KEC Now Accepting ‘Legacy for the Environment’ Grant Proposals for 2018-2019

KEC is seeking proposals from persons or organizations with ideas for improving the environment in Portage County.  Areas of consideration will include, but are not limited to, environmental education, storm water management, the mitigation of stream and river degradation, the protection of other surface and groundwater resources, enhancement of alternative energy usage, and/or the creation of sustainable communities. We also welcome other areas of consideration that would improve air or water quality, natural beauty, and environmental awareness in Portage County.

Requests will be considered for amounts up  to $1,000.

Proposals must be submitted by December 31, 2018, and awards will  be announced by February 16, 2019.
For a complete description of the requirements and a copy of the RFP application form, click  here.

Don’t Kill That Queen!

Those big, black-and-yellow bumblebees that you’ve been seeing lately are bumblebee queens looking for a nesting site and foraging for nectar and pollen.They do look menacing, if only because they’re so large, but they won’t harm you. So, you should not harm them.They’re too busy looking for a suitable nesting site and building their hive to bother with you. If a bumblebee queen is killed, that is the end of the hive; each bumblebee hive typically produces about a thousand bumble bees in a year.

Bumblebee queens are the only bumblebee to overwinter in the ground, in little spaces they choose  late in the fall. All the worker bees die.In spring, the queens come out of their winter nests   (hibernatoria) and begin to hunt for a suitable place to build their underground hive (generally from late March through mid-June). After they have found a suitable location, they begin to build the tunnels and rooms that become the hive.They also begin to lay fertilized eggs that will become the workers. After the female worker bees mature (about three weeks), they take over the task of foraging for nectar and pollen for the hive.The queen then stays in the hive for the rest of her life.Eventually, she will make some fertilized eggs to produce virgin queens and lay unfertilized eggs that become males.Long-story short: the males fertilize   virgin queens as they leave the nest; once inseminated, the queens search for their hibernatorium; all the workers and the old queen die in the late autumn, completing the annual life cycle.

Bumblebees are among the most efficient pollinators around–perhaps as much as 10 times more efficient than honeybees. Bumblebees are very hairy and can hold a lot of pollen on their bodies. They also mix nectar with pollen to make a sticky ball that they glue to a special part of their hind legs.The rate that bumblebees visit a flower is faster than the visit of honeybees. Bumblebees also can fly from flower to flower faster than honeybees, and they can fly at lower temperatures and explore darker and more diverse habitats than honeybees. Although both honeybees and bumblebees are classified as generalists (i.e., they pollinate many different flowering species), bumblebees can pollinate crops such as tomatoes and peppers (crops of the family Solanaceae) that honeybees avoid. 

In short, although honeybees are having their problems in terms of population numbers, bumblebees may be able to cover for them in fields and with crops that require insect pollination. Even crops that are wind-pollinated have increased yields when insects pollinate them. As you may know, honeybees are not native to Northeast Ohio; rather, they are native to Europe and likely evolved in the Middle East or Asia. Bumblebees are native to North America and therefore may not be as susceptible to diseases as honeybees. Scientists just don’t know that for sure. Honeybees have been studied extensively because of their economic significance; native bees are only now coming under increased scrutiny for their pollination capabilities.

Part of the effort to understand the abundance and distribution of bumblebees in Ohio is being coordinated by the Bee Lab in the College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, at Ohio State University.

 

Two statewide surveys are under way. The first survey focuses on bumblebee queens searching for a suitable location to develop their hive. The second survey aims to identify when and where bumblebee queens forage for nectar and pollen. This survey is done entirely by looking and primarily by volunteers such as myself. Volunteers do not capture the queens and instead identify the bee species on the fly–something that is easier said than done for a novice like me. I photograph them and then identify the species from the photos. Both surveys will last through June and then be analyzed by Dr. Jessie Lanterman, a post-doctoral professor in the Bee Lab.Stay tuned for the results to be reported at a later date.

–Bob Heath

RIVER DAY 2018

We hope you will come and check out the events for this year’s River Day on May 19th at the Haymaker Farmers Market 9 to 1, at the Tannery Park from 10  to 12 for electrofishing and all day for rentals from KSU Crooked River Adventures’s canoe, kayak, tube or bike rentals.   Click on the flyer below to see details and check out the second page of the flyer for information about the 20th Anniversary of the Cuyahoga as an American Heritage River.

2018 River Day Flyer two-sided final

Our Dirty Little Secret …An Essay by Bob Wilson

“…for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:18, King James version

“…We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”–Neil deGrasse Tyson

 

Science and religion agree–we are dirt. Dirt and sunlight, and yet we act as if dirt is of little importance. Water is number one, the most exploited resource on the planet, and air if you want to get technical, but in third place is sand. We glue it together with cement or tar, or melt it into glass, and then build our houses, skyscrapers, sidewalks, roadways, bridges, dams, churches and celestial observatories out of it. For our food, we utterly depend on a few inches of topsoil that took millennia to form, and yet we allow it to wash, blow or be bulldozed away as if it were easily replaced.

 

Human beings progressed from hunting and gathering to farming along rivers like the Nile, the Euphrates and the Mississippi, taking advantage of the mineral wealth of continents washed down from on high by cold rushing water, blended in the turbidity of tributaries, and spread as rich mud across flood plains and deltas. Long before we learned to pan for gold in the headwaters, our first gods were sunlight, water and mud. Our first population booms were made possible by this intermittently replenished fertility, and our first deserts were created by our inability to understand the fragility of the dirt we farmed as we took agriculture farther and farther from the rivers. From the first farmers and city builders of the Fertile Crescent to the green revolution of today, we have treated dirt as an inexhaustible resource, spending it like an endless trust fund. But, is it really so inexhaustible?

 

Consider sand. It turns out that sand is not as simple as it looked when we played with it in our sandboxes. There are many kinds of sand with different properties, and not every sand can be used for our many specialized applications. Can you imagine anyone importing sand into the sandy desert or spending billions to pour it onto sandy beaches with oceans to wash it away? According to a 2016 BBC report, the United Arab Emirates imported $456 million worth of sand in 2014. Whether that is in pounds or dollars, it is a lot of sand. Desert sand is apparently worthless for building or even for use in the sand traps of the amazingly odd golf courses of Dubai. After hurricanes or “super storms” such as Sandy, U.S. taxpayers pay for millions of tons of sand to replenish beaches that are eaten away from that long row of condominiums along the coast. And the U.S. fracking boom gobbled up 54,000,000 metric tons of high silica sand in 2014. We won’t run out of sand anytime soon, but the cost of many special sand mixes is increasing, as is the global demand.

 

The use of petroleum-based fertilizers and hydroponic agriculture gives us the illusion that soil quality is no longer a major concern for modern food production. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Fertilizer amends, it does not replace, topsoil; hydroponics provides a tiny share of the world’s food supply. Topsoil is the irreplaceable base of our crop and grazing agriculture. Soil is more than the sum of its parts, x amount of sand, x amount of clay, x amount of water, x amount of organic compost, etc. Soil is more of a living, breathing superorganism. Successful plants depend on an ecosystem of soil microbes and fungi, invertebrates and vertebrates, and passages and canals for the flow of nutrients from subsoil to surface, from mycelium to root hair, from taproot to canopy. If all the topsoil washes or blows away, plants will still grow but not necessarily the plants we want and not necessarily with the nutrients we need. Erosion is not some new threat that we need to convince ourselves of. We have been watching the process for 12,000 years. Civilizations have come and gone with the soil upon which they depended. Most recently, the dust bowl years of the 1930s illustrate what happens when we overplant, overplow, and forget about cover crops. Productive farms are gone with the wind.

 

Perhaps what is new is our understanding of the process. Soil biology gets better and better, with more tools and a richer understanding of how intricate it all is and how much more there is to learn. What a pity if we allow our traditional practices to destroy the land just as we come to truly know it. Consider one example. Scientists recently found evidence for a subtle but profound feedback loop in forest fertility in the Pacific Northwest. The rivers of the northwest have been moving nutrients from the mountains to the sea for eons. Along with those nutrients, the rivers sent countless salmon into the Pacific Ocean to grow fat on the fertility of the ocean. Those fish then swim back up the river to spawn and be caught by bears that left their partially eaten carcasses in the forest, thus bringing the lost nutrients back to support the great trees with which, along with sand and tar and cement, we build our civilization. The irony is that we have come to understand this marvelous process only after fishing and damming most of the wild salmon runs out of existence and after killing most of the great bears. How many other living cycles must we discover only after stunting or killing them? From dirt we come, and unto dirt we’ll go, so let’s start treating the dirt like an important part of the family.

Edith Chase–In Memoriam

 It grieves me to let you know that Edith Chase passed away on June 13, 2017. Edith was an award-winning scientist, activist and public official who lived in Franklin Township near Kent for a very long time. As a life member of both KEC and the League of Women Voters and for her numerous other community efforts, she will be missed by many.

She retired and moved to Ithaca, New York, at age 90 in 2014 to live near her daughter because of declining health.   Many environmentalists in Kent, throughout Ohio and nationally will miss her. She not only identified environmental issues, but she also worked tirelessly to correct the problems and was frequently successful. We will miss her quiet manner and smile, her generous nature, her probing questions, her grasp of the facts, and her “green” heart. Faye Ann Sebaly, in an email, expressed the hope that we can follow in her spirit of caring for our world and continue with the same integrity. Thanks, Edith, for leading the way.

Condolences may be sent to Edith’s son, Richard Chase, at P.O. Box 433, Princeton, MA  01541-0433.

Her Career:

Edith earned her bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Antioch College. She then returned to her family home in Minneapolis and earned a master of science degree in chemistry at the University of Minnesota. Edith was employed as a chemist at Merck & Co. Pharmaceuticals in New Jersey, where she met and subsequently married Richard Chase. They moved to Franklin Township in 1958.

While raising two children, Edith became active in the League of Women Voters of Kent and focused her scientific expertise on water quality public policy for the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. She was a founding member of the Kent Environmental Council in 1970 and continued to participate in the League of Women Voters of Kent for more than 50 years. Edith helped to establish and subsequently chaired the Lake Erie Basin Policy Conference of the League of Women Voters.

Recognized nationally, Edith was a writer and editor of scientific papers published by the Hydrology Section of the United States Geological Survey from 1979 to 1994. Recognized across Ohio, Edith was invited to become one of the founding members of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council when that council was organized by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in 1982 and served for several years as chairperson of the council.

Acting locally, Edith was Franklin Township zoning inspector for 15 years. In that office, in 1989, she created one of the first hydrology studies of the effects of oil drilling on groundwater and devised a method for monitoring well hydrology that was used by local governments until the Ohio General Assembly restricted that authority to the ODNR in 2004.

In 2005, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded to Edith the Walter B. Jones Memorial Award for Coastal Steward of the Year. Edith also received the Burning River Foundation’s 2014 award for Outstanding Environmental Leader, an honor previously awarded to United States Senators Sherrod Brown and George Voinovich.

After Edith moved to Ithaca, KEC and the League of Women Voters formed the Edith Chase Symposium Committee, which just completed its third annual event. Edith remained a part of the planning of this event for those three years and was proud of what it was accomplishing in educating the public. To find out more or to donate, go to www.edithchasesymposium.org.

Honors:

2014 – Outstanding Environmental Leader Award from the Burning River Foundation

2013 – Lifetime Achievement Award from the Portage Parks Foundation

2005 – Coastal Steward of the Year Walter B. Jones Memorial Award from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

2005 – Grassroots Citizen Advocate Award from Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Network

1995 – Lake Erie Award for individual stewardship from the State of Ohio Lake Erie Commission Legacy Club Member, Ohio Environmental Council

Life Member, Kent Environmental Council

Life Member, League of Women Voters of Kent

–Lorraine McCarty

Community Solar

Solar Presentation

Luke Selfridge, Program Director from OHSun, presented his organizations approach to helping residents and small businesses obtain solar.  OHSun is a 501 (c) 3 that partners with local non-profits to present to the public the opportunity to bring solar electric panels to their communities. They are principally funded thru grants and fixed installer fees.  They have worked with municipalities in Ashtabula, Athens, Lorain, and Cleveland.  At the KEC Annual Meeting, the standing-room-only crowd of 50 was extremely interested in the information.

General Notes on Solar

Solar is very viable in Ohio.  Ohio has about 4.5 to 5 hours of available light daily.  While Florida has more light, the panels operate best in cool weather (such as our spring or fall, so we actually have an advantage over sunnier  states that are also hotter.

  • Solar voltaic cells are still 80% efficient after 25 year.  They are covered with hail-proof, wind-proof, sealed glass.  No snow removal is necessary.
  • They are usually 3’-6” by 5’-0” and supported on a roof by aluminum racks.
  • They can be mounted on just about any roof type – slate shingles being more problematic but still possible.
  • True south facing roofs are no longer necessary for satisfactory performance—with east and west facing roofs performing at only 10% less efficiency, and the number of panels used can be adjusted to accommodate  the directional challenge.
  • Ground mounted systems are also available but are slightly more expensive do to the cost of a “foundation” for the frame-work.
  • The average home requires approximately 200 s.f. of solar panels but this may vary greatly depending on demand.

How Solar Systems Work

  • When sunlight hits the solar cells, energy is created and conducted by a cable.  Power is produced in Direct Current and requires an inverter (which looks somewhat like a flat fuse box) to convert to Alternating Current. The cable then feeds this electricity to the house.
  • Inverter types include: central or string .  String inverters are large commercial grade inverters which convert electricity from multiple arrays and are not generally appropriate for use in residential projects.
  • Most systems are connected to the grid to assure uninterrupted performance and excess production is then supplied to the grid for consumer credit.
  • March and April produce peak performance in Ohio due to the efficiency of weather related cooling of the panels.
  • The inverter system is required to shut down the system in the event of a grid shut-down to prevent back feeding and potential injury to utility line workers.
  • This means that although a house is solar powered, its electricity will go off with all the other houses. A “SunnyBoy Inverter” is a device that prevents the house from sending power back into the grid when it is down but still allows solar power to flow to the house, but it is expensive, and most people do not opt for this additional device.
  • Batteries are required for back-up to produce 24/7 performance if not connected to the grid or for full solar reliance.  The batteries are big, expensive and need to be replaced every 10-15 years, so most people do not opt for them.
  • In older solar systems, if one panel went down or became shaded, all remaining panels would shut down, but this is no longer an issue. Modern installations  utilize an “optimizer” to prevent this type of shut down.

How the solar cooperative works:

OHSun does presentations such as the one sponsored by KEC on February 27th, of this year. A core group of interested people develops. Within a few months, if enough people show interest a co-op group can be formed.  The ideal number to be most cost effective is 100 homes or small businesses but the co-op group can be much smaller.

The process is as follows:

Full implementation of the process generally takes 4 – 8 months but could take up to a year depending on a number of factors including group process and installer availability. The following is a basic outline of the process:

  1. Information meeting
  2. Join the co-op
  3. Grow the co-op…tell your neighbors
  4. Schedule a site visit with installer

a. Co-op members choose a smaller selection committee

b. Co-op gets bids from installers

c. Co-op committee chooses an installer

  1. Contracts are signed
  2. Panels are installed
  3. Enjoy

OHSun brings regional installers into the picture, each with its own specifications. OHSun vets the installers and prepares a Excel spread sheet that includes all aspects of the bidding installers so that the co-op selection committee can make the best comparisons possible.  These would include criteria such as the price of panels, quality of panels, density of cells in panels, types of racks, labor, time required for installation, differences depending on roof types, the type of equipment used, company history, the company’s hiring practices, installer certification, references, etc.

This is a buying coop and does not involve any sharing of the produced power.  This co-op model doesn’t require strict geographic unity (For example, homes from Summit and Lake Counties joined the Cleveland co-op.  The advantages of the co-op system Include:

  • Camaraderie
  • Collective knowledge
  • Cost savings through group buying power

Costs

  • The cost of solar installation has dropped by 90% since the 1970’s.
  • Purchasing solar panels through OHSun cooperatives typically saves consumers 10-20% over the cost of an individual purchase.
  • A monthly fee is charged by utility providers to connect to the grid—from $8 to $23 a month, based on what OHSun has seen in other areas.
  • In reality solar electric production benefits all rate payers as it affords local production of alternative energy.  Ohio allows for net metering.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_metering.
  • An important metric is cost per watt.
  • 3 Kilowatt systems are the smallest desirable to the installer.  An average system is 7 Kilowatts and the panels for a system this size cover about 200 square feet of roof.
  • An array of four panels creates 1 kilowatt of power per hour.
  • Federal tax credits are available and rebates about 30% of the cost.
  • Eco-Link offers reduced interest rates for the installation of solar panels. http://www.tos.ohio.gov/ecolink_homeowners
  • The national Unitarian Universalist Church also sponsors low interest rate loans.
  • The average home cost for an installed system would be somewhere between $5,826  (a 3 KW system) and $17,478 (a 9 KW system), after all discounts, tax credits and the annual savings on electricity are deducted.

For more information see the OHSun website ( http://www.ohsun.org), or contact Luke Selfridge at solarteam@ohsun.org.

 

Submitted by Brad Brotje and Mary Greer