This week: lake effect snow + a peek at the plan to clean up Lake Erie + Michigan considers dramatic changes to environmental law + funding opportunities.
Fun fact: in order for lake effect snow to form, cold air has to move over at least 62 miles of open water. Lake Erie is already almost 90% covered by ice, but those of us living on or around the other Great Lakes will have to wait awhile for enough ice coverage to shut down lake effect snow.
A PEEK AT THE PLAN TO CLEAN UP LAKE ERIE
Speaking of Lake Erie, the governments of Ontario and Canada have just about finalized their Action Plan for cleaning up our shallowest Great Lake. The final version will be released next month, but our staff got a peek at the draft and we’ve had a chance to evaluate it.
The good news is the plan includes a number of our recommendations, including increased transparency and more money for research and monitoring.
Unfortunately, the plan doesn’t rise to the urgency of the challenges we’re working to address. It relies on programs that ask farmers to voluntarily reduce the runoff pollution that fuels toxic algal blooms. Voluntary measures simply won’t reduce pollution enough for the lake to recover. We need an innovative approach that combines new legislation, enforcement, and education.
In the year ahead, Freshwater Future Canada will continue advocating for the health and safety of Ontario families and do everything we can to push the government to develop smart programs and incentives to protect Lake Erie. Read more on our blog.
MICHIGAN BILLS COULD DRAMATICALLY ALTER ENVIRONMENTAL LAW
The Michigan legislature is considering two sets of bills that would undermine existing environmental protections and dramatically change how Michigan’s environmental laws are implemented. If passed, these bills could impact all environmental law in Michigan, for years to come.
Learn more about the bills—and what our sister organization Freshwater Future is doing to stop them—on the Freshwater Future blog.
FUNDING FOR GREAT LAKES RESTORATION WORK
Sustain Our Great Lakes is soliciting applications for funding to restore and enhance habitat in the Great Lakes basin. The organisation will host a webinar on January 16, 2018 at 11 AM Eastern Time/10 AM Central Time to share more information about funding priorities and the application process. Interested? Register here.
FRESHWATER FUTURE WELCOMES NEW STAFF
Our sister organisation welcomed three new staff members late in 2017. Meet Latia, Megan, and Mitch on the blog and learn about how they’re helping Freshwater Future protect the Great Lakes.
The governments of Canada and Ontario have just about finalized their Action Plan for Lake Erie—something Freshwater Future Canada has said for years is needed to restore the health of Lake Erie and address toxic algal blooms.
Is it exactly what we think is needed? No. But let’s start with the good.
The new plan, which will be finalized next month, does three smart and very important things:
Now, what it doesn’t do.
The plan doesn’t rise to the urgency of the agricultural challenges we are trying to address. The plan relies on programs that ask farmers to voluntarily reduce pollution. This will definitely not be enough to reduce pollution to a point that lets the lake recover. Instead, we need a smart approach that combines new legislation, enforcement, and education.
Ontarians are already suffering from beach closures and drinking water shutoffs caused by algal blooms. We know that we need agriculture to change its practices, but there are essentially no incentives in this plan to help farmers make this transition on their lands.
Another shortcoming is the plan’s weak approach to protecting wetlands. We know that protecting existing wetlands is a cost-effective way of capturing polluted runoff before it gets into the lake, and yet the plan doesn’t commit to halting wetland loss until 2025.
Freshwater Future Canada worked hard to get us this far. For the first time, we nearly have a series of plans that bring Canada and the US together to take responsibility for the pollution that runs off the land into Lake Erie—a lake that supplies drinking water to over 11 million people.
It’s a start, but we’re nowhere near done. In the year ahead, we will continue to advocate for the health and safety of Ontario families and do everything we can to encourage the government to develop smart programs and incentives that protect Lake Erie.
You can help us ensure that stronger action is taken to protect Lake Erie in 2018 by making a tax-deductible donation to Freshwater Future Canada today.
This week: a Great Lakes winter wonderland + 5 ways you can help protect the lakes this year + more ways to make a difference.
We’re experiencing quite the cold snap here in the Great Lakes! That satellite image above was taken yesterday afternoon, with lake effect snow all but obscuring the lakes from view. Snow covers much of the region, with record-breaking snowfall in several locations throughout the basin. Our U.S. colleagues in Petoskey, Michigan have gotten 71.4 inches of snow so far this season, almost 20 inches above normal!
And then there’s the ice. Elsewhere in Michigan, ice balls have begun forming along the Lake Michigan shore. In Lake Superior, continued frigid conditions could result in the formation of an “ice bridge” to Isle Royale, which researchers hope might naturally reintroduce wolves to the island. Ice has begun to cover Lake Erie—the shallowest of all the Great Lakes—for the first time in three years, and Niagara Falls is partially frozen in stunning beauty.
GREAT LAKES RESOLUTIONS
As we head into the new year, it’s encouraging to think about the small ways we can all make a big difference, and to commit to some of those positive actions. On our blog we’re sharing our top five little things with big impact that you can do to help keep our lakes healthy and clean. Read them here.
There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at our sister organization’s website freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.
Small actions can make a big difference! At Freshwater Future Canada, we help thousands of communities around the Great Lakes protect their local waters so that, together, we can protect the whole of the Great Lakes. Individual actions are powerful, too! Here are five little things with big impact that you can do to help keep our lakes healthy and clean.
1. Watch What You Wash
One load of laundry can release more than 700,000 microscopic plastic fibers into the water system, polluting our waterways and disrupting the food chain. These fibers are shed in the wash from clothing made from synthetic textiles like fleece, acrylic, nylon, and polyester. They’re too small to be filtered out by most wastewater treatment plants, so they end up in our rivers and lakes. To minimize shedding, wash synthetic clothes less frequently, and wash full loads in cold water with liquid—not powder—detergent. Bonus points for installing a washing machine filter to capture the microplastics released with each load of laundry!
2. Go Fertilizer-Free
Nitrogen and phosphorus contribute to the growth of algae, which—in a balanced aquatic ecosystem—provides food for fish and other aquatic life. But too much nitrogen and phosphorus is entering our waterways as a result of runoff pollution from fertilizers, creating an overabundance of algae. Toxic algal blooms can poison fish, contaminate drinking water, and shut down beaches. Choose a phosphorus-free fertilizer, or better yet, skip the fertilizer altogether and replace your lawn with native plants to filter out pollutants.
3. Ditch the Aquatic Hitchhikers
Humans have introduced more than 186 invasive species to the Great Lakes ecosystem. You can help prevent their spread by rinsing and wiping down your boats, paddleboards, kayaks, and other watercraft after use. Be sure to remove all visible plant and animal species, and let the watercraft dry completely before setting out in a new body of water. Don’t forget that parts of the craft not exposed to the sun or proper air circulation—such as ballast and bait tanks, live wells, and bilge areas—will take extra time to dry.
4. Dispose of Meds Properly
Traces of pharmaceutical drugs—including antibiotics, hormones, and psychoactive drugs—can be found in the drinking water supplies of over 40 million Americans. When we ingest medications, our bodies don’t absorb the full dosage and we expel the unused portion. Most water treatment systems can’t filter this out, and traces of our medications end up in groundwater, lakes, and rivers—disrupting the ecosystem. To reduce your impact, take only the medication you need, and dispose of unused pills properly—do not flush them down the toilet.
5. Get Political
Individual actions to reduce your impact on Earth’s resources are important, but nothing can match the magnitude of society-wide shifts in energy and conservation policy. Vote for candidates who are committed to protecting our water, get involved in local campaigns, talk to your representatives, or better yet, run for office yourself!
This week: help craft a Great Lakes water vision + proposed change to Michigan’s lead & copper rule
HELP US FINALIZE OUR GREAT LAKES WATER VISION (BONUS: CHANCE TO WIN AN AMAZON ECHO OR FIRE)
This fall, Freshwater Future staff members traveled around the Great Lakes to learn what water means to residents and what we all envision for the future. We’ll be sharing what we found with other environmental and social justice organizations focused on water issues in the region to make sure the work we do helps us realize the vision of Great Lakes residents.
We weren’t able to visit every Great Lakes community to hear from residents, and we don’t want your voice to be left out! We’ve synthesized the information we gathered, identified common themes, and outlined a collective water vision for the region.
Will you help us by taking this 5-10 minute survey and sharing your thoughts to improve that vision?
TAKE THE SURVEY & ENTER TO WIN! We’d like to hear from as many Great Lakes residents as possible, so please forward this to a Great Lakes friend.
MICHIGAN PROPOSES STRICTER LEAD STANDARD
In the wake of the Flint Water Crisis and with an increasing amount of attention being paid to the nation’s degrading infrastructure, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has put forth a proposal to lower the amount of lead permissible in Michigan water systems.
The Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) in Michigan currently matches the federal standard for lead of 15 parts per billion (ppb) that was established in 1991. Prior to that, the standard was 50 ppb. The DEQ has proposed lowering that standard to 10 ppb and requiring municipalities to replace the lead pipes in their water systems over the next 20 years.
Our sister organization Freshwater Future supports the DEQ’s proposed rule change and proposed requirement for water systems across the state to replace lead service lines. Alongside community and environmental groups across the state, they submitted comments to the DEQ requesting key revisions to ensure that the rule change has the maximum positive impact on public health.
Read more—and learn about next steps—on their blog.
There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Our sister organization Freshwater Future has actions you can take – find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.