Tag: Protected Uses

BAYLIFE North: For Love of Water FLOW

Frankfort Lighthouse with Surfer - John Russell

Click here to read the article in BAYLIFE North Magazine (page 40)

By Allison Voglesong

The vast Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the whole world’s fresh surface water, but they are not infinite. That’s one reason why James Olson helped found FLOW, a Traverse City-based nonprofit. FLOW’s acronym means “For Love of Water,” and FLOW’s policy and education programs protect the Great Lakes.

It started when veteran attorney Olson represented a community group battling a Nestle water bottling plant lowering a nearby stream. Since the beginning, FLOW has worked to protect this limited fresh water supply.

How did FLOW go from protecting one stream in Michigan to protecting 90 percent of the nation’s freshwater supply? “The water cycle connects it all,” explains Olson, “whether it’s your backyard creek or rain watering your garden. And it needs to be protected at every point in this water cycle.”

The water cycle doesn’t just connect the Great Lakes to the pond at the park; it connects the people who use it. Fresh water for drinking and sanitation is a human right, and Executive Director Liz Kirkwood points out that FLOW’s programs safeguarding certain public protected uses that rely on clean and abundant Great Lakes water, like fishing, swimming, boating, navigation, and commerce.

FLOW Staff Allison Voglesong Eric Olson Jim Olson Liz Kirkwood

FLOW Team: Allison Voglesong, Communications Designer, Eric Olson, Communications Director, Jim Olson, Founder, President and Advisor, Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

“These protected uses are all special for health, for happiness, for our jobs and economy. And because water is a common resource that is shared, we have to make sure that what we do with the water protects it for everyone,” says Kirkwood.

That’s a lot to think about when watching the sun’s opalescent reflection across the lake horizon. It’s also a tough pill to swallow realizing that your neighbor’s loud motorboat has the same right to use the waters as the quietude of your fly rod.

Above all, Olson and Kirkwood hope that the idea of protecting our common waters empowers citizens who live, play, and visit in the Great Lakes. “Once you realize these uses are legally protected, you’ve got a starting point for taking action,” says Kirkwood. That’s why FLOW’s offer legal strategies for people to address the issues that hit close to home. Between climate change, invasive species, algal blooms, pollution, and thirsty communities looking to tap our water, there has never been a better time to act than now.

As the tourist season in the Grand Traverse area simmers through spring and summer boils it to a fever pitch, we might forget that we should want to share our common waters when all we really want is a place to unfurl our beach towel, undisturbed. Yet our capacity and willingness to share our beautiful waters is what defines the culture of Grand Traverse just as much as the contour of the bay shores defines our remarkable landscape. The mission of FLOW’s Great Lakes Society citizen contingency captures this trait in four words: “Common waters, common purpose.”

Frankfort Lighthouse with Surfer - John Russell

For more about FLOW’s programs, the Great Lakes Society, and to follow their updates, please visit www.flowforwater.org.

Interview: “Watershed Moment” — FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood with Amy Rotter on 88.1 FM Grand Rapids

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of For Love of Water (FLOW), discusses the mission of FLOW to advance the public trust doctrine: the basic fundamental notion that public resources, such as water, belong to and are shared by the public.

Press play to listen:

Click here to check out this and other “Watershed Moment” segments from the Grand Rapids Community Media Center and 88.1 FM Grand Rapids.

Transcription:

Announcer: This is a Watershed Moment, protecting water resources and building sustainable communities, brought to you by the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Grand Rapids Community Media Center.

Amy Rotter: On today’s episode, we hear from Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, “For Love of Water.”

Liz Kirkwood: FLOW is really unique group here in the Great Lakes. It’s the only public trust policy center and educational group that is addressing the systemic threats in the Great Lakes. What that means is we are trying to advance the public trust doctrine, which is the basic, fundamental notion that public resources, like the waters, belong to, and are shared by, the public. And, it’s the duty of the state to protect the waters for the citizens and ensure that the waters themselves are not impaired. They also have a duty to ensure that protected public uses such as navigation, fishing, commerce, swimming, and ecological values are protected as well.

The public trust is an ancient doctrine that goes back to the Roman times, but it really pulls at all of our heartstrings, it’s that inherent sense that water cannot be privately owned, and it belongs to all of us. And that is a very important public right that we all have and it’s very empowering for citizens and governments and leaders to exercise as we face greater scarcity of waters and greater competition for those uses.

Please contact us at www.flowforwater.org.

Announcer: This has been a Watershed Moment, a production of West Michigan Environmental Action Council and Grand Rapids Community Media Center. Learn more about today’s topic at www.watershedmoment.info