From the Headlines

Lax enforcement: Following Planet Detroit’s article on the Moroun-owned company Hercules Concrete storing aggregate next to a questionable seawall, WDIV reports that although the city issued 1,054 tickets for waterfront properties with a total of $506,350 in fines, they have only collected $76,000. The Moroun property has violations that include a cracked concrete cap and failing timber piles. “Our violation notices were clear that they had to take action and we’re gonna hold their feet to the fire, so that we do not have another situation like we have had at Revere Dock,” said David Bell, director of Detroit’s Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED), referring to the collapse at the Detroit Bulk Storage facility in 2019. The Moroun property contained contaminated soils and was previously used to store “pet coke.” (Planet Detroit, WDIV)

Protecting the Rouge: Officials in Wayne and Oakland counties have announced a $68 million plan to eliminate 48 million gallons in combined sewer overflows to the Rouge River. Such spills occur when stormwater overwhelms water treatment facilities, sending partially treated or untreated sewage into waterways. One project will remove stormwater from combined sewer systems in far west Detroit, diverting it into the Rouge River after passing through plantings in Rouge Park that will filter and clean the water. Palencia Mobley, deputy director and chief engineer of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said the initiative would help reduce street flooding and basement backups. (Detroit Free Press)

Tree equity: The tree-planting organization American Forests has released its “tree equity score” for Detroit, adding it to a list of seven other cities that have received the score including Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle, among others. The score ranks neighborhoods on a scale of 0 to 100 based on canopy coverage and demographic information like income and race. The system is designed to help cities direct tree planting to where it’s needed most. Detroit’s scores range from 29 to 100. You can explore them here. (American Forests)

Pushing justice: Detroit’s own Michelle Martinez was among a group of activists profiled in Politico who have been pushing the Biden administration to prioritize Black, Latino and Indigenous communities in its environmental agenda. They successfully lobbied Biden to drop Mary Nichols, former chair of the California Air Resources Board, as his candidate to lead the Environmental Protection Agency on account of what they saw as her failure to address air pollution in California’s urban areas, among other issues. Martinez, acting director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, believes that activists need to push against prominent environmental groups’ tendency to separate ecological action from racial justice. “It’s this idea that focusing on racial justice, it becomes less about the environment,” she said. “And that’s simply not true. That’s that colonial mindset.” (Politico)

Going down: The Great Lakes basin received 37% of its average precipitation in January and 88% of its average over the past year. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts that water levels on lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and St. Clair are likely to crest below last year’s highs. All these lakes were at or near record highs over the last two years. (Detroit News, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Extreme carp makeover: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is rebranding invasive carp with its “The Perfect Catch” campaign. However, they have not yet released the name they will be marketing the fish under. Invasive silver, bighead, black and grass carp can outcompete sport fish like perch and bluegill and it’s predicted they could compromise a $7 billion dollar fishery if they make their way from Illinois’ Des Plaines River into the Great Lakes. So should we eat them into submission instead? “To us in America, we think of carp as a bottom-feeding, muddy-tasting fish, which it is sometimes,” said Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago. “But Asian carp is a plankton-feeder. It’s a different type of flesh — much cleaner, sweeter-tasting meat.” (Freep)

Sturgeon General: With an annual limit of just six fish, the sturgeon season on Michigan’s Black Lake lasts for a matter of hours. Here spearfishers stare through holes sawn in the ice, hoping to spot the giant, prehistoric fish against a backdrop of rice or potato peels that they’ve dropped on the lakebed. It’s one of only two ice spearing seasons in the U.S. and Black Lake is an important repository for the fish, which have suffered from overfishing and habitat loss. Brenda Archambo, the so-called “Sturgeon General” of Black Lake has advocated for both fishing and conservation efforts there and fishers have organized a group they call the “Sturgeon Guard” to protect the fish during their spawning season. “The fishermen are the ones who rose up and said, ‘Look, in order to protect our sport, we have to protect fish,’” Archambo said. “That’s why we’re here now.” (Bridge)

Time to call it a climate emergency? In his newsletter, The Phoenix, meteorologist Eric Holthaus argues that it’s time for the United States to join 30 other nations and declare a climate emergency. He writes that congress should pass a bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer that would require President Joe Biden to invoke emergency powers to confront the climate crisis. What could this actually accomplish? The bill calls for massive investment in public transportation, infrastructure, public health, and regenerative agriculture. It would also require annual progress reports, which Holthaus says is essential for making progress because it requires the country to meet near-term goals, not just promises for net-zero by 2050. (Phoenix, The Hill, UN)


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