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E-M:/ Office of the Great Lakes January 1999 Activity Report

Attached please find the January 1999 edition of the Office of the Great Lakes Activity Report.  If you have difficulty with accessing the attachment, the Activity Report can also be found at:

Title: file:///C:/MSOffice/Winword/jan99.txt
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Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network Announces Funding Decisions

Organizations in the Saginaw Bay Watershed have recently received $85,450 in grants through the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN). WIN is a volunteer organization that included more than 90 volunteers and focuses on opportunities to better link the environmental, economic and social well-being of Saginaw Bay communities in order to sustain and improve the region’s quality of life. Grantees include Bay County, the Midland Soil & Water Conservation District, Midland County Farm Bureau, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Bay County’s $23,250 grant will allow the County to work in partnership with townships, municipalities, developers, and farmers to apply a cutting edge land use analysis tool, called a build out analysis. The Midland Soil & Water Conservation District and Midland County Farm Bureau have received $12,700 to construct an "Earth Tunnel." The Earth Tunnel is a walk through display that informs people about conservation practices used to insure a healthier environment, demonstrates the usefulness of natural habitat in relationship to farming, and explains how food is grown. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be partnering with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. to restore habitat for shorebirds at Fish Point Wildlife Area and Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area. The DNR received a $10,000 grant, and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. will be contributing $5,00 to the project.

Twelve area foundations have come together to support WIN. These foundations are: Bay Area Community Foundation, Saginaw Community Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, The Johnson Foundation, Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation, The Dow Chemical Foundation, and the Stroaaker Foundation. The Foundations have contributed more than $450,000 to establish the WIN Sustainable Communities Initiative Fund.

More information about WIN is available on the WIN website at http://www.saginawbaywin.org , or by calling Jim Bredin at 517-335-4232.

Mercury: a Re-Emerging Issue in Detroit River Ecosystem

Examination of several studies on the Detroit River has confirmed what the Citizens’ Environment Alliance of SW Ontario and SE Michigan (CEA) has been saying for the last four years. Mercury levels in the Detroit River ecosystem are going up not down.

According to Dr. Russell Kreis, Director of the U.S. EPA Large Lakes Research Station on Grosse Ile, examination of two independent surface sediment studies, a sediment core study, a fish contaminant concentration study, and loading estimation studies indicates that mercury concentrations are increasing in the system. Concentrations of mercury were detected as high as 16 parts per million (ppm) in areas of the Trenton Channel where sediments naturally deposit. Levels of mercury greater than 0.2 ppm are known to be toxic to aquatic life.

The high levels of mercury recently found in the sediments of the Detroit River are a serious environmental problem and a major concern. The latest permit issued to the Detroit Waste Water Treatment Plant to discharge pollutants directly into the Detroit River allowed a two-fold increase (from 0.009 parts per billion to 0.018 ppb) in the amount of mercury being discharged.

Mercury is extremely toxic to aquatic life and humans. People who eat fish from the Great Lakes, including the Detroit River, are consuming methyl-mercury, the most toxic form of mercury. In Michigan and Ontario, both children and women of child-bearing age are advised not to eat most Great Lakes fish because the high level of mercury found in the fish will cause damage to the nervous system of young children and the unborn child in the mother’s womb.

To bring attention to the continued environmental degradation of the Detroit River and the failure of the state and provincial governments to address the transboundary environment in the Detroit-Windsor area, the CEA filed a request for an investigation with the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC) in 1994. As a direct result of the CEA’s request, the International Joint Commission, the treaty organization responsible for monitoring progress under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, conducted their first status assessment of Great Lakes Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) on the Detroit River. The IJC’s assessment of the Detroit River RAP was critical of government leadership in the RAP process and of the level of public participation. In 1996, public organization members walked out of the last binational RAP meeting to protest the process and the Detroit River RAP document written by MDEQ. A Citizen’s Guide to the Detroit River Status Assessment was written by CEA in 1997 to help people in the Detroit-Windsor area understand the background and the environmental issues.

For further information, contact Citizens' Environment Alliance of SW Ontario & SE Michigan, PO BOX 548, Windsor, ON, Canada, N9A 6M6; Ph. 519-973-1116; FX. 519-973-8360; E-Mail: cea@mnsi.net; E-Mail (GreenPlanet) riccawu@mnsi.net; Web page: http://www.mnsi.net/~cea

States Agree to Great Lakes Stocking Reduction

Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois have agreed to a 27 percent reduction in the number of chinook salmon stocked in Lake Michigan next year as part of a major effort to maintain a sustainable Great Lakes fishery.  Additionally, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) plans a 20 percent reduction in Lake Huron chinook stock this year.

In 1998, state agencies stocked 6 million chinook fingerlings in Lake Michigan.  This year, the agencies will stock 4.4 million -- a 1.6 million reduction.  The Michigan DNR stocked 3.6 million chinook fingerlings in Lake Huron in 1998, and that figure will be reduced to 2.9 million in 1999 -- a 700,000 reduction.

Fisheries biologists managing Lakes Michigan and Huron agree that the action is necessary because food supply is limited for existing trout and salmon populations, says Kelley Smith, Fisheries Division Chief for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The decline of the once-abundant alewives has raised concerns about a possible crash in the salmon fishery because of a lack of food.   Those concerns are coupled with the all-too-familiar threat of the return of bacterial kidney disease (BKD), which devastated the chinook fishery in the 1980s.

The Michigan DNR stocks the most Chinook in Lake Michigan and will experience the largest reduction.  Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin have previously reduced the number of chinook they stock in Lake Michigan, and the three combined will reduce chinook stocking by 400,000 in 1999. 

The Michigan DNR held a number of public meetings statewide the past nine months to gather input on the plan and support from sport anglers and others.  Smith says Michigan will continue to review and assess the stocking plan and continue to discuss future stocking policies with interested parties.

Fisheries in both Lakes Michigan and Lake Huron have evolved into highly complex biological systems over the 30-year period since coho and chinook salmon were first introduced into the Great Lakes Basin.  Research shows that during this period, and particularly during the past decade, the number of trout and salmon have increased significantly while the amount of food has declined proportionately.

These changes, along with an increase in other Lake Michigan and Lake Huron species, have resulted in an extremely competitive biological system.  Officials say these developments require a broader, ecological approach rather than the traditional single species management practices.

For further information, contact Dr. Kelley Smith at 517-373-1280.

IJC Celebrates 90 Years of Cnada - United States Cooperation

This month the International Joint Commission (IJC) celebrates 90 years of helping the United States and Canada to cooperatively address shared environmental concerns and look to the future with initiatives to help address the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

The Boundary Waters Treaty, signed on January 11, 1909, established the IJCto prevent and resolve diputes over the use of shared waters and to provide independent advice on other transboundary environmental issues.  The IJC has developed water quality objectives for, and monitored the restoration of the Great Lakes and other watersheds along the common boundary.  It also oversees the operation of several hydropower projects that affect water levels and flows across the boundary and alerts the two countries to transboundary air quality issues of concern.

More recently, both the American and Canadian federal governments have approved an IJC report entitled The IJC and the 21st Century and have asked the IJC to further examnie the international waterdshed approach as a mechanism to anticipate and respond to the range of water-related and other environmental challenges that are expected to occur as we enter the 21st century.

As competition for water resources intensifies around the globe, the Boundary Waters Treaty and the IJC provide a tested model of how two nations can peacefully share boundary waters in a mutually beneficial manner.

More information about the Boundary Waters Treaty and the IJC as well as the report The IJC and the 21st Century can be found on the IJC's web site at: www.ijc.org

U.S., Canadian Governments Directing IJC to Expand Role Into Major Watersheds

The U.S. and Canadian governments are directing the International Joint Commission (IJC) to begin expanding its purview beyond the Great Lakes into major watersheds. The IJC has overseen water-related issues in the Great Lakes region since the United States and Canada formed the commission through the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty. But in November 1997, the IJC proposed expanding its role. It recommended formation of binational boards for 10 major watersheds along the U.S.-Canadian border from Maine and New Brunswick to Alaska and the Yukon Territory.

Identical letters from the U.S. State Department and Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade instructed the IJC to spell out how the watershed boards would operate and the scope of their activities. The letters, dated November 19, asked the IJC to recommend which of the 10 watershed boards should be established first. They asked for cost projections and possible sources of funding for this first watershed board.

The governments also asked the commission to consult with states, provinces, and both federal governments to identify locations for, develop, plan, and establish additional watershed boards. The watersheds for which the IJC recommended boards, listed East to West, are:

The letters do not specify a schedule for action, but ask the commission to make periodic reports on progress to the two national governments.  (Source: Environment Reporter, BNA, 12/4/98)

Map of Michigan Vegetation Patterns, Circa 1800, Available

The Michigan Natural Features Inventory (MNFI) has produced a map set illustrating the patterns of Michigan’s vegetation as it existed in the early 19th century. It took more than six years of analysis and computerized mapping from the original General Land Office surveys, over 200 volumes of surveyors’ notes, each containing 200-300 pages depicting Michigan as it was just prior to European settlement.

As Michigan’s landscape is developed, land use planners and resource managers are often faced with questions on what is the most appropriate use of a particular site. Knowledge of past conditions assists professionals in restoration efforts and maintaining the integrity of natural systems.

According to MNFI’s Dennis Albert, the surveys began in 1816 in southeastern Michigan and were completed in the western Upper Peninsula in 1856. During those 40 years, the surveyors created grids, one mile on a side, over the entire state. As they mapped out the section lines, they kept detailed notes of the land’s topography, drainage, soils, and vegetation. At each section corner, they marked four "witness" trees and recorded their species and girth.

These notes, as well as other surveyor’s comments, were incorporated onto approximately 1200 topographic maps, a task lasting roughly four years. Geographic information specialists digitalized these maps. The 1200 maps were then joined into one finished map.

The State Archives of Michigan provided assistance to MNFI staff. State and federal agencies provided financial support, including the Office of the Great Lakes under the auspices of the Saginaw Bay National Watershed Initiative.

The surveyors’ notes provide a retrospective view of ecosystems that are now found only in remnant form. For instance, using these notes MNFI discovered a square mile remnant lakeplain prairie on Sibley Road in Brownstown Township in the vicinity of Detroit Metro Airport.

Remnants of forest types, such as white oak-white pine and wet forests of eastern hemlock-American beech, have been rediscovered by means of the information mined from the surveys.

The new map, Vegetation of Michigan, circa 1800, was unveiled at a reception in the Michigan Historical Museum on November 9, 1998. The paper map set is available to the public by contacting the Michigan Natural Features Inventory at 517-373-1552.


For further information on the activities of the Office of the Great Lakes, contact:

Office of the Great Lakes
Michigan Department Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 30473
Lansing, Michigan 48909-7973

Questions or Comments:

Contact Martha Waszak, (517) 335-4112 ; FAX: (517) 335-4053

e-mail address: waszakm@state.mi.us

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Revised January 25, 1999