light of dawn, the angler lays the fish behind a piece of driftwood and goes back to his fishing.   more...



Environment  Fishing  

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DNR, anglers discuss threats to fishing in Lake Michigan in 2012

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ZEELAND -- Fishermen attending the Spring Salmon Spectacular hosted by Lakeshore Outfitters of Saugatuck were more concerned about the status of their chinook salmon fishery in Lake Michigan than the imposing thought of Asian carp.

That's no surprise to Michigan Department of Natural Resources senior fisheries biologist Kregg Smith. He shares their concern for the salmon, but also has to keep his mind on the foe from the south.  more...



Environment  Fishing  

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Study seeks origins of carp DNA in Chicago waters

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Federal scientists are studying whether genetic material from Asian carp found in waterways near Chicago suggests the presence of live fish.

DNA from bighead and silver carp has turned up in dozens of water samples taken beyond an electric barrier that's supposed to prevent the invasive plankton eaters from reaching Lake Michigan.  more...



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Should Products have Carbon-Footprint Labels?

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I've seen a few articles recently about a push in Great Britain to have carbon-footprint labels on products. An organization called The Carbon Trust ("a not-for-profit company whose mission is to accelerate the move to a low-carbon economy") is behind the labeling, designed to help you see "at a glance which products are working to reduce their carbon footprints." Not only the amount of energy that went into producing the food or item, but the packaging and delivery are included.  more...


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