The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Bean Creek: Peering into the Bean

Written by David Green.


There are hundreds of different midges in the world. There are so many kinds of the little fly, says Jeff Cooper, that scientists have divided them into tribes.

bean-creek-study_0004 One variety of midge emerges from a larva known as a bloodworm. The small, red worm-like creature is common in streams throughout Michigan, said Cooper, a researcher with the Michigan DEQ’s Surface Water Quality Assessment Section.

They thrive in cold trout streams as well as in warmer, slower moving rivers such as Bean Creek. They’re also common in oxygen-deprived contaminated water.

When Cooper sees bloodworms and nothing but bloodworms, he starts to worry. That was the situation when he walked up Medina Drain from the Bean last month.

Medina Drain originates near Dillon Highway, meanders east under Ingall Highway and finally joins the Bean about half a mile west of the village of Medina.

“There’s gravel and cobble,” Cooper said, “but there’s almost nothing living on it.”

His partners from the DEQ’s rapid bio-assessment team—Kevin Goodwin and Tamara Lipsey—are  finding just the opposite in Bean Creek. They’re collecting samples from the bottom of the Bean, and they’re finding dozens of specimens.

Cooper speculates that Medina Drain is too oxygen-deprived for most insects other than bloodworms to exist.

“If you can’t live on the surface or store oxygen, you don’t live there,” he said.

Bloodworms can handle the lack of oxygen. They’re red because, like humans, they carry hemoglobin inside of them. This enables them to store their own supply of oxygen and rely less on the dissolved oxygen present in water.

Cooper was finding a hundred bloodworms in a handful of silt from the drain, much more than from a handful of Bean mud.

Bloodworms can offer one indication of stream health, Cooper said, due to their tolerance of poor water conditions. As a stream becomes more impaired, bloodworms still thrive where other insects can’t.

Collecting data

Cooper’s team is involved in a special project to study the possible impact on aquatic life from two large dairies in the area.

The dairies were fined by the DEQ for discharging nutrients into area streams. Cooper’s job is to collect data to help the agency’s enforcement section make good decisions.

They’ve collected and catalogued macroinvertebrates and fish from several tributaries in Hillsdale and Lenawee counties and today they are taking a look at the Bean itself.

bean-creek-study_0002 “The Bean appears to have spectacular diversity—or at least the possibility for it,” Cooper said as he unpacked some equipment. “It’s somewhat challenged by silt.”

Silt is one of the biggest causes of impaired water quality in streams and rivers. Most insects and fish need a stable environment to survive, Cooper explains, and silt moves easily with even slight changes in water flow.

Excessive silt is often linked to the loss of vegetation along river banks, from row crop agriculture and from heavy stormwater flow—when silt-laden water flows into a stream rather than infiltrating into the soil.

Cooper heads up the drain. Goodwin and Lipsey begin collecting specimens near the outflow of the drain.

Goodwin explains they will sample a variety of habitats since there are subtle differences in each location. Soft silt. Gravel. Woody debris. Leaf packs. Under banks.

Lipsey walks toward the far bank while Goodwin samples closer to shore near the mouth of the drain.

“The slower areas are a refuge for minnows,” he says.

Minnows aren’t large enough to handle the main current, and besides, they would likely end up in the stomach of something larger.

He peers into his net at the silver flashes of minnows jumping in the sunlight. One is larger than the others and he identifies it as a silverjaw. That’s a fish he had never seen before visiting the Bean. The northern range of the silverjaw doesn’t extend too far into Michigan.

Goodwin digs some gravel from the stream bed, empties it into a pan and begins watching for movement.

“We spend a lot of time staring into a pan.”

He’s finding wigglers that will turn into midges, dragonflies and damselflies. There are water mites and caddisflies and tiny crayfish. Most everything in the pan will eventually leave the water and grow into an airborne insect.

From three feet away, just about everything he lifts from the pan looks alike—it’s less than half an inch long and it wiggles.

“Just watching them move is half the trick to identifying them,” Goodwin says.

Up close, there’s a whole new world of life unfolding. Dragonfly larvae have clubbed antennae. The dixid midge has a little black square head. What will later emerge as a no-see-um now looks like a tiny cigar—pointy head and pointy tail.

Goodwin points out a flat-head mayfly that has three tails, each as long as the body. A little black ball moving across the pan is identified as a water mite.

“For as small as they are, it’s fun to look at them under a scope,” he says, “because they have some pretty brilliant colors.”

He finds a small burrowing mayfly, but Lipsey soon brings in a much larger specimen.

“That’s the granddaddy of them,” Goodwin says. “That’s a huge one. It’s good to find them.”

Burrowing mayflies are typically found in more stable systems. If the sand and silt covering are frequently washed away, the insect is more likely to be devoured by something higher up on the food chain.

“If the mayflies are happy, we’re happy,” Cooper says later.

It’s an interesting organism to watch lying in his hand, but the real show begins once it’s placed back in water. That’s when a pair a feathery gills begins to waver like something from a fantasy film.

Cooper soon returns from his trek up the drain and delivers his bleak report. He fills out some paperwork while Goodwin looks over a piece of tree bark that was submerged in the river.

Tabanid (deerfly). Athericid (watersnipe fly). Leptocerid (long-horned caddisfly). He quickly names off half a dozen small creatures that Cooper notes on his clipboard.

The trio soon packs its gear and heads back upstream to the pickup truck parked at Medina Road.

Cooper will compile lists of what was found—and what was missing—at the various locations visited and make sense of the data collected.

That’s when he’ll know more about Bean Creek’s current state of health.

  - Aug. 13, 2003

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