|Flood control? Detroit homeowners in 11 neighborhoods can now apply for help to install backwater valves and sump pumps in their homes to prevent basement flooding. The Basement Backup Protection Program will use $15 million received through the American Rescue Plan to pay for the program, requiring a 10% deposit from homeowners. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a plan to invest $66 million in 164 freeway pumping stations throughout the state. Twenty-eight of metro Detroit’s 140 freeway pumping stations lost power during the historic rainstorm of June 25 and 26, contributing to the high water that shut down portions of I-94 for days and damaged at least 350 vehicles. Chad Livengood questioned why it has taken the governor and others so long to put forward a plan to fix this problem. The improvements to the pumping stations won’t be in place until 2023 at the earliest, meaning metro Detroit may have to endure another year of flooded expressways. (MI Radio, Detroit News, NY Times, Crain’s)|
Spotlight on urban ag: Detroit farmer Jerry Hebron was chosen to serve on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Federal Advisory Committee on Urban Agriculture, where, according to a press release, she will help “identify barriers to urban agriculture as USDA works to promote urban farming.” “We want to build the case that urban agriculture is not just a hobby,” she said. “It’s a serious career for many of these families and entrepreneurs that are growing their businesses and feeding their families.” Hebron, the executive director of Oakland Avenue Urban Farms in the North End, said she wants to address limited access to capital and programs that are designed chiefly for rural farmers. Hebron is a co-founder of the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, which has given more than $170,000 to roughly 70 Detroit farmers to buy land. (Metro Times, Detroit News)
Coyote report: The local blog shared pictures of a pair of coyotes in Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park. Coyotes are now found almost everywhere in the continental U.S., and there appear to be two or more living in Eliza Howell. Tracks in the snow show the animals primarily following set routes during the night when they are most active. ACoyotes eat a variety of animals and insects and fruits and berries and pose little danger to humans. (Eliza Howell Nature Walk)
Coyotes in Rouge Park. Courtesy photo by Kevin Murphy.
|Getting results: In November, activists in northwest Detroit scored a victory when the city’s Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED) rejected a permit for a proposed asphalt facility near the interchange of the Southfield Freeway and I-96. This was the first permit that BSEED denied since 2020, and it came around the same time Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) approved a controversial permit for an asphalt plant on the Flint border. Activist Erma Leaphart said strong community organization allowed residents to mount a quick response. However, the fight over the asphalt plant isn’t quite over. Asphalt Specialists Inc., who proposed the facility, plan to appeal the permitting decision on February 15. (Detour, MLive)|
Planting the forest: Residents in two Detroit neighborhoods are engaged in tree planting projects on vacant land. Near the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, Tharmond Ligon Jr. and Zenaida Flores are working to plant a 2.25-acre Therapy Forest with the group Rescue MI Nature Now. And in the Poletown East neighborhood, Andrew Birch Kemp is working with the group Arboretum Detroit on the Circle Forest, a native landscape restoration project on 12 vacant residential parcels. “This project is about giving people a place to fall in love with a forest,” Kemp said. But both of these projects rely on the intense dedication of a few individuals. A longer-term, city-wide plan for tree planting is needed to achieve the benefits of a healthy urban canopy in the city. (Outlier, Planet Detroit)
Duty-free: This week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the Moroun-owned, Ammex duty-free gas station must comply with summer fuel regulations. These rules require businesses in eight counties in southeast Michigan to sell low vapor pressure gasoline between June and September to cut down on ozone. Ammex had argued that the summer fuel law didn’t apply to its operation because, as a duty-free store, it wasn’t a domestic retailer. Michigan Attorney General Dan Nessel praised the decision, saying, “Ammex is one of the largest gasoline stations in Detroit, and this case confirms that they must comply with Michigan’s gasoline vapor pressure regulations. This is a win for the Clean Air Act and for all Michiganders.” (Courthouse News Service)
Ounce of prevention: The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) will receive $1 billion from the federal infrastructure bill, money that could be used to restore wildlife habitat or remove toxic sediment. But Ojibwe Tribal executive Michael “Mic” Isham wants to see the GLRI pivot to do more to protect existing resources, especially Lake Superior, which he says is the “cultural and historical center” for the Ojibwe tribes. Isham’s issue with the current GLRI is that its emphasis on metrics to track remediation focus on short-term results, which does not align with the tribe’s Seventh Generation Principle. Nancy Langston, an environmental historian, agrees. “I would like to see more emphasis on prevention of future environmental cleanups and protection of key habitats before they become degraded,” she said. However, cleaning things up in Detroit will likely remain a priority – the Detroit River contains an estimated 3.5 million cubic yards of toxic sediment that need remediation. (Great Lakes Now)