Michigan officials call for increased urgency in dealing with Asian Carp

Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Dave Camp are pushing for increased urgency in researching how to combat the Asian Carp threat.

The move comes almost a week after the first Asian Carp was found six miles from Lake Michigan beyond the electrical barrier designed to keep them out of the Great Lakes.

The Permanent Prevention of Asian Carp Act would require the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to research the best way to separate the Mississippi River Basin from Lake Michigan.

Congressman Dave Camp says there are a lot of things engineers should keep in mind when conducting research.
          
“We’re really trying to put the pressure on the Army Corps to quickly find some alternatives that would not compromise the ecological separation to detail the environmental benefits for ecological separation and to address the potential flooding benefits to the Chicago area” says Camp.
 
Senator Debbie Stabenow says the issue needs to be addressed with urgency.

“It’s absolutely critical that we be laser focused in how we can protect the great lakes from not only Asian Carp which is our biggest threat but from other invasive species that are coming up through the river” says Stabenow.

Stabenow says although there is no concrete proof, her office has recently received information that there’s concern about carp spawning near the Wabash River in Indiana and making its way through Lake Eerie.

Senator Stabenow says the study needs to begin within a month of the bill being adopted. She’d like to see progress reports every six months, and study completion within 18-months.

Lawmakers say the study would also address the cost of a separation project.

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Office professionals union rejects tentative university contract

The Office Professionals’ union at Central Michigan University rejected a contract offer today.

Karen Bellingar, President of UAW Local 6888, says union members were disheartened by the university’s proposal.  She says the office professionals are seeking mediation from the state.

University officials say they value their employees, including the 340 office professionals represented by the union. Officials also say they will work with a mediator to develop what they call “a fair and equitable agreement for both parties.”

Part-time CMU faculty to vote on establishing a union

University administration and the American Federation of Teachers agreed early this week on the definition of a proposed union.  That agreement clears the way for a vote to determine whether or not to establish the AFT at CMU.

Eligible, part-time faculty members expect the vote to take place in the coming weeks.

Ray Christie is the Vice Provost for Academic Administration.  He says, with some exceptions, nontenure-track faculty who teach at least three credit hours are eligible to vote on forming the union.

“The university does and has worked well with more than half a dozen collective-bargaining units.  And we do so in support of our faculty and staff, who are absolutely instrumental in students, and in particular, student learning outcomes.  Should this election be positive, we certainly will work with this union as well.”

According to Christie, around 350 professors are eligible to vote on forming the union.

Supporters of the union say negotiations with the university have been amicable.  They gathered near the Park Library at CMU today.  Jim Eikrem is an assistant professor and a member of the effort’s organizing committee.

“At this point, anybody who is considered temporary faculty was not represented by a union at all.  So this is the advocacy that we’ve been looking for.  It’s very important, because, up until now, temporary faculty have been one of the only groups of people on campus who have not had some form of representation.”

Eikrem says if the vote passes, it would establish a new collective-bargaining unit at the university.

Two DNRE offices close due to budget cuts

Two field offices for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment are now closed due to budget cuts.

The offices in Atlanta and Baldwin will be closed until further notice. 

Mary Detloff is with the DNRE.  She says revenue did not match the funding levels put in place by the legislature so cuts were needed.
 
“This is the result of a budget cut but it’s also the result of consolidation of several administrative services in other agency because we had duplicate services in some parts of the agency” says Detloff.

Detloff says just because the offices are closed to the public that doesn’t mean they’re being shut down entirely.  She says there will still be staff in those offices.

“They just basically lost their administrative support, the person that works at the front desk was either bumped out of a job or bumped to another job” says Detloff

The DNRE says people should go to operations service centers in either Gaylord or Cadillac. 

The Atlanta office will only be open to the public on Tuesdays from 8 a.m to noon to issue fuel wood permits.

Northern Michigan businesses receive USDA grants

Two Bay County businesses will invest in energy-efficient equipment with the help of federal grants.

Weber Dairy Farms was awarded nearly $20,000, and Ittner Bean and Grain received both a grant and a loan of nearly $50,000 a piece.   Each company plans to replace an inefficient grain dryer in their respective plants.

The grants come from the US Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy for America Program.  US Representative Bart Stupak says the investment will save money in the long run.

“We want to keep them in business.  Energy efficiency is one of the ways they can save money, and hopefully expand the products that they dry with this new dryer they’re putting in.”

The USDA also awarded several grants to fund business enterprises in northern Michigan – including the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.

“One was for Alpena – that was $40,000 to enhance and expand their farmer’s market, which would save six jobs and then assist six local businesses, also,” says Rep. Stupak.

He adds that the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region received $70,000 to spur business development in Baraga and Ontonagon counties.

Siblings attempt sky diving world record

Two Northern Michigan siblings will attempt to break a world record today.  They hope to raise money for a state-based non-profit organization as well.

Luther Kurtz and Angela Bishop will try to break the world record for the most tandem sky dives in 24 hours. 

The record was last broken in 2009 in Florida by two U.S soldiers.

Luther Kurtz says they’re collecting pledge money for every jump they make to go towards the Top of Michigan Trails Council.

“They help grassroots organizations around Michigan set up their own trails. They provide a great backbone for that kind of system of putting other groups in charge of getting their own trail” says Kurtz.

Kurtz says like any non-profit organization, Top of Michigan Trails Council has a tough time getting donations in this economy

The current record is 103 dives.  The siblings will have to make a jump every 13 minutes to break it.  They will start today at 5:30 p.m.

 

Columbus replicas sail into Cheboygan

CHEBOYGAN — Two pieces of history sailed into Cheboygan on Thursday.  They’re hand-built replicas of the Nina and the Pinta, of Christopher Columbus fame.

Kyle Friauf, current captain of the Nina, explains what brings them to northern Michigan.

“This makes a very convenient stop, as we’re rounding through the Great Lakes.  We’re on our way into the river systems, the Mississippi River.  We travel around; we’re traveling museums, and this is what we do.”

Captain Friauf says visitors who come aboard get first-person perspective into what it was like to sail over five hundred years ago.

“We’re here through Sunday.  We’re open 9 AM til 6 PM everyday.  It’s a great opportunity to come and stand on the decks, and imagine yourself out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, with 27 or 32 of your closest friends – perhaps enemies – and imagine what life was like to be a sailor in general.”

The ships will return to the region.

“We will be back in the Great Lakes next year.  I don’t know what ports are planned yet at this point.  The Tall Ships are coming behind us, as well, here in the Great Lakes, so they’re fun to see,” says Captain Friauf.

The Tall Ship Celebration begins in Bay City on July fifteenth.

Captain Friauf says the Nina and the Pinta are now making their way to the Mississippi River.

You can find a link to more information about the Nina and the Pinta here.  Information about the Tall Ship Celebration can be found here.