Great Lakes

2015 IGEN Sustainability Conference

Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN)
Thursday, January 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM - Friday, January 30, 2015 at 4:00 PM (CST)
Normal, IL
Register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2015-igen-sustainability-conference-tickets-14420643533

The Illinois Green Economy Network (IGEN) is hosting a statewide conference on January 29 – 30, 2015 at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL. The purpose of the two-day conference is for representatives from Illinois community colleges and communities to come together and exchange successes and lessons learned to advance sustainability across the state.

We have secured a block of rooms at the Bloomington-Normal Marriott Hotel & Conference Center for Thursday, January 29, located at 201 Broadway Street in Normal. The room rate is $70/night. Please reference the Illinois Green Economy Network to receive the reduced rate. Please make your reservation by Wednesday, January 7.

Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

Please contact igen.administrative.team@igencc.org with any questions.

NOTE: If you are interested in being a sponsor for the conference, please notify us at igen.administrative.team@igencc.org.

 

RFP: Great Lakes Water Levels

The Integrated Assessment Center and Water Center at the Graham Sustainability Institute are proposing an Integrated Assessment on Great Lakes Water Levels.  The purpose of the assessment is to develop information, tools, and partnerships to help decision makers address the challenges and opportunities posed by water level variability. With a focus on Lakes Michigan-Huron and Erie, including the Lake Huron to Lake Erie corridor, the assessment will identify and evaluate environmentally, politically, socially, and economically feasible adaptive actions and policy options.

Refer to the Water Levels IA plan for background information and additional details about the project and approach.

Planning Grant Request for Proposals

To support this work, the Graham Institute will fund up to ten planning grants at a level up to $10,000 each. The planning grant work should focus on the feasibility of conducting an interdisciplinary, place-based analysis of options to respond to water level variability that will contribute to the IA. Planning grants will last for six months and run concurrently between March and August 2015. The schedule is as follows:

  • RFP Release: December 1, 2015
  • Informational Webinar: December 17, 2015
  • Deadline for Letters of Intent: January 6, 2015
  • Deadline for Planning Grant Proposals: February 2, 2015
  • Announcement of Awards: March 2, 2015

For complete details, review the Request for Proposals.

A webinar to explain the purpose of this initiative as well as to answer questions regarding the RFP will be held on Wednesday, December 17, 2014 from 1 to 2 p.m. EST. Click on the Webinar Registration button to register.

For more information, please contact John Callewaert, IA Center Director at (734) 615-3752 or jcallew@umich.edu.

[Via the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute]

Climate Change Could Affect Future of Lake Michigan Basin

Climate change could lengthen the growing season, make soil drier and decrease winter snowpack in the Lake Michigan Basin by the turn of the century, among other hydrological effects.

A new U.S. Geological Survey precipitation and runoff model shows that by 2100, maximum daily temperature in the Lake Michigan Basin could increase by as much as seven degrees Fahrenheit, and the minimum daily temperature by as much as eight degrees. A new USGS report published today summarizes the potential hydrological effects of these increases on the basin through 2099. The tools can aid restoration efforts in the basin.

“Warming climate in the Lake Michigan Basin could affect agriculture and crops, recreation, flood and drought risks and ecological processes like fish spawning,” said Daniel Christiansen, a USGS scientist and the lead author of the study. “Our model can help guide water management and restoration decisions related to climate change for the basin.”

Air temperature increases in the Lake Michigan Basin, which includes western and northern Michigan, eastern Wisconsin, northern Indiana and northeastern Illinois, could have numerous effects on water, including:

  • Longer growing seasons in the basin would increase evapotranspiration, or the process by which water is transferred from the land to the atmosphere by evaporation from the soil and other surfaces, and by transpiration from plants. This increasing loss of water could make the soil drier, affecting, for example, aquatic ecosystems of wetlands.
  • Annual monthly streamflow in the northern regions of the basin, including northern Michigan and northeastern Wisconsin, may become higher in the winter and lower in the spring, especially during April. Warmer winters in the basin could result in increased winter snowmelt and less accumulated snowpack, causing more winter flooding and drier springs.
  • In general, most of the study sites may experience increases in annual streamflow.
  • The effects of climate change may likely be more extreme in the northern regions of the basin.

The models used in the study were based on streamflow, evapotranspiration and sun energy data from 148 USGS streamgages and 157 NOAA-National Weather Service climate stations throughout the Lake Michigan Basin from 1977 through 2099.

The USGS Iowa Water Science Center and USGS Wisconsin Water Science Center conducted this study as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

MPCA and Freshwater Future collaborate to spread the word about reducing PAH contamination from coal tar sealcoat

This post originally appeared on the GLRPPR Blog and was co-authored by Al Innes of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Cheryl Kallio of Freshwater Future. 

Freshwater Future, a non-profit based in west Michigan, has been “spreading” the word about reducing PAH contamination from coal tar sealcoat across the Great Lakes.  The hundreds of citizens and community-based organizations in Freshwater Future’s network learned about coal tar PAH issues over the summer, and now universities, contractors, and local governments are making commitments to move from coal tar to safer alternatives.

PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) are chemicals which can cause cancer in humans and be toxic to aquatic life, and new studies are connecting them to developmental disabilities in children.  Vehicle emissions and wood smoke are other sources of PAH pollution, but coal tar sealcoat, which is around 5% PAHs by weight, is a readily-reduced source.  Applied properly, the asphalt-based sealcoats available today are equivalent in performance and cost to coal tar, at 1/1000th the amount of PAHs.  Zero-PAH alternatives are available, as well.

In response to Freshwater Future’s outreach to date, 14 Michigan cities and townships have passed resolutions not to use coal tar on city property or to encourage residents to do the same. Their location along the Great Lakes and in the watershed is important, since studies conducted in Toronto and elsewhere show coal tar PAHs being carried to lakeshore sediments by runoff from paved surfaces.

Many of the contractors committing not to apply coal tar are located near the western Michigan cities taking action, so Freshwater Future and partners can help connect property owners in those areas to the committed contractors to help grow the market for safer alternatives.

In addition, two universities in Ontario, two in Michigan, and two in Illinois have pledged not to use coal tar on their paved surfaces.  The University of Michigan had previously ended its use.

Since the project began, over 8,000 individuals and organizations have been educated, 52 property owners and providers have voluntarily taken action, and pledged contractors interviewed have eliminated 93,500 gallons of coal tar sealcoat over 2 application seasons.  The midpoint estimate of the resulting PAH reductions is 39 tons.  Partners will gather voluntary reduction data for 2014 in November and December and submit final reports to the project’s funder, EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The wave of local bans and supplier/contractor commitments in Minnesota led to a statewide ban which took effect in 2014.

The Great Lakes protection and pollution prevention networks can continue coal tar PAH reduction by educating their contacts and clientele: businesses, shopping centers, schools, universities, places of worship, local governments, homeowner associations, citizens – really, anyone owning or maintaining asphalt pavement.  Information and tools for this outreach are available through the Freshwater Future web site, at http://freshwaterfuture.org/ourissues/coal-tar-sealants/.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) will continue to accept reduction commitments from contractors, suppliers, universities, and other property owners in Great Lakes states (except in Minnesota where the statewide ban is in place) and Ontario.  MPCA staff will post these commitments and government actions in the Basin at http://www.pca.state.mn.us/uu4yx6y.  MPCA and partners encourage prevention and protection professionals to actively promote sign-ups by providers, and their hiring by pavement owners.

A compilation of project deliverables to date and links to information about the health and environmental issues associated with PAH pollution are available at https://storify.com/lbarnes/pah-pollution-from-coal-tar-sealants.

U.S. Geological Survey Publishes Study on Current and Potential Climate Changed Hydrologic Conditions in the Lake Michigan Basin

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the largest public investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. A task force of 11 Federal agencies developed an action plan to implement the Initiative. The U.S. Department of the Interior was one of the 11 agencies that entered into an interagency agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Initiative to complete scientific projects throughout the Great Lakes basin. The U.S. Geological Survey, a bureau within the Department of the Interior, is involved in the Initiative to provide scientific support to management decisions as well as measure progress of the Great Lakes basin restoration efforts.

This report presents basin-scale simulated current and forecasted climatic and hydrologic conditions in the Lake Michigan Basin. The forecasts were obtained by constructing and calibrating a Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System model of the Lake Michigan Basin. To learn more and access the report, visit: http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2014/5175/.

New website is rich in Great Lakes data

Environmental data from across the Great Lakes region is now just a click away with a new web application created by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA). Great Lakes Monitoring makes it easy to view and analyze decades of nutrient, contaminant, and water characteristic data collected by universities and government agencies, including the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.

“Access to high-quality, continuous data has historically been a major hurdle to Great Lakes research,” said Brian Miller, director of IISG. “What used to take months to find and retrieve now takes minutes.”

The first stop for users is an interactive map that provides a quick glance at monitoring locations and the parameters measured at each site. From the Explore Trends view, users can also see basin-wide patterns for environmental characteristics like phosphorus, chlorophyll a, nitrogen, and mercury.

Researchers can delve deeper by examining the detailed data profile for each monitoring site or comparing results across multiple sites. Menus and slider bars at the top of each page make it possible to quickly hone in on specific parameters, monitoring seasons, and years.

“We designed these data views with different users in mind,” said Paris Collingsworth, IISG’s Great Lakes ecosystem specialist. “A higher-level manager may find the basin-scale views of the Explore Trends interesting, whereas a researcher may want more specific time-series information about a particular parameter at specific location.”

The cutting-edge tool also allows researchers to create and download their own data sets for the locations, sources, environmental characteristics, and dates that most interest them. And a variety of available file types make offline use easy.

In addition to improving data access, Great Lakes Monitoring also makes it easier for researchers, universities, and agencies to share data with the public.

“The tool was designed to be as flexible as possible. It wasn’t built for specific sources or data types,” said Luigi Marini, senior research programmer at NCSA, during a presentation of the tool. “All we need is access to an organization’s server to include their data in the tool.”

“We are always looking for more data,” added Collingsworth.

Great Lakes Monitoring was developed in collaboration with Barbara Minsker and her lab at the University of Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Funding for the project comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Illinois Coastal Management Program Grants

The Illinois Coastal Management Program is accepting applications for Illinois Coastal Grants for environmental education and outreach projects and sustainable coastal planning projects. New for this year will be proposals for habitat restoration projects and small grants. Application materials are available at the Illinois Coastal Grant Program Website at http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/cmp/Pages/grants.aspx. Applications will be accepted through 5:00 p.m. on Monday, December 15, 2014. All potential applicants are invited to sign up for a one-on-one consultation about your project idea. Email Lisa Cotner at lisa.cottner@illinois.gov for more information.