Environment

County asked again to take stand against big dairy, for Lake Erie

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After six months of silence from the Wood County Commissioners, a couple activists were back before the board Tuesday asking for support. The commissioners heard again from Vickie Askins about suspected manure violations from a large dairy, and from Mike Ferner about the need to protect Lake Erie. The two made the same requests as last summer to the commissioners: Write a letter to the Ohio EPA about the dairy, and sign a resolution declaring the lake as impaired. Again, the commissioners asked a few questions, but took no action Tuesday on either request. “This is happening in your county,” Askins said. “I just think this is terrible.” According to Askins, the dairy on Rangeline Road southwest of Bowling Green, has repeatedly violated manure lagoon and manure application regulations during the last 13 years. “There has been a history of violations,” she said of the former Mander Dairy which is now owned by Drost Land Co. Askins informed the commissioners last summer that when Manders Dairy went bankrupt four years ago, it left behind about 10 million gallons of manure it its lagoon. 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 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 had seen evidence of “manure irrigators” being constructed near the site….


Top scientists engage youngsters in Kids’ Tech University at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Paul Morris knows that Kids’ Tech University presented at Bowling Green State University has a lot going for it. Each of the four weeks features an esteemed scientist who knows how to talk to children age 9 to 12 about their research. And then the kids have carefully designed activities related to the science that allow students to do the work of science themselves. Then there’s Morris’ hair. He sports a frizzy mop of white hair. Morris said he’s gotten enough comments on it, he’s decided to stop cutting his hair. “I look the part.” It’s a silly way to get across a key element of the program. “The idea that children are being directed by a real scientist that’s part of the excitement we want to capture.” Registration is now underway for the program that runs four Saturdays throughout the semester starting Feb. 11 and continuing Feb. 25, March 18, and April 8. Each starts at 10 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m. or so. Registration is $90. Visit http://kidstechuniversity-bgsu.vbi.vt.edu/. The mission is to get children excited about science, technology, engineering and math before they get into middle school. The Feb. 11 session will feature Dr. Jennifer M. DeBruyn, who works at the Body Farm in Tennessee, a lab which studies decomposition of human bodies. DeBruyn is a microbiologist who studies how all manner of matter decomposes. Her talk is: “Life after Death: Exploring the decomposer organisms that recycle corpses back to soil.” In the afternoon, Morris said, students will do an array of experiments involved in forensics, including fingerprinting and DNA analysis…


BG parks master plan more substance than sexy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green’s parks and facilities need a healthy dose of TLC. So that’s the focus of the five-year master plan that was approved last week by the city planning commission. During the last couple decades, the parks and recreation department was busy adding acreage and building facilities. This next five years will be much less sexy – but very necessary, said Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department. “We need to take care of what we have,” Otley said to the planning commission. “We have been growing, growing, growing for 16 years.” Some of the biggest maintenance needs are in one of the oldest parks – City Park. “We need to give it the TLC (tender loving care) it deserves,” Otley said. And that means “a lot of roofs.” The largest building in City Park – Veterans Building – has reached a crossroads. “It has to be addressed,” she said. “Do we tear down and build, or renovate?” The city’s public works department took care of one issue at City Park last year by repairing the aging stone wall originally build by the Works Progress Administration, which was part of the nation’s New Deal program in 1935 to 1943. Each park in the city has its own needs, including some that need to be made ADA compliant, and some that need LED lighting and other energy conservation changes. The newest, Ridge Park, needs the back area leveled and reseeded. Carter Park is in line to get a new playground area and a couple shelter houses replaced. All the gardens have…


Study: More farmers need to take steps to reduce phosphorus feeding toxic algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many northern Ohio farmers have already taken steps voluntarily to cut down on toxic algae blooms – but not enough, according to researchers. The U.S. and Canada have agreed to cut phosphorus discharge into Lake Erie by 40 percent in the next decade. But that goal won’t be met unless more farmers make some changes, according to researchers from Ohio State University. The OSU project found that the following steps by farmers would help reach that 40 percent reduction in phosphorus discharge, which feeds toxic algae in the lake: Apply fertilizer below the soil surface. Plant cover crops which prevent rain from washing fertilizer into waterways. These crops are grown in fields that would otherwise go unplanted. Plant buffer strips, with grass or non-crop plants surrounding the fields. These also keep the fertilizer from going into ditches or creeks, and ultimately into the lake. The OSU study found that 39 percent of farmers in the Lake Erie watershed already use subsurface fertilization, 22 percent grow cover crops and 35 percent plant buffer strips. Those steps have all been taken on a voluntary basis by farmers. However, those efforts are not enough, according to the researchers. To cut the phosphorus discharge in Lake Erie by 40 percent, each of those three preventative steps must grow by at least 20 percent. “A lot of farmers have already taken the risk … to help move the needle,” Jay Martin, project leader and director of OSU’s Field to Faucet water quality program said recently, according to the Associated Press. “That’s really encouraging. But we need to…


BG makes no promises to fight pipeline further

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council made no promises this week to continue the fight against the Nexus pipeline. Earlier this month, council voted unanimously to deny an easement request for the Nexus pipeline to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. Council’s stand was cheered by well over 100 pipeline protesters present at the meeting. But many realized that the excitement of a small community triumphing over a big pipeline company was likely just a temporary coup. This week at city council, Bowling Green resident Neocles Leontis asked council about the next steps planned to oppose the pipeline. The company does not yet have eminent domain authority, but is actively pursuing that power. Council President Mike Aspacher said he had not spoken with fellow council members or city administration about future actions to halt the pipeline. Though the unanimous vote against the pipeline was definitely a feel good moment for the city – council also has to face the hard realities of its budget. And that budget doesn’t leave room for a costly court battle against the natural gas line, Aspacher said. “My personal feeling is, I would be very reluctant to take any legal action to stop the process,” he said. Last week, city council and administration had its first look at the complete budget figures for next year. The budget is already tight, and a court fight would be costly, Aspacher added. During the last council meeting, council member Daniel Gordon said the pipeline company currently does not…


Brown goes way off the grid at Yellowstone

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Harold Brown retired after 42 years in the news business, he went about as far off the grid as he could go – sharing his summer camp where the buffalo roam, where a mountain blocks out cell service, and where the closest grocery store is about 50 miles away. “I am living the dream,” Brown said. Brown, of Bowling Green, has spent the last two summers working with the field seminars in Yellowstone National Park. He decided to take on the job after spending five or six vacations learning from the park seminars himself. “It’s as close as anywhere in the lower 48 to the way it was when the Europeans got here,” Brown said of Yellowstone. While nothing is pristine anymore, Yellowstone is about as close as it gets, he said. “You’re just in a totally different place,” he said. “It’s just a really good place to spend time.” The park is spread across 3,500 square miles, primarily in Wyoming, but also Montana and Idaho. The views are spectacular – even for someone who is a regular visitor and now a seasonal employee. And the acreage is constantly changing, Brown said, with new geysers popping up, hot springs, an active volcano and thousands of small earthquakes a year. “The place is alive. It’s changing all the time,” through the acts of Mother Nature. The night skies are particularly striking, Brown said. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen the Milky Way like I’ve seen it there.” The park, which was originally dedicated in 1872 when Ulysses S. Grant was president, is also…


BGSU biologist studies how ants adjust to climate change

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS The world of forest ants may provide a macrocosm of the complex reactions and interactions among species affected by global climate change, according to a research project involving Bowling Green State University biologist Dr. Shannon Pelini. As escalating amounts of carbon dioxide are introduced into the atmosphere, a chain reaction is induced, leading to increasingly warmer temperatures, Pelini said. This is taking place at an alarming rate, making it more important than ever that we understand how climate change will affect our natural world. Many scientists have attempted to tackle this issue by determining the thermal tolerance of various species, then predicting what will happen to them as our world warms. However, this approach as a way to understand nature has its drawbacks because one species never acts alone. Individuals are constantly interacting with other species and the environment in which they live, so comprehending how global change impacts these interactions is crucial to a holistic understanding. Pelini and her colleagues have made significant progress in this direction with their new study, “Climatic Warming Destabilizes Forest Ant Communities,” which looks at complex interactions of ant communities and their responses to warming. The study was published in the Oct. 26 edition of the journal Science Advances, and has received wide attention in other publications, including Harvard Forest, Phys/Org  and Science News. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Program for Ecosystem Research and the National Science Foundation, the long-term experiment looked at the interactions ants exhibit over nesting structures in two distinctly different geographical areas. As a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard University, and in collaboration…


County park district sets $4.7 million budget for 2017

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This past year, Wood County Park District built a staircase into an old stone quarry, constructed boardwalks in two nature preserves, repaired a park ravaged by an ice jam, and moved 110-ton one-room school. But there is more work to be done – more than $1 million in capital improvements next year. The money will be spent on items like new restrooms, trail surfaces, playground equipment and an archery range. On Tuesday, the park board approved the district’s 2017 operating budget totaling $4,733,909. Among the larger capital improvement projects in the budget are: $160,000 for new restrooms at William Henry Harrison Park. $72,000 for roof replacement of the Otsego Park Stone Hall. $46,500 for an archery range and parking at the Wood County Historical Center. $108,650 for surface treatment on the Slippery Elm Trail. $59,000 for parking lot construction at Baldwin Woods. $60,000 for field tiling at Carter Historic Farm. $171,000 for parking lot and driveway at Bradner Preserve. $30,000 for playground equipment at Cedar Creeks Park. $10,000 for trail construction at W.W. Knight Preserve. The biggest investment will be made in Bradner Preserve, totaling $338,000. The plans call for the asphalt parking lot and driveway, rules signs, boardwalk construction, site lighting, interpretive center furnishings, garage/picnic shelter conversion, greenhouse/porch renovation, large grill and trash cans. The equipment costs increased a bit in next year’s budget. In the adventure programming area, costs will be incurred for the new archery range supplies ($3,850), the river kayak and canoe program ($15,000) and rappelling supplies ($2,500). Increases are also seen in the salaries, with raises approved…


Wood County land use plan to steer development

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County’s land use plans get more colorful as the county continues to try steering development toward the best areas for growth. “It may not happen overnight, but it’s coming,” said Wood County Planning Director Dave Steiner. And the county wants to see that growth going to areas with the roads, waterlines and sewer lines to handle it – while maintaining the agricultural and natural areas that are also important to the county. Last week, the county planning commission unveiled the draft of its latest land use plan. The plan takes into consideration the latest census information, demographics and development. “I didn’t want to work off the old one at all,” Steiner said during an open house on the plan held at the county library. The county had outgrown the last land use plan, which had been adopted in 2007. “There were a lot of changes that hadn’t even taken place yet,” like the CSX intermodal hub near North Baltimore. “I wanted something more substantial.” The plan also looks at “reinvestment areas,” where previous development has “fallen by the wayside” and may need a jumpstart with brownfield development, Steiner said. And the plan defends agricultural areas that are still vital to the county’s economy. “We’ve designated a chunk where we don’t want anything,” he said. “We want to protect agriculture.” The guiding principles of the land use plan are as follows: Support sustainable land use and development patterns, and identify and protect natural and environmental resources. Protect prime agricultural land and support agricultural production. Target economic development areas to support and attract…


BG unanimously rejects easement for pipeline

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As protesters packed the city building and chanted outside, Bowling Green City Council voted unanimously Monday evening to deny an easement for a pipeline across city property. The decision was full of drama – with one man being escorted from the meeting by police, and the city building packed to capacity, so about 40 people had to listen to speakers relaying the meeting outside. Council President Mike Aspacher started the meeting by asking to depart from the regular agenda. “The building is overflowing,” causing concerns to the fire chief, he said. So, Aspacher suggested that council go straight to the pipeline ordinance and vote prior to hearing any testimony. That caused a brief uproar in council chambers, with people demanding to be heard. Aspacher said council had listened to many comments at the last two meetings, and wished to act on the ordinance. But Joe DeMare, who recently ran for U.S. Senate with the Green Party, continued his objection. “I’m respectfully requesting that you listen to the people,” DeMare said. “Please take your seat,” Aspacher again asked. When DeMare refused, Aspacher asked police to escort him out of council chambers. Then council member Sandy Rowland told the packed room that they would not be displeased with council’s action. And one by one, the council members stated why they planned to vote down the easement. The delay in the speaker system outside the city building meant the cheers from the parking lot rose up to council chambers about 20 seconds later than the action was taken. After three council members explained their “no”…


Road to climate control just got a lot steeper

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Advocates for climate change efforts already had a rough road ahead – and Donald Trump’s election has made the climb even steeper. But David Holmquist, a regional leader for Citizens Climate Lobby in the Chicago area, is no stranger to fighting against difficult odds. Unlike other climate legislation advocates who work with already converted Democrats, Citizens Climate Lobby takes a different strategy. This group tries to win over resistant Republicans. “If we want to get climate change legislation, we have to have Republicans on board,” Holmquist said Thursday as he spoke with the Bowling Green Kiwanis Club. So instead of being argumentative with conservatives, the climate lobby tries to convert Republicans with respect and reason. The group of volunteer lobbyists get a range of reactions from Republicans, from supportive to antagonistic. Holmquist was asked Thursday where U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, stood on that scale. Holmquist said he was uncertain – but wouldn’t tell even if he knew. The Citizens Climate Lobby keeps its efforts with individual legislators confidential, he added. “We have allies and we don’t want to out them” until they are ready, he said. “Our mission is to create the political will for a stable climate,” Holmquist said. “That attitude has allowed us to make inroads with people who don’t agree with us.” The climate lobby group, founded in 2007, has a volunteer force of nearly 40,000 members and supporters. They don’t consider themselves environmentalists, but rather realists. The organization was founded by Marshall Saunders, a businessman who realized that all he had created in Bangladesh would be…


NEXUS pipeline passes FERC environmental review

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Less than a week from Bowling Green City Council’s decision on allowing a pipeline to cross city property, the project got the blessings of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC’s  541-page report released Wednesday found no major environmental issues with the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline project – meaning construction will likely begin early next year. The proposed 36-inch natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed. The environmental review concluded: “We determined that construction and operation of the projects would result in some adverse environmental impacts. Most of these environmental impacts would be temporary or short term during construction and operation, but long-term and potentially permanent environmental impacts on vegetation, land use, visual resources, and air quality and noise would also result from the projects. However, if the projects are constructed and operated in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the mitigation measures discussed in this EIS, and our recommendations, these impacts would be reduced to acceptable levels.” On Monday, City Council will vote on an ordinance granting NEXUS an easement to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. Bowling Green officials have maintained that fighting the pipeline will not change the route and will only end up costing…


BG residents forced to evacuate for wildfires

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Andrew Kalmar had planned to wake up in the Smoky Mountains today, perhaps taking one last hike in the forest before coming home to Bowling Green. Instead, he was walking the track at the Bowling Green Community Center. Kalmar and Cathy Zwyer were among the thousands of people evacuated from the Gatlinburg, Tennessee, area as wildfires tore through the mountains and resort community. The fires are blamed for killing at least seven people and destroying more than 150 buildings. The two had rented a cabin outside Gatlinburg, and had arrived on Saturday. The first hint they had of something amiss came Monday morning when smoke could be smelled in the clear mountain air and bits of ash were falling from the sky. “As the morning went on, the sky turned yellow,” said Kalmar, Wood County’s administrator. When they ate lunch in Gatlinburg, the restaurant staff was clearly concerned. “It was like fog in the streets,” he said. The resort town’s chair lift, tramway and aquarium were closed. Kalmar contacted the park service and was told not to worry, the wildfire was on a mountain 10 miles away from their cabin. Later in the day, Kalmar and Zwyer stopped at a store in nearby Sevierville, where the clerk told them Gatlinburg was being evacuated. When they arrived back to their cabin, the wind had picked up to 40 mph with gusts up to 60 mph. “The wind was just howling,” Kalmar said. “It was just roaring between the trees.” Then after 9 p.m., there was a pounding on their door. They were told…


Standing Rock is more than a stand off, it is a movement, local woman believes

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The standoff in Standing Rock, North Dakota, between Lakota and their allies from other Native American tribes is at once a continuation of the struggles between indigenous people and European settlers and their ancestors as well as a promise for a more sustainable future. Anita Jane Britt, of Bowling Green, came back from a recent stay at the Sacred Stone camp on the Standing Rock reservation, convinced of this.  “This is a historic gathering of 556 tribes. I believe this is really a pivotal point in our history. I believe this experience offers a lot of healing to people.” Water protectors, Native Americans and their allies, have gathered to stop the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline going through native land, considered sacred. The pipeline would run under the Missouri River, where any break would pollute the water source of the Standing Rock Lakota. Militarized security forces have arrayed against them. Even as this confrontation continues plans for a more permanent center are underway. “As you kind of go throughout your day you see a whole community growing,” Britt said.  An ecologically sustainable village is being built, including a kitchen, a straw bale school house and what is planned to be “the largest yurt village outside of Mongolia.” Britt, 22, studied Native American history and literature at Bowling Green State University. A graduate of the School of Art, she studied printmaking.  “My art work is largely research based and explores human connections to nature through emotions. Native American religion and mythology informs that very well.” Family lore, she said, has it that there is a Seminole…


Pipeline protesters pack BG Council meeting

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Council chambers overflowed into the hallway Monday evening as people urged city leaders to not buckle to a pipeline company. More than 20 speakers implored City Council to continue their commitment to green energy, rather than take steps backward in their environmental efforts. Once the meeting room exceeded its 66-person capacity, Fire Chief Tom Sanderson had to ask 40 others to listen to the meeting on the hallway speakers. “I think this is a moment in our history” when Bowling Green has the opportunity serve the greater good, Laura Sanchez told council. Monday was the second reading of an ordinance to grant Nexus Pipeline an easement to cross 29 acres of city land located in Middleton Township, about 2.5 miles east of the city’s water treatment plant. The third and final reading will be given on Dec. 5, when city council will vote on the ordinance. The proposed natural gas pipeline would run 255 miles from fracking fields in eastern Ohio, across the state, to Michigan and end in Canada. Along its route, it will pass through Wood County, north of Bowling Green, then go under the Maumee River downriver from the city’s water intake. Once it gets to Waterville Township, a compressor station is proposed. One by one, citizens stood up Monday evening and asked the city to fight the pipeline plans. Lisa Kochheiser said the pipeline would intersect with a fault line, run near a quarry where blasting takes place, and be dangerously close to the city’s water reservoirs. “This scenario is a recipe for disaster,” she…