Friday, October 25, 2013

Holland named most secure mid-sized city in U.S.

Quality-of-life expert and researcher Bert Sperling conducted the study and looked at a number of factors, including economic stability, crime statistics, extreme weather, housing depreciation and employment rates to determine the top 20 list of secure cities, which were broken down by population size.
Holland-Grand Haven landed on the top of the list for mid-size cities followed by Green Bay, Wis.
Keith VanBeek, assistant Ottawa County administrator, said the county works toward having solid services and a fantastic community that is a place people want to live.
"It's outside recognition that we have a fantastic community," he said. "It's one of those outside indicators" that what the county is doing is working.
Stacy Segrist Kamphuis, owner of Holland-based The Insurance Group LLC, wasn’t surprised Holland made the top spot, noting the lakeshore has a low crime rate and very few natural disasters.
"Our worst-case scenario is a snow storm, and that’s just an inconvenience. It’s not going to cause damage," she said. "We don’t have hurricanes, we don’t have earthquakes. We don’t have anything like that."
Ann Arbor was the only other mid-size Michigan city to make the top 20 list. However, the Grand Rapids–Wyoming area took the No. 2 spot on the list of the most secure large metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.
"Our most secure metropolitan areas are islands of security in our challenging times," Sperling said in a news release. "Although each metropolitan area is different, they all possess a desirable combination of factors (jobs, low crime rates, housing, climate, health, reduced levels of natural disasters) that make these some of the best places to live in the United States."

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bill Andresen MY TAKE — Governments can mitigate extreme lake levels

Lately, there has been considerable interest in Great Lakes water levels, especially Michigan/Huron because a record low level is approaching. If a record high level were imminent, there would most likely be a louder hue and cry as coastal homes begin drop into the lake.
The Army Corps of Engineers and its counterpart, Environment Canada, are charged by the International Joint Commission, with communicating to the public on the subject of Great Lakes water levels. This writer has found them to always be truthful in their comments. However, they are notorious for omission of many basic facts to make a particular point.
For instance the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 established definite priorities for control of water flows and levels affecting the shorelines of both nations. The priorities are shipping and hydro power, with no emphasis at all upon shoreline structures or recreational boating. If you are at all familiar with the inability of government to take action, you will understand why the priorities of 1909 have not changed one iota in the century since.           
Unless pressed, the Corps of Engineers is hesitant to mention the three flow controls at Sault St. Marie, the upper Niagara River and Cornwall, Ontario, that are designed to manage Great Lakes water levels. Instead, their explanation usually goes to water supplies of precipitation, runoff and evaporation. These controls do not appear to be efficiently coordinated and, while not a total solution, could be very useful to minimize either low or high water level extremes.
Mitigating extreme conditions is evidently not the objective because the state and provincial mentality is to retain as much valuable fresh water in the system as possible, an admirable goal. Of course, during periods of low water, there is not enough, but during periods of high levels, it seems insane to follow such reasoning.               
The Corps of Engineers almost never mentions the many ideas presented over the years to better control water levels. Most of the time the governments cite lack of funds for investigating suggested innovations, since the financial focus seems to be on the ocean coasts rather than the Great Lakes, the largest body of fresh water in the world.                      
Having lived on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan for 40 years and serving as international chairman of the Great Lakes Coalition, with 4,000 members in the United States and Canada, at the time I held office the phenomenon certainly appeared to me to be severely impacted by the decision not to mitigate extremes. Of course, the governments cannot be all things to all people, but they surely could do much better.   
The governments have not, and probably never will, be able to identify and rank the relative importance of the many interests in the Great Lakes. Therefore, the 1909 priorities will probably continue or generations, even though the Great Lakes shipping industry is now a mere shadow of its former stature and established hydro power is just another interest.
— Bill Andresen is a resident of Park Township.

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Best High Schools in Michigan

Best High Schools in Michigan

Michigan high school students must earn at least 16 credits in various subjects and take an online course before graduating. The state challenges schools to report early warning signs of future high school dropouts, and hosts a competitive grant opportunity for high-poverty schools, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

In the U.S. News Best High Schools 2013 rankings, Michigan has seven schools with gold medals, 68 with silver medals and 131 with bronze medals. Michigan's highly ranked International Academy is about 80 miles from the state capital of Lansing, in the Bloomfield Hills School District. One of Michigan's largest school districts is Detroit Public Schools.

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Friday, October 4, 2013



Water levels for the previous year and the current year to date are shown as a solid line on the hydrographs. A projection for the next six months is given as a dashed line. This projection is based on the present condition of the lake basin and anticipated future weather. The shaded area shows a range of possible levels over the next six months dependent upon weather variations. Current and projected levels (solid and dashed lines) can be compared with the 1918-2011 average levels (dotted line) and extreme levels (shown as bars with their year of occurrence).The legend below further identifies the information on the hydrographs.
 The levels on the hydrographs are shown in both feet and meters above (+) or below (-) Chart Datum. Chart Datum, also known as Low Water Datum, is a reference plane on each lake to which water depth and Federal navigation improvement depths on navigation charts are referred.

All elevations and plots shown in this bulletin are referenced to International Great Lakes Datum 1985 (IGLD 1985). IGLD 1985 has its zero base at Rimouski, Quebec near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River (approximate sea level).

Lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron and St. Clair were below their long-term average (1918-2012) water levels in August. Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron continue their 14 consecutive year stretch of below average water levels, the longest in each of their recorded histories. The latest six month forecast does not call for record low levels on any lakes given any scenario. The most probable forecast shows Lake Michigan-Huron remaining 12 to 13 inches ABOVE record lows through February.
Expected impacts to navigation: The August monthly mean water levels of Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron were both above chart datum, but both lakes remain below their long-term averages. Lake Superior is expected to remain above chart datum through December and be 1 to 3 inches below datum in January and February. Lake Michigan-Huron is forecasted to fall below chart datum by November. Low water levels on the Great Lakes will affect navigation in several ways. The first is that harbors and ports on Lakes Michigan, Huron and Superior will experience lake levels near low water datum during much of this navigation season. Shippers will have to continue to light load. Groundings will be much more likely and some harbors may close. Waukegan Harbor is currently closed to commercial navigation. Many recreational harbors have also been affected. Also, it is important to note that because the Great Lakes operate as a system with interdependent ports, problems in the upper lakes have negative impacts across all the commercial projects throughout the system, including the ports on Lakes Erie and Ontario. Light-loading caused by low levels on the upper lakes will have repercussions throughout the system with increased costs to shippers in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. Every foot of lost depth requires a 1,000-footer to load 3,200 tons less. At 1.5 feet below datum, they are losing 8-10 percent of their carrying capacity. This causes significant economic impacts in increased shipping costs.

Recorded water levels in this bulletin are derived from a representative network of water level gages on each lake (see cover map). Providers of these data are the U.S.Department of Commerce, NOAA, National Ocean Service, and Integrated Science Data Management, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada. The Detroit District, Corps of Engineers and Environment Canada derive historic and projected lake levels under the auspices of the Coordinating Committee on Great Lakes Basic Hydraulic and Hydrologic Data. This bulletin is produced monthly as a public service. The Corps also publishes the "Great Lakes, Connecting Channels and St. Lawrence River Water Levels and Depths,” weekly, which provides a forecast of depths in the connecting rivers between the Great Lakes and the International Section of the St. Lawrence River. This Monthly Bulletin of the lake levels for the Great Lakes may be obtained free of charge by writing to the address shown on the front cover, by calling (313) 226-6442 or emailing Notices of change of address should include the name of the publication. This information is available on the internet at

Great Lakes Basin Hydrology
September 2013
All of the Great Lakes basins received below average precipitation in September 2013, with the total precipitation ranging between 2.5 and 3 inches for all of the Great Lakes. Over the past 12 months, though, the total precipitation received for all of the Great Lakes basins was above average. In September, the net basin supply of water to Lake Superior was near average, while the net basin supplies of water to all of the other Great Lakes were below average. The tables below list September precipitation and water supply information for all Great Lakes basins. A comparison of monthly mean lake levels for September to long-term average (1918-2012) shows Lakes Superior and Michigan-Huron were 2 and 18 inches below average, respectively. Lake St. Clair was 5 inches below average in September, while Lake Erie was near average. Lake Ontario was 2 inches above average in September. Boaters should be aware of hazards to navigation due to continued below average water levels on Lakes Superior, Michigan-Huron, and St. Clair. 

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels will gain almost two feet this season

Lake Michigan and Lake Huron should climb almost two feet from the low water level this past February.
The Army Corps of Engineers in Detroit is forecasting a total rise of 20 inches from this past February to this coming July.
The normal water level cycle has water levels bottoming around March 1, and then rising to the high water mark in July.
So, the water level is still going up, and should top out sometime in July.
The water level on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is expected to go up another six inches between now and the high water time.
total-rainfall-may-2013.jpgView full sizeTotal rainfall in May varied greatly from one and a half inches near Coldwater to over six inches in central and northeast Michigan. 
May rain was above normal
May rainfall across the Lake Michigan- Lake Huron drainage basin was above normal, but only by a small margin.
The Lake Michigan-Lake Huron drainage basin averaged 3.36" of rain, which is .31"
above normal.
Lake Superior had 4.35" of precipitation in May on its entire drainage basin. That amount of precipitation was 1.59", representing much above normal precipitation.
Lake-Michigan-Huron-Water-Levels-Jun-1-2013.jpgView full sizeLake Michigan and Lake Huron water levels have risen sharply over the past two months. The blue line represents the water level so far this year. The blue dots represent the forecast of the water level for the rest of the year. 
Upper Lakes rose sharply in May
The heavy rain in April and the above normal rainfall in May continues to make a sharp rise in lake levels.
Lake Michigan-Lake Huron rose seven inches in May. Lake Superior also rose seven inches in May.
If the lakes rise another six inches, as expected, the 20 inch seasonal rise would be eight inches more than normal. This is a big rise compared to last year, when Lake Michigan-Lake Huron only rose four inches.
Because of the rise in the water level on Lake Superior, the outflow of water into Lake Huron through the St. Marys River has been increased by 500 cubic feet per second.
This means more water is also being put into Lake Michigan-Lake Huron from Lake Superior.
One inch of water on Lake Michigan-Lake Huron or Lake Superior is 800 billion gallons of water.
So the gain of water in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan-Lake Huron during May represents over 11 trillion gallons of water. That's a lot of water.
What would it take to get back to normal?
Lake Michigan-Lake Huron is still 19 inches below the long term water level average.
What would it take to bring it back to normal levels?
The Army Corps of Engineers says that it would take several seasons with a wet, cool weather pattern like the one we've been in since January.
So we would need a cool, wet summer. We would also need to have a cool, wet fall and a snowy winter next winter.
If that happens, a lot of boating concerns would be eased.

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New home sales in U.S. jump to highest level in 5 years

Washington — Americans snapped up new homes in June at the fastest pace in five years, a sign the housing recovery is strengthening.

Sales of newly built homes rose 8.3 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted national annual rate of 497,000, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That’s the highest since May 2008 and up from an annual rate of 459,000 in May, which was revised lower.

While sales are still below the 700,000 pace consistent with healthy markets, they have risen 38 percent in the past 12 months. That’s the biggest annual gain since January 1992.

One concern is that rising mortgage rates could slow sales in the coming months. The average rate on the 30-year fixed was 4.37 percent last week — a full percentage point higher than in early May. At the same time, mortgage applications to purchase homes have fallen in the past few weeks.

Rising demand and a tight supply of available homes for sale have pushed up prices. The median price of a new home in June was $249,700, up 7.4 percent from a year ago — 10 percent in Michigan, or $80,000, according to real estate research firm RealtyTrac.

 imited homes on the market have kept sales from rising even faster. Still, higher prices, growing sales and the tight supply have made builders more optimistic about their prospects. That’s led many to ramp up construction and add jobs.

Builder confidence rose in July to the highest level in seven years, according to a NAHB survey. And customer traffic and builders’ outlook for single-family home sales over the next six months are at the highest levels since the housing bubble burst in 2006.

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