Environment

Legislators asked to step up Lake Erie protection

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two years after algal blooms created a water crisis in the Toledo area, local leaders want to know what Ohio and Michigan are doing to prevent the green water from returning. Last week, legislators from both states were asked to explain efforts at the state level to keep Lake Erie clean. The state senators and representatives were a captive audience for questions from regional city, village, township, county and school officials during a TMACOG forum. The legislators were asked about steps they had taken to protect the water quality in the northwest Lake Erie basin. One legislator from Ohio and another from Michigan said they had been “proactive” in their clean water efforts, with manure application on farm fields now being regulated. State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, stopped short of using the word “proactive,” but listed off several bills and proposals to protect the water. However, he then added, “I don’t believe we have done enough yet.” “We still have more work to do. This lake deserves it,” Gardner said. State Rep. Mike Sheehy, who represents several Lucas County subdivisions, said many Ohio waterways are in compliance with the Clean Water Act. “Guess which river is not on the list?” he asked – the Maumee River. State Rep. Bill Reineke, from the Sandusky County area, said he represents several farmers in his district who have been self-regulating their use of manure on fields. “We can’t be blaming anyone,” he said. Michigan Rep. Bill LaVoy said his region has worked with government…


Audits to save BG homes money and energy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG  Independent News   Thousands of Bowling Green homes are letting cool air escape in the summer and heat seep out in the winter. So Columbia Gas is giving every homeowner, landlord and renter a chance to keep the air in their houses and money in their pockets. Bowling Green residents are being offered home energy audits for $20 by Columbia Gas, to identify how homes can be made more energy efficient. And if the residents agree to weatherization upgrades, the most they will pay per home is $300. “It’s because of Bowling Green’s interest in energy efficiency,” Jill McGinn, of Columbia Gas, explained last week to the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. “Everyone in Bowling Green is eligible.” The subsidies through the program will pay for up to $4,000 in home improvements, but the residents will pay a fraction of that. “The most any Bowling Green resident will pay is $300,” McGinn said. “Those are some pretty huge and substantial savings.” The energy audits take about three hours to complete. An added bonus, McGinn said, is that experts also look for safety problems. McGinn knows all about that, since when she had an energy audit done on her home, it found a gas leak in her basement. “Safety is Columbia Gas’ first priority,” she said. The audits often discover leaks at gas line joints or at the appliance hook ups. The next priority is energy efficiency. The homes likely to benefit the most from the audits are those built before 1975, many which use more than…


Conservation grants offered to local farmers

Farmers in the watersheds of the Portage and Toussaint rivers are eligible for funds to reduce the amount of nutrients that migrate from their fields to nearby waterways. The grant is through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and is being administered by the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Wood and Ottawa counties. TMACOG will document costs to farmers and monitor the grants. Applications are being accepted now through Aug. 15 only at Wood County and Ottawa County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Farms must be within either the Portage or Toussaint River watershed which also includes parts of Sandusky and Hancock counties. The grants will reimburse farmers for three agricultural best practices: variable rate technology with cover crops, water control structures, and blind inlet filters. Variable rate technology (VRT) measures nutrients present in the soil and then delivers only the amount of fertilizer necessary for optimum yield. Under the terms of the grant, farmers will be reimbursed for planting winter cover crops with VRT technology. Farmers will test soil in a three-acre grid or less. The information is mapped in a GIS system and linked to the application of fertilizer. Farmers will be reimbursed for both the cost of the fertilizer and the cost of the cover crop. Water control structures are essentially control valves that are placed on a drainage tile main line. By adjusting the stopper boards – essentially raising a dam in a drainage tile – ground water can be held back in the field in the root zone where plants can utilize the nutrients that…


County hears concerns about large dairy farms

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Milk does a body good. No one is disputing that. It’s the byproduct of the dairy cows that local officials are questioning. Last week, the Wood County Commissioners heard from three people about problems associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in the county. Those concerns included a full manure lagoon left behind when a large dairy went bankrupt, the damage caused on rural roads not built to handle mega dairy traffic, and the impact on Lake Erie when the manure reaches the lake and fuels algal blooms. Vickie Askins informed the commissioners that when the Manders Dairy went bankrupt about four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. Since then, about one million gallons have been trucked to the Campbell Soup plant and run through its digesters. That leaves about 9 million gallons of manure behind at the dairy, located at the corner of Rangeline and Maplewood roads, southwest of Bowling Green. “It’s been sitting there basically full,” Askins said. Federal law requires that the manure must be taken care of when a CAFO closes, Askins said. And Ohio EPA requires that no manure be applied to farm fields unless up-to-date soil samples and manure analyses are obtained. Askins, a self-motivated watchdog of mega dairies in Wood County, said neither has been done. The lagoon is nearly full, and no field application study documentation can be found. Yet, she has seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site. “Wait a minute,” she said….


Protesters in BG take Donald Trump to task

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Donald Trump prepared to take the podium at the National Republic Convention Thursday, others in Ohio were taking makeshift stages across the state to protest the presidential candidate. Anti-Trump rallies criticizing his “dangerous and hate-filled agenda” were held in 15 cities from Akron to Zanesville. In Bowling Green, the rally started out slowly, with the protesters almost being outnumbered by the security personnel outside the Wood County Courthouse. Dick Teeple, of Bradner, was one of the first to show up, carrying a toilet seat with Trump’s photo in the center. “I have grandchildren. I care about what kind of future they have,” Teeple said, listing his top concerns as the environment, women’s rights, equal pay and climate change. “What they stand for, I’m against,” he said of Trump and his vice presidential pick Mike Pence. Teeple was wearing a Bernie Sanders shirt, but said he would be supporting Hillary Clinton in November. “I’m not 100 percent enthusiastic about Hillary. But she’s not going to sell out the environment.” As he stood on the courthouse steps, Teeple said he is mystified by Trump’s ability to win supporters. “I can’t understand it. I think there is some anger, but I think they better get over that and see what he’s going to do.” At its height, the Bowling Green rally had eight protesters. While their numbers were few, their concerns were many. “I just absolutely think Donald Trump is wrong for America,” said Kristie Foell, of Bowling Green. “I’m so disgusted by the…


County warms up to solar field tax exemption

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The future looks bright once again for the solar field planned by the city of Bowling Green. Tuesday morning, the Wood County Commissioners approved the tax break requested for the largest solar field planned in Ohio. The approval came one day after the work at the site was scheduled to begin – since the commissioners refused to grant the 30-year tax abatement for the $43 million project until their questions were answered. Though it took longer than hoped, the delay will not negatively impact the project which is set to be completed by the end of this year, said Daryl Stockburger, of the city’s utility department. “At this point, the project can keep its schedule,” Stockburger said Tuesday after the commissioners met. “We are only a day behind.” Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards said he understood the commissioners’ desire to get their questions answered. But he was also relieved that the project could now move forward. “It’s a wonderful project,” Commissioner Craig LaHote said. “It would be a great gem to have here.” But the commissioners refused to be rushed into approving the tax break. “We’ve had less than two months to look at it,” LaHote said. “This abatement is unique,” he said. The county has granted tax breaks to private companies before, but this request is different in its size and duration, granting an exemption of $7.3 million over the first 15 years. Most tax abatements are based on the number of jobs created by a business. But this request differs…


BG’s new arborist has deep rooted love of trees

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s new arborist is a big believer in diversity. That’s one of the reasons he was attracted to the city – its diversity of trees. Grant Jones, who was working at the botanical Longwood Gardens outside Philadelphia, knew of Bowling Green’s reputation as a tree hugging community. “I’ve always heard good things about Bowing Green and its commitment to trees,” he said. Jones shares that commitment – though he could do without the messy mulberry tree he has to park under at his temporary home. Since arriving on the job on June 1, Jones has been getting to know Bowling Green’s people and its trees. “There’s a really nice grove of old oak trees,” he said about the huge trees in City Park. “They look like they are doing pretty well right now.” “I think that’s one of the things I like about trees,” they take time to reach their potential, he said. “They’re not something that’s instant.” Unlike Nebraska, where he grew up, Bowling Green has a wealth of maple, oak, honey locust, crab apples and pear trees. “There’s not a lot of trees in Nebraska, so I got to appreciate the trees we had,” Jones said. And unlike many cities, Bowling Green has a tree inventory that tracks all the city-owned trees in the parks, cemetery and right-of-ways between sidewalks and streets. “That’s important,” Jones said. As tree diseases come and go, an inventory allows the community to track its susceptible trees and replace them with types that can…


Solar project faces more questions from county

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Commissioners threw some shade on Bowling Green’s plans Thursday to build a solar array to help power the city and other communities. Work was to begin on the largest solar field in Ohio in a couple days. But that is unlikely now since the county has not yet approved the 30-year tax abatement requested for the $43 million project. The commissioners continued to question the rushed timeline of the project, which would build a 20 MW solar array on city acreage northeast of the city. “How necessary is this aggressive timeline?” Commissioner Joel Kuhlman asked. “Critical,” responded Brian O’Connell, director of public utilities for the city. “There can be no delay.” If the county does not approve the tax exemption, the solar project will be unaffordable for NextEra Energy and AMP, which are working on the project, according to O’Connell. “It is likely that this project will be canceled due to the increased costs,” he said. “This project is bigger than just a Bowling Green site,” O’Connell said. There are 26 proposed sites in AMP member communities across five states. Six of those sites, including Bowling Green’s, are planned to be completed by the end of 2016. “It is difficult to make solar generation projects cost effective without utilizing all of the tax advantages available,” O’Connell said. So the state is allowing projects like this to be exempt from property taxes as long as they meet criteria. If the city were to own the solar power generating system, it…


Ohio Prairie Association Conference comes to county

Submitted by Wood County Park District With foci on prairies and savannas, this regional conference will bring expert speakers and field trips to enhance our area knowledge of the value and purpose of the prairies in our Wood County flatlands. Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 13th at Simpson Garden Park. Doors open at 8:00 am and the conference starts at 9:00 am. Lunch is included in the price of admission as well as a choice of three field trips to area locations representing prairie remnant gems, a native plant nursery and greenhouse, as well as several prairie and savanna restorations areas. The conference will end by 4:30 pm and entirely open to the public, but registration is limited, so sign-up today by visiting ohioprairie.org. The OPA Mission Statement: The Ohio Prairie Association is a non-profit volunteer organization that promotes knowledge, appreciation, conservation, restoration, management, and expansion of Ohio prairie communities and their native plant and animal species to individuals, conservation organizations, public agencies educational institutions and others with an interest in native ecosystems. The OPA Vision Statement The Ohio Prairie Association envisions a time when Ohioans will have a strong public understanding and appreciation for Ohio prairies and their native plant and animal species; and these prairies are widely conserved, restored, managed, expanded, and are frequently encountered in the state. A native plant is defined as: a species that occurs naturally in a particular region, ecosystem and/or habitat and was present prior to European settlement. Native plants are beneficial to ecosystems in a myriad of ways such as providing habitats and…


Park district’s historic farm looking to grow

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Deer and raccoons have long been residents of the Wood County Park District. But chickens and goats? “Welcome to the farm,” Tim Gaddie, historic farm specialist with the park district, said to the park district board members Tuesday as they held their monthly meeting at Carter Historic Farm. The farm, located on Carter Road north of Bowling Green, is unlike any other park site in the district. The site is intended to take visitors back to the 1930s, when area farms were on the verge of big changes. “It was a big transition from hand powered and animal powered farming to machine-based,” Gaddie said. The historic farm programs focus on skills that families of the era relied on for survival – food preservation, vegetable and herb gardening, rug making and woodworking. Family campfire programs are also offered. This week, a group of kids aged 7 and 8 are attending farm camp there. Next week, 9- and 10-year-old kids will be learning at the farm. But Gaddie would like to do more to make Carter Historic Farm a working farm. Last year, chickens were added to the farm, with many of the eggs being used for programming. Soon, he would like to add some goats, then gradually work his way up to sheep, dairy cows, a draft horse and mules. Gaddie can picture a time when the sheep on the farm will be sheared to create yarn that will then be used for weaving. To accomplish these goals, Gaddie is trying to grow…


Veterans hit the trail on Warrior Hike seeking peace

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A Bowling Green native has embarked on a long-haul hike intended to help military veterans walk off the war. Marine veteran Martin Strange, 32, started his Warrior Expedition last week. With hiking partner, Army veteran Sterling Deck, Strange will circumnavigate the state of Ohio, taking about three months to cover the 1,444 miles. Warrior Expeditions was started about four years ago by Sean Gobin. After deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Gobin set out to walk the 2,185 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Strange said Gobin gained so much from the experience he founded Warrior Expeditions to offer the same experience to other veterans. There are options for hiking, paddling and bicycling. In trekking the Appalachian Trail, he was following the footsteps of a veteran of an older generation. Coming home from World War II, Earl Shaffer became the first person to hike the length of the trail. Strange served four years in the U.S. Marines as a machine gunner. The Bowling Green High graduate enlisted at 21. “I felt life had my back to the wall,” he said. This was his way “to push back and jump off a cliff and see what happens. That’s what the Marine Corps infantry was to me.” Strange was deployed twice to Iraq. When he was discharged in 2009, he went on and served as security for the State Department, working in Kabul, Afghanistan. “I’m a completely different person from when I joined up,” Strange said. “And grown since I got out.” Strange, son of former BG residents…


Drought conditions may restrict growth of algae in Lake Erie

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Dry weather is keeping the algae blooms in Lake Erie at bay. The lack of rainfall means little run off into the Maumee River leading into the lake. The runoff is the main source of phosphorus that feeds the algae growth. The phosphorus in the runoff largely comes from the fertilizer that farmers use on their fields. Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a prediction for a less severe algae bloom in the western Lake Erie Basin. On hand at the announcement were Bowling Green State University researchers Michael McKay, director of the BGSU marine program, and George Bullerjahn, professor of biological sciences. That prediction, they said during an interview on Friday, is good as it stands, but is subject to change. If it starts pouring, Bullerjahn said, the algae could be back. “We’re relying on luck and nature,” McKay said. Whether an algae bloom develops into a toxic algae bloom like the one that closed down the Toledo region’s water system in 2014 depends on many factors – wind, heat and the presence of nitrogen, another key ingredient in fertilizer. The extent of that algae bloom, Bullerjahn said, was moderate, but it had high levels of the toxin microcystin. That crisis sent people in the region scrambling for water and scientists, officials and politicians scrambling for solutions. However, “we can’t predict how toxic a bloom will be,” Bullerjahn said. There’s no correlation between how green a bloom is and how toxic it is. Earlier this year a toxic bloom occurred in…


BGSU’s Torelli discusses citizen science in Washington D.C.

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS BGSU chemist Dr. Andrew Torelli is part of an international effort to raise awareness of the importance of science to society and to engage the public and legislators with current issues. Torelli recently served on an invited panel of experts as part of an informational briefing for members of Congress, their representatives and the public in Washington, D.C. The panel’s topic was “Citizen Science: Empowering a Robust National Effort.” Torelli shared the exciting example of the Smartphone InSpector, a device developed by an interdisciplinary team of BGSU faculty and students that equips a cell phone to identify and measure contaminants in water and upload the data to an online site. The system is being field tested by a number of area Rotary clubs to monitor regional water quality. The June 7 briefing was part of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Science and the Congress Project and the Consortium for Science Policy Outcomes at Arizona State University. “The purpose of these briefings is to provide members of the public and legislators on Capitol Hill with information on important topics in science that address national challenges,” Torelli said. The panel was moderated by Dr. Jamie Vernon of Sigma Xi and American Scientist magazine, with honorary co-hosts Sens. Steve Daines (Rep. Mont.), and Chris Coons (Dem., Del.). “It was great to see bipartisan support for the briefing,” Torelli said. The importance of citizen science is becoming clearer. According to the ACS, “As professional scientists explore the universe, they find instances and places where more hands, eyes,…


County cool to solar field request for tax break – commissioners want more information

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The prospect of Bowling Green having the largest solar field in Ohio appeals to county officials – but they don’t like to be kept in the dark about tax abatement details. So on Tuesday, company officials involved in building and operating the solar field northeast of the city were asked to explain their request for a 30-year tax break for the $43 million project. Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw noted the confusion on the part of NextEra Energy officials about needing to outline their request. But she explained that the commissioners have a policy of meeting in person with any company that wants tax breaks. “We certainly feel it’s something we need to know as much as we can about,” Herringshaw explained to representatives of NextEra Energy and AMP Ohio. The tax abatement request for the solar field is unlike those that normally come before the commissioners. First, the amount is massive, giving a tax break of $10 million over just the first 15 years. Second, the duration is proposed at 30 years, compared to the customary 10 to 15 years. Third, there is no ongoing employment, which is the basis for most tax breaks. Construction of the solar field will employ about 85 people from July 18 to Dec. 31. And 80 percent of those people are required to be Ohio residents – but there is no requirement that they come from Wood County. Fourth, regular tax abatements require that school districts be “made whole” by the business getting the tax…


County park district plans programs in July

Following is a list of programs planned by the Wood County Park District  this month: Perrysburg Bicentennial Celebration Nature Hikes, Saturday, July 2, 2 – 4:30 p.m. WW Knight Nature Preserve and Sawyer Quarry Nature Preserve 29530 White Road, Perrysburg and 26940 Lime City Road, Perrysburg Celebrate the Bicentennial by hiking two Wood County parks in Perrysburg. Walk woods, wetlands, and prairie then carpool to our newest park for nature and an exceptional quarry view. Leader: Jim Witter   Stargazing, Saturday, July 2, 9:30 p.m. Beaver Creek Preserve 23028 Long Judson Road, Grand Rapids See nebula, planets and stars with the Toledo Astronomical Association and the Wood County Park District.   Slippery Elm Slow Roll, Thursdays, July 7 and July 21, and Aug. 11, 7 – 8:30 p.m. Black Swamp Preserve 1014 South Maple Street, BG Get into action with Wood County Parks and Wood County District Public Library on this family-friendly ride down the Slippery Elm Trail. Freshen up on bike safety before the trip, learn about the trail and the unique surroundings during the trip, and connect with your community, parks, and library. Leader: Ranger Department   Evening Bat Hike, Friday, July 8, 8:30 – 10 p.m. William Henry Harrison Park 644 Bierley Avenue, Pemberville Discover facts, myths, local species, and conservation challenges of bats. Hike with bat-detecting sonar to search for our only truly flying mammals! Leader: Jim Witter   Focus on Water: Storm Water Management and Effects on Water Quality, Wednesday, July 13, 7 – 8 p.m. Park District Headquarters 18729 Mercer Road, BG How is…