Energy

Detroit River Institute Dispatch from the Road: Day One


The Detroit River crew is on the road, and is learning a ton already!

Check out this Storify synopsis of their first day, which included environmental justice, air and water pollution, a visit to the largest wastewater treatment plant in North America, and meetings with representatives of the US EPA, Michigan DEQ, Sierra Club, Marathon Petroleum, the Michigan House of Representatives, the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, the city of Detroit, the University of Michigan, and local citizens.

Detroit River Institute Gets Underway!

At this very moment, journalists from throughout the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic states, and Midwest are descending on Detroit to begin their four-day whirlwind tour of the city and its natural resource issues.

We have a great line-up of stops and speakers, and we can’t wait to meet everyone and get the bus rolling – literally! Topics we’ll cover include: Rewilding the Detroit River, the conflicts between residential and industrial neighbors, environmental justice, international trade, clear-air regulations, wastewater, wetlands, nutrient pollution, wildlife conservation, and urban agriculture. Whew!

We’ll visit the 48217 area – Michigan’s “most polluted zip code,” and we’ll stop at Ambassador Bridge, where 10,000 diesel trucks idle each day as they wait to cross. We’ll meet with representatives of the EPA and Michigan DEQ, to discuss efforts to reduce air pollution – especially sulfur dioxide, which is a leading air pollutant tied to asthma and other health issues.  We’ll stop at Detroit’s wastewater treatment plant, which is changing its image as a major point-source polluter.

We’ll go to Belle Isle, and learn how to restore a river, one wetland at a time, and we’ll see the Blue Heron Lagoon restoration project that’s providing important habitat. We’ll get out on the river with Detroit Riverkeeper, to visit areas of concern, and learn how a bi-national commission is working to clean them up. The group will tour the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge, the only such refuge in North America. And finally, the group will get a day-long immersion in urban agriculture – by bicycle.

We hope that you’ll follow along digitally, as we’ll be posting highlights to Twitter (#ijnr_detroit ) and Facebook, and we’ll offer daily dispatches from the road here on the blog.

And last but not least, we’d like to congratulate and welcome all the journalists who will be joining us on this trip!

Introducing the 2014 Detroit River Institute Fellows 

Jim Bloch – The Voice (St. Clair, MI)
Mary Ann Colihan – Freelance writer/producer; book author
Steve Furay – Michigan Citizen; Common Breath Media
Weenta Girmay – Freelance multimedia journalist
Tom Henry – The Blade (Toledo, OH)
Tim Lougheed – Freelance writer/editor
James McCarty – The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, OH)
Alexa Mills – The Boston Globe
Peter Moskowitz – Freelance writer
Hannah Northey – E&E Publishing
Elizabeth Royte – Freelancer writer; book author
Zoe Schlanger – Newsweek
Kristina Smith Horn – Port Clinton News Herald and The News-Messenger (Ohio)
Al Smith – Freelance writer

Institute Announcement: Detroit River

The Detroit River and downtown skyline. Photo courtesy Flickr user rexp2

IJNR invites applications for its Detroit River Institute, an expenses-paid learning expedition that will explore natural resource, agricultural, economic and human health issues in and around Detroit, Michigan. Content of the fellowship program will be relevant not only to journalists in the Great Lakes Basin, but to those working throughout North American cities as well. Radio, television, print and online journalists of all ages and experience levels are eligible to apply.

While the agenda for the Detroit River Institute is still being completed, current planned stops will introduce journalists to:

  • The Detroit River, which holds the hopes of a proposed redevelopment highlighting its ecological and economic comeback, while also bearing the burden of outflow from one the nation’s largest single-site (and most problematic) wastewater treatment plants.
  • Life in the 48217 zip code, a neighborhood of Arab, African-American and Latino residents surrounded by heavy industries like steel plants and the Marathon Petroleum refinery. The EPA’s toxicity score for the area is 45 times higher than the state average, leading to myriad health and environmental justice concerns.
  • Eastern Market, a historic urban marketplace working to not only connect consumers to locally grown, fresh food but to also procure some of that food from Detroit’s urban gardens and help inner-city agriculture flourish in the city.
  • The city planners, farmers and organizations working to grow and organize Detroit’s urban agriculture landscape now that unused land is plentiful and official zoning regulations are on the books.
  • Ford Motor Company’s Wayne County Plant, where the industry that gave birth to “Motor City” is attempting to reinvent both itself and the technology that made Detroit possible by building new electric and hybrid cars and planning for a much different auto industry future.

These are just a few of the issues currently being considered for an Institute that will use Detroit as its hub and visit several locations both in and around the city over the course of four to five days. The trip may also include programming like: Lake St. Clair dredging and its impact of Great Lakes water levels and the shipping industry; Belle Isle, the newly created Michigan state park in downtown Detroit, and the move to adopt more “deconstruction” versus demolition of abandoned houses.

Dispatches from the Road: Shale Country Day 3 & 4

The Shale Country crew wrapped up their trip this past weekend, and now are - hopefully! - settling back into their daily routines. They had a whirlwind tour of three states in five days, and returned home with heads full of stories ideas. The last two days of the trip found them in Northeast Ohio, discussing citizen science, NIMBYism, economics, oil & gas regulation, and how to tell environment stories better. They paddled on the Cuyahoga River, and visited a massive fracination plant. They heard from farmers who have benefited from the boom, and those who resent it. They visited a couple at their rural home, where a compressor station has been built across the street - and runs 24/7 at roughly 80 decibels.

Read all about their adventures here, and stay tuned as we share their post-Institute stories!

Shale Country Institute, Day 3 Recap

Shale Country Institute, Day 4 Recap

Dispatches from the Road: Shale Country Day 2 Recap

On Thursday the group traveled to New York to learn about drill-waste disposal, concerned citizens, and the economics of natural gas - among other things. See a complete recap of their day, and learn more about the issues they covered:

Shale Country Institute, Day 2 Recap

Marcellus Shale Sample. USGS hydrogeologist Bill Kappel:  "What you're holding was a swamp before Earth even had dinosaurs."  (Photo courtesy David Unger. )

Dispatches from the Road: Shale Country, Day 1 continued

The Shale Country crew continues their journey near Lake Erie, despite torrential downpours. Yesterday afternoon the group got up close and personal with a well pad in Western Pennsylvania. Read all about it here:

Shale Country Day 1 Undaunted by Deluge

And, check out this post from Fellow and KUNC reporter Stephanie Ogburn, who is reporting from the road:

In Eastern National Forests, Split Estate Means Less Control

Stay tuned for an update this evening about where the group went today, who they met, and what they learned!

2014 Shale Country Institute Preview

We're just two weeks away from the start of our 2014 Shale Country Institute, which will bring 18 journalists from around the country to learn all about fracking in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. As usual, we'll be posting daily dispatches from the road during the Institute, and you can follow along virtually right here on The Nooze. We'll also be tweeting about the program at #IJNR_shale.

Curious about the route we'll take and the topics we'll cover? Check it all out here:

[googlemaps https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/embed?mid=zOb4U1zJNCrY.kKw_PH9aUExA&w=640&h=480]

And, last but not least, we'd like to congratulate and welcome the fine journalists who have been selected to join us on this journey:

Pat Bywater - Meadville Tribune Stephen Cunningham - Bloomberg News Mary Esch - AP John Finnerty - Community Newspapers (PA) Peter Green - Freelance Kalea Hall - The Vindicator Kathi Kowalski - Freelance Martin LaMonica - Freelance Joe Mahoney - Daily Star Stephanie Ogburn - KUNC Steve Orr - Democrat and Chronicle Joanna Richards - WCNP/Ideastream Lonnie Shekhtman - The Boston Globe Lisa Song - InsideClimate News Miranda Spencer - Freelance/Daily Climate Lana Straub - Freelance Dave Unger - Christian Science Monitor Patricia Villone - CTV News

Earth Month, Day 14: Peeing Wolves and Scientific Bling

On today's installment of Earth Month, we bring you the ongoing tale of a wolf named OR7 (lonely no more!) and a bracelet that's helping scientists understand pollution: Cally CarswellFirst, from Cally Carswell with High Country News, a look at OR7's new friend:

Against All Odds, Wolf OR7 May Have Found a Mate

OR7's lady-friend. Photo courtesy USFWS / Oregon Department of Wildlife.

On May 3, a wolf slipped through the frame of a remote camera in southwestern Oregon, a blur of black and brown. The next day, under the cover of darkness, it stared directly at a camera, eyes aglow, and did something ordinary that, under the circumstances, was an extraordinary sight: It squatted and peed. This was a she-wolf.

Her gender had big implications because a famous he-wolf, known as OR7, was right nearby. OR7 rocketed to celebrity in 2011, when he was two years old. He ditched his pack in northeastern Oregon that year and went where no wolf had gone for decades. He traveled south through Oregon, crossing I-84 and four U.S. highways, and became the first wolf known to have been west of the Cascades since 1947. Then, he slipped over the border into California, giving his species a presence in that state for the first time in almost a century... Read more.

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BrianBienkowskiAnd, from Brian Bienkowski with Environmental Health News, the scoop on some new scientific jewelry:

Armed with Arm Candy: Bracelets Can Detect People's Chemical Exposures

Wristbands are the accessory of choice for people promoting a cause. And the next wave of wrist wear might act as a fashionable archive of your chemical exposure.

Researchers at Oregon State University outfitted volunteers with slightly modified silicone bracelets and then tested them for 1,200 substances. They detected several dozen compounds – everything from caffeine and cigarette smoke to flame retardants and pesticides.

“We were surprised at the breadth of chemicals,” said Kim Anderson, a professor and chemist who was senior author of the study published in Environmental Science & Technology.

Beginning with Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong, the cheap, colorful, rubbery wristbands have been a popular fad over the past decade in promoting charities and other affiliations.

Anderson initially tried to use silicone pendants attached to necklaces to test for contaminants. But then, at a football game she saw “all kinds of people, even burly men” sporting wristbands. That’s when the idea hit her.

Silicone is porous and acts similar to human cells, so once chemicals are absorbed by the wristband, “they don’t want to go back to the water or the air,” Anderson said... Read more. 

Bienkowski_Clark_wristbands

Earth Month, Day 12: Bone Collectors and Fish Ladders

Today on Earth Month we bring you two stories about aquatic critters, and the people interested in them: lauren sommerFirst, from Lauren Sommer with KQED Public Media, a look at how one man's quirky pastime is helping protect sea life in California:

For San Francisco Bone Collector, Skulls Are a Lifelong Love Affair

There are hobbies and then there are lifelong passions. Ray Bandar’s passion is finding and cleaning skulls.

For six decades, Bandar has been making a quiet contribution to science, harvesting the bones of dead animals on the California coast and amassing an impressive collection of skulls. On Friday the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is opening a new exhibit of skulls that features his work.

Bandar keeps his own collection in the basement of his San Francisco home. The “bone palace,” as he calls it, holds close to 7,000 skulls and skeletons, stacked floor to ceiling. He organizes the shelves by species, including seals, sea lions, leopards, cheetahs, horses, zebras, giraffes and dolphins.

“This is largest animal that lives and breeds in California,” Bandar says, holding up an elephant seal skull. “That’s an adult female.”

Bandar is a spritely 86-year-old with an encyclopedic knowledge of the bones. “Sixty years at Ocean Beach, I’ve been decapitating dead marine mammals,” he says... Read and hear more.

There are almost 7,000 skulls and skeletons in Bandar’s San Francisco basement. (Lauren Sommer/KQED)

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rebecca kesslerAnd from Rebecca Kessler reporting for Yale Environment 360, a story about how nature's own designs may be the best way to help fish:

Mimicking Nature, New Designs Ease Fish Passage Around Dams

On a chilly April morning, when the buds had opened just enough to cast a faint red haze on the trees, Jim Turek drove me out to see how his latest construction project was faring after a long winter. In December, work crews completed a project designed to let fish swim over the old Kenyon Mill Dam spanning the Pawcatuck River in Richmond, Rhode Island. The dam, and one that probably preceded it, had been blocking the fish’s path from the sea to their upriver spawning grounds since the 1700s. What was once likely an annual migration of hundreds of thousands of river herring and tens of thousands of American shad had dwindled to just a few hundred fish. Runs of Atlantic salmon had long since disappeared. 

This was not your typical fish ladder — narrow concrete, metal, or wood contraptions that look a bit like flooded pedestrian highway overpasses. Instead, work crews had installed boulders in sweeping arcs or V-shaped formations clear across the river to create a series of broad pools. These ramped gradually from the natural riverbed up the now nearly submerged 5-foot-tall dam, whose top they had replaced... Read more. 

A new "nature-like" fish passage on Rhode Island's Pawcatuck River that has been carefully designed to accommodate the particular swimming capabilities and behavioral quirks of river herring and shad. The new passageway enables migratory fish to move around the Kenyon Mill Dam. However, three dams downstream are still blocking fish passage. (Photo credit: Rebecca Kessler)

 

 

 

Earth Month, Day 11: Fire and Ice

Two stories for your reading and listening pleasure on this Monday morning installment of Earth Month. kirk sieglerFirst, from Kirk Siegler with NPR, a look at how researchers are trying to unlock the mysteries of wildfire, as fire season bears down on the Southwest:

Ahead of Wildfire Season, Scientists Study What Fuels Fires

As fire managers in the drought-stricken Southwest gear up for another long and expensive wildfire season, federal fire scientists are trying to better understand the physics behind what makes blazes spread.

At a U.S. Forest Service fire lab in Riverside, Calif., a team of scientists is conducting daily experiments over the next few months on different fire behavior conditions. They hope to hand off their findings to fire managers, who have to make the quick decisions on where to deploy resources that could protect lives and property.

The centerpiece of the lab is a 30-foot-long, 10-foot-high wind tunnel and inside is a layer of wood shavings meant to mimic a dry, forest floor. Above them, resting on a shelf, are freshly picked green shrubs, the live green trees in this soon-to-be simulated forest fire.

"OK, collect in three, two, one. Start!" shouts lab technician Christian Bartolome, a graduate student at nearby UC Riverside... Read more.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RY-aH1XYoIc?feature=player_detailpage&w=640&h=360]

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Lizzie GrossmanAnd Elizabeth Grossman writes in High Country News about the risk oil spills pose to people living in the Arctic:

The Growing Concern about Arctic Oil Spills

Standing on the snowy  shore of the Bering Sea in the village of Gambell, Alaska (population 681) on a blindingly bright but frigid day, I watched skiffs load and launch for the first whale hunt of 2014. Ice piled high along the shoreline and the horizon was rimmed with sea ice beyond the open water. A cluster of snow-machines was parked above the beach as boat crews arrived and families and dogs watched the action. Life centers on the ocean here so it’s appalling to imagine what would happen if this community that sits on the western edge of St. Lawrence Island were to find itself beset by an oil spill... Read more.