Tag: great lakes

Welcome to the Lake Lovers

Editor’s Note: At FLOW, we couldn’t accomplish our work without support from our partners. Two great examples are The Boardman Review and Katherine Corden, both of whom are donating 5% of their proceeds from The Boardman Review Issue 6 and The Lake Lovers Collection, respectively. Check out both at the Boardman Review Launch party on December 2. Here is an introduction by Katherine’s cousin, Sam Corden, of the Lake Lovers Collection that reflects some of our own admiration and appreciation for our Great Lakes. 


Welcome to The Lake Lovers.

This latest series by Katherine is a tribute to our lovely home. A great state. The Great Lakes State.

When she first asked me to be a part of this piece, my fingers itched to write. Much of our childhood was spent along the shores of Lake Michigan, where we grew from little ones crawling in the sand, to now, young adults invested in the place that offered us so much to learn from and love.

For countless northern souls, the landscapes of rolling dunes, soft beneath your feet… the sounds of waves crashing rhythmically… or the October sun peering through golden leaves – that’s who you are. That’s what we are. It’s true that in Michigan you may find yourself in any number of abandoned factory towns, or in the depths of an unsightly salt mine; but if you choose to seek it, Michigan is a place that still offers the natural wonder that much of the world has lost… It’s a place to become a part of nature, all the while, the boundless beauty of Michigan becomes a part of you.

If you’re from Michigan, or even a transplant that it’s grabbed hold of, then you know – it isn’t just where we grew up; it’s a place that raised us. It’s turned me into the environmentalist that I am, and it’s turned Katherine into the painter that you’ve all come to know. Now in our older years, each in our own way, we’re finding paths to begin serving as the new generation of lake protectors – ensuring that same love is passed forward for years to come. Hopefully her new series of beach bums and linens, summer days and friends, will help to remind you that it’s a corner of the planet worth preserving, no matter the effort it may take from us all.

Part of the Lake Lovers Collection by Katherine Corden

The mitten has 3,288 miles of shoreline. Within the U.S., that’s second only to Alaska.

Our state is home to more than 11,000 inland lakes. That means anytime you’re in need of a swim, wherever you may be, you’re never beyond a six-mile stroll with a furry friend.

And most amazingly, we have more than 20% of the worlds accessible fresh water at our feet. That fact alone deserves a humbling sense of appreciation. 20. Percent.

What a rarity that the earth should form itself in a way that lets us swim in not one freshwater ocean, but five. What fortune to have beaches that rival the sandy Mecca’s of Mozambique or California. What fortune to have fish and waterfowl alongside the stags. Pines alongside the dunes. Lovers alongside the lakes.

Michigan is a place unlike anywhere else I’ve found; and though I haven’t been everywhere in the world, my list is long. Nowhere else has ever given me the feeling… the essence, that only Michigan can. The midwestern kindness that welcomes you in; the smell of each season that so brazenly arrives; the soft glow of the 45th parallel that lets you know: You’ve arrived north.

However romantic our home may be, it’s important to remember that beyond the sheer beauty that The Lake Lovers revels in, it’s up to all of us to cherish what we’ve been so generously gifted, and to ensure that we share it responsibly. Every Michigander isn’t lucky in the same way. Some may never get close to its pristine shorelines, nor even drink clean water from their tap. Native children can no longer access the waterways that their ancestors once fished; and urban children may never know the sounds of the woods around them. These are issues that an Instagram post will never fix, but throughout this series, Katherine and I will be trying our best to shed a little light where we can, how we can. Whether it’s voting for environmental candidates on the 6th, or simply remembering to make some alone time with nature while you collect a bag of litter, what you choose to do with the inspiration that stems from her colors or my words, is entirely up to you.

Just remember: Even if you’re not lucky enough to be loving the lake today… love those near and far; love the crisp autumn air with no distraction but the sound of your feet; love the sun and the rain and all that you can; because, at the end of the day, it’s all that we’ve got, and loving it is all up to you.

See you again soon.

 

Signed,

The Lake Lovers


Essay by: Sam Corden

Journalist. Photographer. Environmentalist.

Sam is a Michigan native based in New Haven, CT, pursuing a Masters of Environmental Management with the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Website: www.samcordenphotography.com
Instagram: @great_white_northern_light


Artwork by: Katherine Corden

Fine Artist. Physical Therapist. Lake Lover.

Katherine is also a Michigan native currently based in Madison, Wisconsin with her husband Dave. Sam is Katherine’s first cousin and first best friend, more like a brother really. She’s thankful to have someone she is close with be able to articulate what her artwork represents. She is excited to bring more purpose to her painting by giving back 5% of her “Lake Lovers” series proceeds to FLOW and looks forward to seeing her contribution grow along with her art business.

Website: www.katherinecorden.com
Instagram: @katherinecorden.art
Facebook: www.facebook.com/katherinecorden.art


Photography by: Meredith Johnson
Instagram: @mmjon 

Lame Ducks, Lamer Policies


When Michigan voters cast ballots November 6, they did not express support for attacks on the state’s water resources.  But that’s what they may be getting from Lansing between now and the end of 2018.

In politics, lame ducks are officeholders whose successors have been elected but whose terms haven’t expired.  “Lame” may imply powerlessness, but in fact lame duck officials possess a dangerous power.  They can enact or repeal laws without accountability.  Michigan’s lame duck Governor Rick Snyder and dozens of legislators who won’t return next year are plotting several attacks on the environment.  To put these attacks in a legal framework, Article 4, Section 52 of our state’s constitution declares that the public’s concern for air, water, and natural resources is “paramount,” and mandates that the legislature “shall enact laws that protect the air, water, and natural resources from pollution, impairment, or destruction.”  These lame duck officeholders are determined to do the opposite.

The most prominent of these is Senate Bill 1197, concerning Line 5 and the Mackinac Bridge, sponsored by lame duck Senator Tom Casperson, a Republican from Escanaba.  It would grant Enbridge Energy a blessing to operate its risky 65-year-old petroleum pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac for another decade.  It would do so by diluting the mission of the state’s Mackinac Bridge Authority to include acquisition of lands for, and ownership of, an oil tunnel beneath the Straits. The tunnel, if ever built, would expose the Authority and the taxpayers of Michigan to liability if it ever results in a spill or other accident. 

Coupled with a proposed agreement between the state and Enbridge, the bill seeks to lock the state into a 99-year lease for the Canadian company to use the Straits as a shortcut for routing Canadian crude oil to the Canadian refinery center of Sarnia, Ontario.  Why the haste to finalize a nearly century-long deal in a five-week lame duck session, especially when the new governor and attorney general have expressed opposition to the decaying pipelines and the replacement tunnel?

Concerned citizens from across Michigan are converging on the Capitol Tuesday, November 27 for a Lame Duck Lobby Day against Senate Bill 1197 and the bad Enbridge deal.

This ill-conceived legislation is not the only attack on environmental protections that could become law in the lame duck session.  Others include:

  • Weakening the state’s wetland law to exclude many important, sensitive waters from protection.  The proposal would essentially dumb down Michigan’s wetlands law to meet weak definitions being pursued by the Trump Administration and expose over half a million acres of wetlands to destruction.
  • Weakening the state’s approach to cleanup of chemical contamination, making it harder to set binding cleanup standards and to protect the most sensitive populations, women of child-bearing age and children.
  • Weakening protection of the environment from toxic coal ash by creating a state coal ash landfill program with minimal standards that could allow arsenic and lead in groundwater.
  • Setting weak standards for protection of groundwater and surface water from failing septic systems.  Only Michigan of the 50 states lacks a statewide code for regulation of septic systems, but the bills on which the lame duck Legislature may act fall well short of what is needed.

A few proposals good for Michigan’s environment may get a hearing, too.   Bills to create a sustainable funding source for replacing aging water infrastructure, water quality monitoring, recycling, and contaminated site cleanup may be considered, as well as a measure providing fair tax treatment for small-scale solar generation. 

But the bad far outweighs the good in this lame duck Legislature.  FLOW will work to keep you informed of these threats and what you can do about them during the remainder of 2018.


Thankful for Beautiful Views


Photo by Kenzie Rice


Since I was a kid, I have been taking advantage of the beauty of Michigan. You could say I am a veteran of taking advantage of it at this point. My parents would take my siblings and me on picturesque hikes and to spectacular lookout points, and I would stare out onto the blue horizon.

Porcupine Mountains, Pictured Rocks, Pyramid Point.

The first time I went to Pyramid Point, my sister was a napping infant. My mother watched her, while my father took my brother and me up the half mile trail to the lookout, and then down the 300 feet to Lake Michigan. By the time we climbed back up and made it back to the parking lot, my mother and little sister had all but left us for dead. We were quickly forgiven, as the beauty of the water can captivate anyone for hours.

The view from that day is one of my most vivid memories, and the hikes in that area are still some of my favorite.

Two summers ago, I was in Hawaii, helping a woman on her farm. After initial conversation, it came up that I was from Traverse City. Her response was, “I have traveled all over the world, and that is the most beautiful place I have been.” Not to mention, you don’t often hear people talking about other beautiful places while being in Hawaii.

But she was right. Our Great Lakes are a globally significant resource, for function and beauty. I love hiking along Lake Michigan’s shores and being amazed every single time.

Photo by Temple Florip


Thankful for Lake Huron


During this week including Thanksgiving, FLOW staff are reflecting on their thankfulness for water. Whether it’s the vast and variable nature of Lake Huron or the water running from a household tap, water is at the center of our lives and our gratitude. We hope our writings inspire your reflection as well. Happy Thanksgiving from FLOW! 


I am thankful for Lake Huron, sometimes called the forgotten Great Lake.  It’s not the biggest, the most popular or the most celebrated Great Lake. But during the three years I lived on its shore, I came to know and appreciate its subtleties and charms.

Lake Huron was patient in winter.   Ice clotted the creeks and drains that ordinarily contribute to it, but they would soon resume their flow; of course, they were already flowing under winter’s glassy surface.

Lake Huron was resilient.  A storm would thrash it, but a day or two later, the lake would rest contentedly, a match for any tempest.

Lake Huron was a changeling.  One day the blue of a child’s lake drawing, one morning silver; one day muddy brown, one evening gold.

Lake Huron was vast.  Gazing out over its open waters, I felt a connection to the thousands of years it has endured, the 23,000 square miles it occupies, its 3,827 miles of shoreline.

Living next to Lake Huron was like living next to a mountain.  The lake was always in my consciousness.  Often that was because of the beat of the waves.  The repetition was comfort, the way a rocking cradle is to a baby. 

The second largest of the Great Lakes, Huron is the fifth largest lake in the world.  It doesn’t boast.  It just is.  I am thankful that it is.  I highly recommend it to others.


A Fresh Start for Fresh Water in Michigan


It is a fresh start for fresh water in Michigan.

Tuesday’s election of a new governor who stressed clean water issues offers opportunities that did not exist before the vote. A chief executive who champions water not only can persuade legislators to act, but also has the ability to act on her own by appointing water protectors to run state agencies and to serve on boards and commissions. And by directing them to take the steps needed to protect our water and our environment generally.

Gretchen Whitmer’s election also provides an opportunity for the state at last to take decisive action to protect the Great Lakes and the Pure Michigan economy from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines. She and the new attorney general of her own party will have several legal options for doing so.

Just as important, the new governor can promote water justice. Along with decommissioning Line 5, this is a top priority for FLOW. She can take the lead on legislation that will prevent water privatization by companies like Nestlé and help hard-pressed citizens of urban and rural areas access clean, affordable drinking water. FLOW has drafted model legislation that will serve as a template.

At the same time, the opposing party retains control of both houses of the state Legislature. This sometimes leads to gridlock, but water and health should not be partisan issues. Michigan government has served the people best when protecting the environment was a value shared regardless of party — as in the 1970s, when Republican Governor William Milliken and a Democratic Legislature enacted our landmark environmental laws.

Our new Governor and Legislature are guided by the same state constitution, which says: “The conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people. The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.”

If the governor-elect and new Legislature operate together in accordance with that mandate, our water will be well protected.


Vote for Water: Michiganders Can Choose Great Lakes Protection and Prosperity

By Paul Hendricks, Manager of Environmental Responsibility, Patagonia, Inc.
All photos courtesy of Paul Hendricks.


Every fall, strong north winds bring in a steady flow of storms that rip across the Great Lakes. You’ve probably witnessed one of these storms, where waves crash over pier heads and howling winds cut through your parka, chilling you straight to the bone. Over the years, these storms have tormented sailors, bringing thousands of ships to the icy lake bottoms. These days, they beckon surfers to brave the chilling waters in search of “unsalted” swell. From any perspective, there is something powerful about this time of year on the Lakes. It is raw, unharnessed nature that is both beautiful and prideful for those who call these waters home.

Right now, there is a different kind of storm brewing on the Great Lakes. For 65 years, a decaying pipeline known as “Line 5” has been pumping 23 million gallons of oil each day through the heart of the Great Lakes. Operated by Enbridge Energy – who was responsible for a 1.1 million gallon oil spill in the Kalamazoo River in 2010 – this pipeline is 15 years past its expected life. And it’s showing: Researchers have documented cracks, dents, bends, gouges, and failed supports on the pipeline’s path through the Straits of Mackinac, putting our freshwater and over 700 miles of our coastline at risk.

Concerned citizens have been fighting for the decommissioning of this line for years, believing that the Great Lakes – our public waters – are not worth risking for the short-term economic gains of a private company. These lakes provide the basis of this region’s identity and economy – 1.5 million jobs and over $62 billion in wages every year.

Yet, Enbridge Energy has been fighting to keep the oil flowing – touting the pipeline’s “as good as new” condition and importance on the region’s economy. Photo evidence of the decrepit pipeline and documentation of only 102 Enbridge employees in Michigan prove these claims don’t hold to the wind. To add insult to injury, Enbridge struck a deal with Governor Snyder to “explore” digging a tunnel to house Line 5 through the Straits, a billion-dollar deal that doesn’t stop an oil spill from happening.


I work for Patagonia, Inc., a company that makes apparel for outdoor recreation – skiing, hiking, climbing, fishing, surfing. We are a successful business, with growth that has far eclipsed our industry’s average – success which we attribute to our obsessive dedication to minimizing our impact and maximizing our influence to protect our most treasured natural resources.

Our company’s mission statement reads, “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crises.” In that statement, we acknowledge that our business will always cause some amount of harm, but we are mandated to not cause unnecessary harm – through claiming responsibility for our impacts and reducing them wherever we can.

Paul Hendricks, Manager of Environmental Responsibility, Patagonia, Inc.

Line 5 is the epitome of unnecessary harm. It has been proven that the oil flowing through Line 5 can be redirected through existing infrastructure that doesn’t put the Great Lakes at risk.  By asking to decommission Line 5, nobody is asking Enbridge to go out of business, but to act responsibly, and respect this region’s greatest resources.

This month, the Line 5 storm is coming to a head as our politicians are making decisions that will last for the next 100 years. As Michiganders head to the polls on Election Day, I urge you to think through the multi-generational impact your vote will have on this region. Vote for policy makers that value the lasting protection of this region’s backbone. Vote for Water.


Legal Fact from Legal Fictions


A Preface

When I sat down to finish this post this morning on the news about Michigan’s agreement with Enbridge to consider replacing an aging, dangerous Line 5 crude oil pipeline through the Great Lakes basin, I realized that what I should really be writing about is yesterday’s dire warning by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (www.ipcc.ch/) that if citizens, countries, communities, and businesses don’t act to reduce carbon dioxide levels by 45 percent before 2030, the world will tilt over the brink of massive destruction. We’ve been warned that the earth’s temperature must not increase more than 2 degrees C by 2050. Now scientists urge countries and citizens to mount an unprecedented historical shift in human actions to reduce that limit to 1.5 degrees C by 2030. If we do not engage in this historical shift, we but more so our children and grandchildren, will suffer untold loss. The narrative is clear: Future survival and prosperity are now dependent on enlightened water and energy policies; they are inseparable.

The IPCC report concludes that, “There is no documented historic precedent” for the scale of social and technical change that must occur for the world to survive. How ironic that our Governor and state agencies, with the advice of our Attorney General, signed a second agreement with Enbridge Energy last week to assure continued use of an aged, dangerous Line 5 in the Straits, and to propose a possible replacement tunnel in 7 to 10 years that would transport light and heavy tar sands crude for the next 99 years. Michigan should not be thinking about building a tunnel for Enbridge in the next decade, we should be taking immediate action to slash fossil fuel consumption by 45 percent.

The Michigan-Enbridge “Second Agreement”

Climate change aside, Michigan faces a serious risk of disaster from the aged, and failing original design of Line 5 in the Straits. To make sure we immediately address this risk, there are some critical realities beneath the rhetoric about the agreement that must be understood and avoided. If these realities are not avoided, Michigan citizens, communities, and businesses will face two disasters—(1) the intensity of catastrophic extreme weather from climate change and (2) an oil spill from Line 5 that would wreak massive irreparable damage and loss to Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, our drinking water, ecosystem, and economy.

  1. This is not about meeting Michigan’s needs. Our leaders signed an agreement with recitals of fact claiming that “the continued operation of Line 5… serves important public needs by providing substantial volumes of propane to meet the needs of… citizens… and transporting essential hydrocarbon products, including oil to Michigan and regional refineries.” In fact, a number of modest adjustments would deliver propane via truck, train, or 4-inch-diameter pipeline to meet the needs of our rural residents. In fact, the existing pipeline network across southern Michigan and from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the southern U.S. will meet the crude oil needs of Michigan and regional refineries. There are sensible, less costly alternatives within this existing pipeline network that render the need for Line 5 or a tunnel under the Straits imprudent and unnecessary. A number of independent studies, including FLOW’s, and the London Economics International (LEI) have come to this same conclusion: decommissioning Line 5 is not only economically feasible but is the best alternative because it would protect Michigan’s waters and natural resources, and it would have no noticeable impact on Michigan’s economy.
  2. Enbridge’s pledge to operate consistent with its easement cannot be trusted. The agreement contains a recital that Enbridge “continues to operate and maintain such pipelines [dual 20-inch lines in the Straits] consistent with the terms of the [1953] Easement as part of Line 5.” In fact, the state and other organizations and reports have proven that Enbridge has violated its obligations in the Easement to prevent scouring of lakebed beneath the pipeline designed to lay on the bottom of the Straits, to exercise prudence in order to prevent harm to public and private property, and to provide financial assurances, among others. Unfortunately, it appears our State leaders would rather weaken the State’s ability to enforce the 1953 Easement.
  3. Near-term safety measures don’t address Line 5’s failing design. The agreement contains a recital that “near-term measures to enhance the safety of Line 5, and the longer-term measure—the replacement of Dual Pipelines—can essentially eliminate the risk of adverse impacts that may result from a potential release from Line 5 in the Straits.” However, those “near-term” measures will not address the failing design of the 65-year-old oil pipelines in the Straits. The State has allowed Enbridge to install 150 anchors, with a request for 48 more, to elevate the dual lines above the lakebed as a “repair” or “maintenance” because the original, “as built” design failed to account for the scouring of lakebed under the lines. The installation of anchors elevating the lines above the lake bed constitutes a totally new or changed design of these dual lines. Worrisome currents and natural forces have pulled some of the anchors from the lakebed. Worse, the design has never been evaluated or authorized by state agencies, as required by the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act (GLSLA) and Michigan Environmental Protection Act (MEPA). So an unauthorized, aged line will continue to operate while a longer-term tunnel will be proposed and discussed and built, if at all, in 7 to 10 years. Quite a deal for Enbridge. The company gets to run a pipeline with a failing design full-tilt in exchange for a promise to talk about the idea of a tunnel, if at all, sometime in the future. In effect, by allowing Line 5 to continue in the Straits, the agreement mostly ignores the high-risk of an oil spill causing an estimated $2 to $6 billion in damages to more than 400 miles of shoreline across upper Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
  4. The State cannot truthfully say the agreement protects public trust resources. The State agreed to a recital that “the terms of the Second Agreement will both protect the ecological and natural resources held in public trust…” Agreements to locate or allow occupancy of pipelines or other structures on, under, or through the bottomlands of the Great Lakes require authorization under the GLSLA. Until the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality determines that the location or occupancy of a tunnel will not promote primarily a private purpose or not impair the public trust in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the agreement cannot even be implemented. Why not just require Enbridge to decide for itself what it wants to do, and demand the company apply for the required determinations under the rule of law of the GLSLA? Unfortunately, State officials signed an agreement that circumvents this rule of law and deprives the public of notice, participation, and their legal right that the State enforce our laws to protect the public trust and welfare of our communities and citizens. If the law would be followed, the Second Agreement would not have ignored the independent studies; instead, the agreement appears to favor the self-serving studies commissioned by Enbridge.
  5. The agreement commits the state to a new Line 5 segment under the St. Clair River without any environmental review. Paragraph B of the Agreement authorizes Enbridge to replace the segment of Line 5 under the St. Clair River with a new horizontal directional drilled (HDD) pipeline. In fact, the State agreed to allow Enbridge to make a substantial investment in this segment, tacitly confirming the continued existence of Line 5 for decades to come. How can our State officials commit to a new tunnel under the St. Clair River without considering and determining the risk sand alternatives to the entire length of Line 5, including the Straits? The law prohibits breaking up projects into little pieces to avoid full review of the risks, dangers, potential damages, and alternatives that would eliminate those risks. However, our State leaders allowed Enbridge to skirt the legal requirements that it must prove no more than minimal potential harm and no alternative to Line 5 (even though studies demonstrate that other alternatives exist and Line 5 is not necessary).
  6. The State and Enbridge mistakenly claim the agreement provides for a “replacement” of the dual pipelines with an alternative Straits Tunnel in 7 to 10 years. In fact, there is no agreement or obligation for Enbridge to do anything: In paragraph I.F, state officials and Enbridge only agreed “to promptly pursue further agreements…” for “a replacement for the Dual Pipelines” in the Straits segment of Line 5. This means that Enbridge can decide not to agree to a replacement and continue operating the existing high-risk dual lines in the Straits indefinitely. It also means the State has ignored the legal requirement that Enbridge must first prove there are no alternatives to Line 5 in the Straits and Great Lakes under the GLSLA.
    • Paragraph I.G. of the agreement proposes a “Straits Tunnel” that is a corridor for a new Line 5 under the Straits for at least another 99 years. It is only a “proposal” and Enbridge and the State only agreed to “initiate discussions… to negotiate a public-private partnership agreement with the Mackinac Bridge Authority for locating the Straits Tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac. This means, Enbridge does not have to reach an agreement for a Straits Tunnel at all, but can continue operating the existing dual lines in the Straits indefinitely. It also means that a future “public-private partnership” (PPP) agreement will be negotiated with Enbridge and the Mackinac Bridge Authority. What exactly is a PPP?
    • There is no definition of what is meant by a “public-private partnership” agreement among the State, the Authority, and Enbridge. But PPPs are a flashing red warning light. PPPs substitute and favor private corporations with obligations to generate profits for shareholders for government or other publicly owned systems that by law are obligated to deliver services to the general public at cost. PPPs often involve property transfers, long term leases, and other agreements turning over public control of public lands and facilities to private interests. PPPs can be required to indemnify the government and public from liability for damages, but these agreements are often underfunded and do not supplant the liability of the state or a public body like the Mackinac Bridge Authority.
    • The Mackinac Bridge Authority was created by the legislature in 1952 for the sole purpose of constructing the Mackinac Bridge for the people of Michigan and the public to enjoy vehicular travel between the two peninsulas. The bridge was, and is, a public project for the traveling and motoring public. The bridge authority law does not authorize construction of a new tunnel for a privately owned pipeline company or privately owned electric utility, simply because a state utility board gives them a certificate of public convenience. These companies have an obligation to generate profits and dividends for their stockholders. The Bridge Authority has an obligation to preserve the fiscal and physical integrity of the Mackinac Bridge for the general public.
  7. There is no requirement to shut down Line 5. In paragraph H.I there is a provision for the deactivation of the existing Line 5 in the Straits. However, it is not required unless Enbridge agrees to a tunnel, constructs one, and opens it for operation. Until that happens, there is no requirement for shutting down Line 5 in the Straits; the high risk of the aged, failing design will continue indefinitely into the future.
  8. Enbridge’s financial assurance is at best vague and inadequate, at worst a sham. In paragraph I.J., Enbridge is supposed to provide a combination of assets and general liability insurance policies to cover a worst-case scenario risk assessment that estimates $1.878 billion in damages. In fact, another independent damage report puts the number at $6 billion, so the state accepted assurances at the low end of the range of estimated damages. Further, the estimated coverage is not adjusted for inflation over the next 10 years, and general liability policies often contain pollution exclusions that do not cover clean-up costs, restoration costs, and associated natural resource damages.
  9. It appears the state has surrendered the water resources and pocketbook of the State and its taxpayers to Enbridge on flimsy financial assurance provisions. In paragraph I.J, the state also agreed that “Enbridge’s compliance with the requirements under this Paragraph I.J. satisfies its financial assurance obligations specified under Paragraph J of the [1953] Easement.” In short, the State has waived its leverage to enforce the financial assurance obligation in the current Easement.

Jim Olson, President and Legal Advisor

So, here we are in a world facing a “historically unprecedented” challenge to rapidly reduce greenhouse gases, and Michigan has signed a mostly non-binding agreement for the possibility of a tunnel in 2028, the same time-frame that the state and country must slash its fossil fuel consumption by 45 percent. From an eagle’s eye view, Michigan energy policy is to foster the expansion, of production and consumption of crude oil and increase in greenhouse gases at a time when the world is on the brink. From a fiscal point of view, the agreement commits the State to an investment in a tunnel and continued high risk of catastrophic damages or loss from the existing Line 5, at a time when most likely the world and national markets for fossil fuels will decrease, likely to the point that the pipe dream for a tunnel will never happen, or if it does, the State and its taxpayers will end up with an obsolete and unaffordable relic. One way or another, citizens will suffer harm, and taxpayers will suffer loss under an Agreement that favors Enbridge, not Michigan.


New Book: A Great Lakes Journey Toward Advocacy


 Author Mary McKSchmidt will discuss and read from her new book, Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes, Saturday, Oct. 13 from 1-3 p.m. at Horizon Books in Traverse City.


Mary McKSchmidt is an adventurer—a woman who has wandered across southern Africa; achieved success in positions typically held by men; hikes, bikes, and camps alone; and joins her fun-loving, equally-adventuresome husband on sailing voyages across the sometimes treacherous, always unpredictable, waters of Lake Michigan. When she discovered that Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes are at risk, potentially damaged beyond repair, she replaced her briefcase, calculator, and business suit with a notepad, camera, and foul weather gear and embarked on a new adventure, this time to help create the political will necessary to clean up and protect the lakes.

McKSchmidt’s Uncharted Waters is the story of a Fortune 500 executive learning to sail, learning to love, and learning to fight for the water and life she holds dear. It’s not just a love story, but also a call to action. It serves as a reminder that while we can live without many things, clean, safe drinking water is not one of them.

FLOW asked Mary to explain how citizens can get active to protect the Lakes.

“I have yet to meet anyone who has touched the waters of the Great Lakes, seen their beauty on a clear, sunshiny day, or experienced the joy of sharing a picnic with family along their shores, who does not care deeply about the future of the Great Lakes,” she began. “These lakes are not a Republican or Democrat issue, not an issue for liberals or conservatives. These lakes are an issue of life and health.”

She continued: “And yet, the Great Lakes are at risk. Their future depends on us—on our ability to ignore the threads of apathy, cynicism, or despair running through us. We are their voices.”

In this election year, she said, citizens can do three things:

  • “Vote. No vote, no voice. But vote on behalf of the Great Lakes. Support only those candidates willing to fund their cleanup, willing to commit to making access to clean, safe drinking water a top priority.”
  • “Support nonprofit organizations advocating on behalf of our lakes and our watersheds. Representing thousands of voices, these organizations bring power to the negotiating table. And facts. Like lighthouses guiding us through the turbulence of the legislative and political arenas fundamental to our democracy, these organizations stay abreast of the many issues plaguing the lakes. They tell us when our signature on a petition or presence at a public hearing can influence change.”
  • “Pick up balloon ribbons and trash littering our beaches, our dunes, and our waterways. Something this simple serves as a reminder. Little things matter.”

She added, “Just as I must balance the forces of nature while behind the wheel of a sailboat, I discover I must heed the voice of my heart as well as my mind to reach those I hope to engage in creating the political will necessary to prioritize the lakes so integral to our lives, so easy to take for granted.”

Mary is a former executive for Baxter Healthcare, a Fortune 500 company, who writes under the pen name “Mary McKSchmidt.” She is a contributor to Michigan Blue and Sail magazines, a former columnist for The Holland Sentinel, and has written op-ed pieces for MLive. Her essay “Behind the Lens of a Camera” was also selected to appear in the 2016 Bear River Review.

The poet and photographer of Tiny Treasures: Discoveries Made Along the Lake Michigan Coast, along with her 2018 release Uncharted Waters: Romance, Adventure, and Advocacy on the Great Lakes, Schmidt is a natural storyteller who has shared her adventures with audiences at garden clubs, professional women’s organizations, state and county nature centers, assisted-living facilities, and environmental organizations throughout West Michigan. Her monthly blog and “Skosh of Poetry” may be found at www.marymckschmidt.com.


A Warm Welcome to Our New Deputy Director, Kelly Thayer


It brings me great pleasure to announce that Kelly Thayer has joined the FLOW team as our new Deputy Director. Kelly will play a lead role in strategic communications and overall program development and implementation. We have dreamed about this day for a long time.  

Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director

Kelly is a familiar face and name to many already, as he has worked with FLOW since 2014 as a communications consultant. Among other things, he has coordinated and supported FLOW’s involvement in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign to shut down the aging, cracked, and corroded Line 5 oil pipelines in the open waters of the Mackinac Straits, where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet.  

There’s no doubt about it, but Kelly has a way with words. And that’s not surprising, given his Master of Arts in Journalism and Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Michigan, followed by his early newspaper career here in Michigan and Wisconsin.

In addition to being a gifted writer, Kelly is a wonderful communicator, researcher, and community organizer. His leadership has enabled him to work successfully on a diverse array of local, state, and national environmental campaigns. He served as volunteer co-chair of successful election campaigns to launch a countywide public bus transit system in 2006 and to renew its funding by a 3-1 margin in 2011 in Benzie County. Kelly also helped to build and co-direct state and local coalitions to advance people-centered transportation policies and projects in Michigan from 1998-2005 while working with the Michigan Land Use Institute (now Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities).  

Since 2005, Kelly has worked as a consultant at The Resource for Great Programs, a national firm working to strengthen foundations that support, and nonprofit law firms that provide, free civil legal aid to people in poverty across the nation.

What else? Kelly and his wife Carolyn also volunteered in the U.S. Peace Corps in Tanzania prior to starting their family. They have two amazing boys: Alex (18), who just started the engineering program at University of Michigan, and Quincy (15), who loves fishing, cross-country running, surfing, skiing, and skateboarding.

Make sure you get a chance to meet Kelly. He loves these Great Lakes as much as you do.  

 

-Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director


FLOW Releases Report to Save Our “Sixth Great Lake”

Today marks the beginning of a campaign to protect groundwater in Michigan and our surrounding states as the “Sixth Great Lake,” a lightning-bolt phrase promoted by Dave Dempsey, FLOW’s senior policy advisor and author of a sentinel groundwater report released by FLOW this week. In this second of a trilogy of reports published by FLOW as part of its “Campaign for Freshwater,” Mr. Dempsey, a highly regarded sage in Great Lakes and international water policy circles, has summoned citizens, leaders, communities:  Now is time to reverse the course of an abysmal history of our state government’s deliberate collaboration with polluters to put private interests above the paramount public interest in water and public health.

Our Great Lakes and the tributary lakes, streams, and groundwater, are owned by each state as sovereign, in public trust our laws exclaim. Our waters of the state are public and held in trust to prevent diminishment and pollution of water and protect public health.  This same legal principle is embodied in Michigan’s state constitution and water laws. In Article 4, Section 52, the constitution declares that the public interest in water and natural resources is paramount and that the “legislature shall provide” for their protection from pollution or impairment. In Article 4, Section 51, the constitution declared that the directly related public interest in health is paramount and directed that the “legislature shall provide” for the protection of public health. In 1970, our legislature responded to this constitutional mandate by passing the Michigan Environmental Protection Act, a law that imposes a legal duty on government and all of us alike to prevent the likely degradation of our water, air, and natural resources and the public trust duty to protect the public’s use and dependence on these resources.

After the tragic exposure and horrible health effects from toxic chemicals underneath “Love Canal”– Hooker Chemical’s sale of a bulldozed, covered-over hazardous waste dump for a residential subdivision, Michigan like the country and other states acted to halt the poisoning of our water, land, and citizens. In 1980, Congress passed the federal Superfund law that imposed strict liability on those who owned or controlled land on which hazardous chemicals had been or were being released.  Michigan passed the Michigan Environmental Response Act (so called “Act 307″ or “MERA”) in 1982. Act 307 declared that all persons or companies who were “owners” of the land or “operators” in control of the land on which a release of toxic chemicals had to report and enter into consent orders to remediate the pollution of groundwater contaminated by the release.

This historic and remedial action by our country’s elected leaders established a legal principle and   rallying-cry to stop the poisoning of the United States and our environment, and the tragic loss of life and health of our citizens. In Michigan and other Greet Lakes states also passed “polluters’ pay” laws that imposed strict liability for control or ownership of a facility from which a release of chemicals had been released. This was the mainstay of Michigan’s efforts to clean up hazardous substances from our lands and groundwater, that is until Michigan’s legislature passed and Governor Engler signed Act 451 (“Part 201) in 1994.  Act 451 punctured holes in the law, and from 1994 until now our elected leaders and appointed officials have insidiously commandeered the dismantling of polluters’ pay law and dried up the budget to enforce what little of the law remained. Today, it should be called “Polluters Play.”

In 1995, under the watch of Governor Engler, the legislature revamped Act 307 to narrow liability of “owners or operators” from strict liability for owning or controlling a contaminated property to “owners or operators” who “at the time of the release” are shown to be “responsible for causing the release.” The state ended up with the burden of proof to showing causation, not those who own or are in control of the property, and cleanup standards were relaxed from a 1 in 100,000,000 cancer risk to a 1 in 100,000 risk.  Pollution from pesticides and fertilizers in the production of food, crops, and concentrated farms were exempted as long as they managed runoff and groundwater discharges based on generally accepted farming practices.

From 1999 to 2014, cleanup standards were relaxed even more, where owners and operators obtained an approved plan to manage the contamination in place under “no-further action” plans and post-closure management monitoring, and land and water use restrictions that limited exposure of people to the hazardous substances in soil or groundwater. In short, polluters can isolate a land area and groundwater plume and monitor contaminant levels as they spread, adding more restrictions as necessary: This means groundwater use by the public or other landowners is lost until levels drop below clean up or unrestricted residential use standards. Then on top of this, cleanup standards were relaxed where the use of land or underlying contaminated groundwater were in an industrial or commercial zone where there was little chance of human exposure. At first these changes were supposed to help the redevelopment of “brownfield sites” (polluted property or groundwater) throughout the state to increase property tax revenues. But these standards were extended across the board to all polluters, tax revenues remained depressed while developers were reimbursed cleanup costs from tax incremental financing– as redevelopment occurs, value goes up so tax revenues go up, minus the tens of thousands or sometimes millions of cleanup costs to the developer until paid.

In the past few years under Governor Snyder’s watch, things have turned even darker. Owners of land or facilities with groundwater levels in excess of legal contaminant standards or cleanup standards are allowed to “vent” to nearby surface water streams. This means, high levels of contaminants can remain in the groundwater until migration enters a stream without violating water quality standards. Because of the larger volume of flow moving quickly downstream, “dilution is the solution.”

For many citizens in Michigan, this legacy to our water and public health is and will continue to be shocking as we discover more and more toxic sites, like the growing PFAs crisis first discovered in Parchment, Michigan that shut down a town’s drinking water supply. Shamefully, it is not and won’t be shocking to the majority of our legislators and leaders who commandeered these changes to let polluters off the hook or narrow the range or amount of costs they would have had to pay to clean up groundwater so that it was no longer polluted. As pointed out by Mr. Dempsey in FLOW’s report, Michigan still has over 6,000 unfunded sites that exceed cleanup standards and more than 8,000 sites from leaking underground tanks. Thousands of so-called post-closure hazardous sites are managed by agreements and land or water use restrictions to reduce human exposure. This means this toxic groundwater legacy continues to spread and displace these waters from available for public or private use. Worse, this legacy endangers the health and well-being of tens of thousands of citizens and hundreds of communities.

There is a disturbing sidebar in FLOW’s report, captioned as a “Spreading Stain.” The sidebar captures both the magnitude and gravity of our current groundwater crisis– a legacy of pollution, nitrates, and now PFAs–in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. In the town of Mancelona, up slope from Antrim County’s Chain-o-Lakes, the Jordan River Valley and Schuss Mountain Ski Resort, from the 1940s through the 1960s, an auto parts manufacturer used a solvent known as TCE (trichloroethylene) to degrease its stamping machinery. The used solvent was dumped on the ground or discharged into lagoons. By the time, the company was out of business and the EPA and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality discovered the contamination, the plume had spread out 6 miles long and 1.5 miles wide. It endangers streams and the drinking water of the residents of the town and resort. But what is often lost on our leaders and the public is the fact that 13 trillion gallons of groundwater are no longer available for use by the town, the resort, businesses, and property owners. To put this in perspective, Dempsey notes this is ten times the loss of the 2 billion gallons a day from the Chicago diversion of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi.

Multiply this by the thousands of contaminated groundwater sites in Michigan, and the picture is clear: The public waters of the state and Great Lakes basin have been sacrificed and subordinated by private interests. This massive loss of water is even memorialized by the state’s requirement that private polluters and towns zone or restrict use of use of groundwater within the area of a toxic plume, rather than clean it up. Water quality and quantity issues are inseparable. How is the state has joined the Great Lakes Compact that bans diversion of millions of gallons of water, but has been complicit in allowing the loss of trillions of gallons of groundwater by aiding the spread of toxic pollution?

How ironic. Our courts have declared water as sovereign and public, but the state allows large volumes and areas of groundwater to be placed off limits to benefit private polluters. Could the state have designated 1,000 acres of our public forests and state parks as a toxic waste dump for private use? Our constitution mandates that our legislators and leaders shall protect the paramount waters of the state and public health. Since 1995, legislators have enacted and governors have signed a parade of laws and regulations that have destroyed groundwater, poisoned drinking water, and endangered public health.

Our constitution mandates that our legislators and leaders shall protect the paramount waters of the state and public health. Since 1995, legislators have enacted and governors have signed a parade of laws and regulations that have destroyed groundwater, poisoned drinking water, and endangered public health.

Jim Olson, President and Founder

Maybe we should start by restoring the “polluters’ pay” law, but this time call it “polluters and politicians pay.” The law would read, “the owners or operators or legislators who voted for the laws that violated the constitutional legislative mandates to protect water and public health are strictly liable for the cost of cleanup and damage from the release of toxic pollutants.” Let’s restore the paramount (“above all”) protection of water and health required by the common law of public trust and the state constitution.