Tag: Traverse City

Protecting Traverse City’s Tap Water

Anyone who visits Traverse City can easily see how important freshwater is to this region. The iconic Grand Traverse Bay, numerous inland lakes and the Boardman River winding through downtown make freshwater an essential part of Traverse City’s landscape and culture. Our unique freshwater resources provide remarkable recreational opportunities that bring thousands of visitors to the shores of Traverse City every summer. One of the major benefits from our freshwater that often goes unnoticed, is its use as tap water in our everyday lives.

Even as a longtime resident who is very passionate about water, I had to ask myself, do I know where the water from my tap comes from? Well, if you live in the city limits of Traverse City, the answer is the Grand Traverse East Bay (“East Bay”). Traverse City pumps an average of 5.19 million gallons a day from East Bay to supply the growing demand for freshwater.[1] This freshwater is taken out of East Bay through a steel and wood crib that sits about 40 feet below the water surface off the Old Mission Peninsula.[2] The water is pumped to the City’s water treatment plant, then distributed through roughly 120 miles of pipes to serve an ever-growing customer base of approximately 40,000 people.[3]

Planning the Future

Given East Bay’s significant role as the source of Traverse City’s tap water, it is important for us as a community to become engaged in planning for the future of East Bay and the surrounding Grand Traverse watershed.

This is no small task. The Grand Traverse watershed is approximately 976 square miles, covering portions of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim, and Kalkaska counties, including 132 miles of shoreline.[4] However, as vast as those numbers might seem, it is imperative that we understand and manage our freshwater at the watershed level to properly care for East Bay and the source of our tap water. A Watershed is defined as an area of land that drains all the streams and rainfall into a common outlet.[5]Watershed protection is critical to the long-term health of East Bay because the majority of East Bay’s water comes from tributaries throughout the watershed, including 180 billion gallons of water per year from the Elk Rapids Chain of Lakes.[6]

Fortunately, The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay and other organizations in the Northern Michigan area implemented a Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection plan in 2003.[7] The Protection Plan sets six broad goals that range from protecting the integrity of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems within the watershed to improving the quality of water resources within Grand Traverse Bay and its watershed.[8] In addition, the 2003 Watershed Protection Plan has resulted in more than $7 million worth of watershed management projects, and has “prevented more than 16,230 tons of sediment, 9300 lbs. of phosphorous and 14,940 lbs. of nitrogen from entering the Grand Traverse Bay and its watershed.”[9]

What Can You Do?

This community-driven Watershed Protection Plan plays a crucial role in our management of East Bay, helping protect against issues such as invasive species, storm water run-off, and wetland protection. The Watershed Protection Plan from 2003 is currently being updated with citizen input by the Watershed Center. Although the Watershed Center’s community meetings regarding the new protection plan have already occurred, the Watershed Center is still accepting public input until July 31st through a public survey.

Julius Moss, Legal Intern

I encourage everyone to take a few minutes this weekend, reflect on the importance of water in our area, and share your ideas and concerns with the Watershed Center. We are fortunate to have an abundance of freshwater around us, we must continue to protect our valuable resource and together as a community prepare for the future of East Bay, the Grand Traverse Watershed, and our tap water.


[1] See http://www.traversecitymi.gov/watertreatmentpl.asp

[2] See http://www.traversecitymi.gov/watersource.asp

[3] Id.

[4] See https://www.gtbay.org/about-us/watershed/

[5] See https://water.usgs.gov/edu/watershed.html

[6] Id.

[7]  The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan, Dec. 2003, https://www.gtbay.org/resources/watershed-protection-plan/.

[8] Id.

[9] See https://www.gtbay.org/about-us/achievements/

Tapping into Local Awesomeness


The Local Movement

Did you know that the City of Traverse City has been addressing plastic pollution, climate change, and water privatization for almost a decade? I’m so proud of our small but mighty Midwest town here in the heart of the Great Lakes.

In 2009, our city adopted a resolution to ban plastic bottled water from all municipal functions! Why? Because the city had already recognized the wasteful nature of single-use plastic water bottles, the staggering expense associated with bottled water, the climate change impacts and carbon footprint associated with producing and shipping plastics made from fossil fuels, and the incredible high quality drinking water Traverse City provides its residents. City Planner, Russ Soyring, explained that this resolution is a reflection of the city’s culture now. And it’s a testimony to how resilient we are when we decide to be. 

In less than 10 years, bottled water has outstripped the sales of carbonated soda beverages, and bottled water has been become another normalized American addiction. Compared to municipal water, bottled water can cost up to 2000% more per volume than tap water. Around 64% of commercial bottled water is just tap water that’s been filtered or purified. 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled — and still people drink from them.

The Larger Conversation

This conversation about bottled water is a critical one to us at FLOW because it opens the door to a larger policy conversation about the urgency of retaining and protecting water as a public resource. That’s why we started the Get Off the Bottle campaign. That’s why we started mapping all the drinking fountains and refillable bottled water stations on an app called WeTap. If we’re going to change our habits, we know we need alternatives like knowing where we can fill up our reusable water bottle. 

In buying bottled water, consumers are inadvertently legitimizing the capture of water that belongs to all of us by private, for-profit companies who reap unearned, enormous riches. Water belongs to the public and cannot be privately owned. Turning water into a product for private profit is inconsistent with the 1500-year-old public trust doctrine of law and risks putting all water up for grabs. 

The majority of municipal water systems in this country – some 85% — are publicly owned and remain accountable to residents under constitutional and public governance. But as our municipal infrastructure continues to age without adequate funding support, there will be increasing pressure to privatize our drinking and wastewater systems. The latest example comes to us from Puerto Rico. And clear patterns emerge from water privatization, well documented to include: rate increases, lack of public accountability and transparency, higher operation costs, worse customer service, loss of one in three water jobs. A Food & Water Watch survey of rates by 500 water systems showed that privatized systems typically charge 59 percent more than publicly owned systems.

We know there is no one size that fits all; however, when it comes to water, we have to affirmatively commit to protecting it as a shared public resource. To this end, we believe that local governments across the Great Lakes Basin must insist on key principles that Jim Olson articulated in his blog several months ago:

  1. Declare all water public; just because our natural public water commons enter an intake pipe does not mean this water loses its public common and sovereign status. Government at all times must manage and provide water as sovereign for the benefit of people.
  2. Impose public oversight with a duty to protect the public service, public interest, public health, and public trust in water and the infrastructure the water passes through;
  3. Establish rights and Impose duties of accountability, notice, participation, equal access to safe, adequate, clean, affordable public water;
  4. Guarantee principles of due process, equal protection of law, and right to basic water service;
  5. Guarantee affordability and equity in access and use of water by all residents and customers;
  6. Implement fair and innovative pricing, subject to public oversight, a public utility or water board, with a statement of rights, duties, enforcement, and government process to assure safe, clean, affordable public water.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director

 

Fundamentally, while national and state environmental policies are critically important, we know that local communities are where policies take shape in our daily lives. It’s right here in our own communities where we can make a difference. Thanks TC for taking back the tap!


The Joys of Kayaking Northern Michigan

If you can’t find me at my desk at FLOW headquarters, you will usually find me somewhere on the water. I am a fan of pretty much any water activity you can think of. However, kayaking has become one of my favorite ways to get out on the water.

I started seriously paddling a few years ago when I began working at Backcountry North, a local outfitter in downtown Traverse City. With the help of then-owner Sandy Graham, I learned the ins and outs of paddle strokes, boat position, and of course all the pre-trip planning that goes into having a great day on the water. With this knowledge, I have been able to participate in multi-day sea kayaking excursions on the Great Lakes, and have spent a considerable amount of time paddling the whitewater rapids scattered across Northern Michigan.

Kayaking is a great way to get out and enjoy the freshwater that makes Northern Michigan so special. Whether it be floating down the Boardman River, or paddling next to the 450-foot-tall Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan, the perspective from a kayak is truly one of a kind. This unique perspective shows how incredible the fresh water in Northern Michigan truly is and how fortunate we are to have it at our fingertips.

It always amazes me that when I am sitting in my kayak out in Grand Traverse Bay that I am sitting in the Great Lakes system, which makes up approximately one-fifth of the surface freshwater around the world. However, as insignificant as I might feel in that moment, I also try to remind myself that the Great Lakes are still dependent upon each and every one of us to make the right decisions for their future. Whether that’s by saying NO to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac or making sure that we leave no trace when spending the day on the water, we all play a part in the future of the Great Lakes.

Julius Moss

This summer, I am thrilled not only to be back on the water, but also to be able to spread my knowledge and passion about kayaking and the freshwater resources here in Northern Michigan. Backcountry North is offering kayak demos throughout the summer, and I am fortunate to be working with them in helping others get out and experience the joys of kayaking. If you have any interest in participating in a kayak demo, please contact Backcountry North for further details at (231) 941-1100. I hope all of you get the chance to experience a day of paddling in Northern Michigan, and I look forward to seeing many of you out on the water this summer!


Giving Back Can Come in Many Forms

Giving Back Can Come in Many Forms

A Sunday afternoon spent walking through downtown Traverse City, taking in some much needed and long overdue sunshine and fresh air, strolling along the Boardman River and picking up trash – a perfect day, right? Perhaps that last part sounds less than appealing, but I promise you, it was the highlight of my day. A couple weeks ago, I participated in a river clean-up organized by a few eco-minded local businesses. For the chance to be outside and help out for a good cause, I was happy to spend a few hours picking up litter.

Dozens of other area residents must have felt the same way. Everyone from young kids to retirees came prepared with trash bags and gloves, ready to roll up their sleeves and put in some elbow grease to make our town, and waterways, a little cleaner. As I picked up cigarette butts, bottle caps, and plastic bags off the river bank, I was met with the smiling faces of other volunteers and gratitude from passersby, taking the time to stop and say “thank you.” Maybe it was sunshine-induced happiness after months of drab, cold northern Michigan winter, but the air seemed to be saturated with positive energy. I’m often asked how I make time to volunteer while balancing work, school, and coaching, and volunteer events like this remind me why I choose to make it a priority. I might not be able to volunteer consistently or lend my skills to every organization I support. The most important part is to give back when I can.

Giving can come in many forms, but we all have the capacity for it.  

It doesn’t have to feel like a time-consuming commitment, or financially burdensome. Donations are often siloed into two categories: time or money. If you want to affect change, but are feeling short on both, I offer you a third option. The act of giving can also include the gift of change: a willingness to stop buying bottled water, using a reusable mug or thermos for your to-go coffee, or saying no to single-use straws. These are just a few of the small but simple actions that can protect our environment, and make our world a better place for everyone. And isn’t that what giving is all about?

Thank you to all the local businesses for organizing for the Boardman River Clean Up:

  • Brick Wheels
  • Grand Traverse Guide
  • Keen Technical Solutions
  • Scuba North
  • The Northern Angler
  • Way of Knife

With the collective power of 75 participants, we collected more than 600 pounds of trash!


Summer Solstice Pumpkin Paddle & Deck Party

From the Facebook Event Page:

“In keeping with our tradition of enjoying the land and water that surrounds us we’re hosting a 1st annual Summer Solstice Pumpkin Paddle & Deck Party on Wednesday June 21st from 5-8pm.

Enjoy stand up paddle boarding around Bowers Harbor before heading up to our deck for a Summer Solstice party. We’ll have live music, pork cheek fritters, bacon burgers, pork shank pasta & ribs, plus $2 beers and Strawberry Basil Sangria!

Our friends at Grand Traverse Bike Tours & Suttons Bay Bikes will be on-site with SUP rentals and demos. So even if you don’t have a stand up paddle board of your own, you don’t have to miss out on this fun event!

We will be taking donations for FLOW for Water to show support for our beautiful Great Lakes.”

M22 Challenge – with FLOW as a Great Lakes Partner

WHAT

The M22 Challenge is a unique run-bike-paddle event held in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Recognized as “The Most Beautiful Place in America,” the overwhelming beauty of the race course and the camaraderie of fellow racers will make this event one you won’t forget! 

WHEN

8am Saturday June 10, 2017 

WHERE

Little Glen Lake Picnic Area. For directions to the event site, please use the following address: 6900 South Dune Highway, Empire, MI 49630-9447

WHO

All are welcome, from first time racers to professional competitors, though the multi-sport event will definitely challenge all athletes. 

How To Help

If you are interested in volunteering for this event, please contact FLOW at info@flowforwater.org or (231)-944-1568. 

Morsels Partners with FLOW in Continuation of Monthly Community Giving Partnership

 

Contact: Misha Neidorfler                                                321 E Front Street
Morsels, LLC                                                                    Traverse City, MI 49684
Phone: 231.421.1353                                                      www.morselsbakery.com
Mobile: 231.715.6281

For immediate release:

Traverse City, MI, March 29, 2017: For the month of April 2017, Morsels
Espresso + Edibles, a specialty bakery, featuring unique, bite-sized baked goods,
will be partnering with FLOW (For Love of Water), continuing an effort to support
the Traverse City community through unique, partnering arrangements. Morsels
has created a custom morsel (their bite-sized bakery goods) for FLOW called,
“for love of rosewater,” which is pistachio-cardamom cake with rosewater
frosting. For each of these morsels sold, Morsels will donate $.25 to FLOW at the
end of the month. The morsels will be available for purchase in the store as well
as on Morsels’ website for shipping from April 1-30.

 
FLOW is a water law and policy center working to protect the common waters of
the Great Lakes Basin through public trust solutions. We educate, engage, and
empower citizens to protect the Great Lakes now and forever. To learn more
about the systemic threats facing our Great Lakes water and how you can help,
we invite you to visit our web site at www.flowforwater.org.

 
Morsels Espresso + Edibles, owned and operated by local couple, Jeff and Misha
Neidorfler, offers a selection of specialty, hand-crafted, bite-sized desserts and
savory treats, along with a Michigan-sourced breakfast and lunch menu, and
features specialty coffee and tea from Intelligentsia Coffee and Kilogram Tea.
Morsels has been in business in Downtown Traverse City since 2008.
FLOW’s unique morsel flavor called, “for love of rosewater.” Morsels creates
specialty, bite-sized baked goods and will donate $.25 of each of these morsels
sold in the month of April to FLOW.


###

Some Thoughts for the New Year: Common Home and Common Principles – Living and Working for the Common Good

 

Jim Olson FLOW Founder

 

 

By Jim Olson

President, FLOW For Love of Water, Traverse City

Attorney, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C., Traverse City

 

 

 

 

When I look back over the past year, I can’t help but feel hope in the common goodness of people and communities.

I say this not without heart felt and serious concern about events in the world that point in the opposite direction – despair: increasing violence from guns, war, and sweeping droughts and floods, causing death and dislocation of millions of people and children, global warming and the push-back from unprecedented storms and extreme weather that compound drought, floods, landslides, which in turn destabilize countries like Syria fomenting conflict and conditions for ISIS. To paraphrase Circle of Blue senior journalist Keith Schneider, “The earth is angry and she’s fighting back.”

Closer to home, Detroit water shut-offs continue despite the devastating impact on the poor who can’t afford to pay a normal water bill, let alone the $100 a month or more claimed by the Detroit Water Board. State leaders finally stop denying the Flint water-crisis more than a year after residents demanded help, that its children and residents were exposed to high levels of lead from the city’s public water system. The problem is more endemic than Detroit or Flint, since both crises grew out of the unbridled power of Governor Snyder’s emergency manager law to usurp the power of city assets and revenues to pay debts regardless of the impacts to citizens. Flint’s emergency manager thought only of economic expediency in turning off water supplied from Detroit, and tapping into the filthy, polluted Flint River. Then there is the continual threat from the flow of oil in the aging, nearly 63-year old Line 5 pipeline under the Straits; the harm from a release or leak would be so catastrophic, the risk is unacceptable to everyone; yet the flow of oil continues without immediate temporary measures while state officials continue to study it as if it was an “issue,” and not the clear and imminent endangerment of the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac – the fact is there is enough capacity within the pipeline system in the Great Lakes without Line 5 endangering the Straits.

So why the hope? Other events have happened this past year that point to a new way of understanding and, perhaps, solving many of the threats that we face in the world and our communities.

First, Pope Francis issued his encyclical on climate change and the environment, connecting the reality of our excessive consumptive materialism, global inequality, poverty, ecological and community devastation, and violence that follows. He carefully documented that our way of seeing and doing, our post-modern god of the law of free markets and legally justified greed, our fragmented attempts at dishing out money to help the poor are not working. He says this because we are living a material, market place illusion, and not in harmony with the reality that the earth is our “common home,” and that if we do not share its gifts and respect its inherent natural limits, earth’s water, weather, soil, and the biological diversity on which all life depends will continue to worsen to even greater extremes. He points to a new paradigm, a framework in which we work and live with the understanding that a body of water, whether ocean, Grand Traverse Bay, or Lake Chad, are a commons, part of the gift of earth as commons to all. If we do this, not only with water, but the ridge lines and forests, the beauty and land that are home to our relationships, our cities, the neighborhoods within our towns, the soils beneath our feet, the air we breathe, then we will begin to reshape our life around truth and the given limits of nature, and this will guide our living, our way of life, or economy, full and rich with newly directed creative and sustainable opportunities and entrepreneur ship.

Second, amidst a world of conflicts, from Syria to the Ukraine, from our own cities, to Nigeria, Sudan, and Afghanistan, and in the aftermath of the mass murders from extreme terrorists in Parrs, the nations of the world cooperated: leaders of large and small, developed and developing, or undeveloped countries, recognized the responsibility to each other, agreed to something, the world temperature will not rise more 2 degrees, and maybe less. While it is not law yet, if taken implemented, it will help stave off global calamity greater than two world wars last century, by reducing the irreparable damage we face from climate change and global warming. There is hope in the agreement that we stop denying and see the mounting harm and set a goal that through hard-work and common sacrifice offers a way out of an unthinkable alternative for people everywhere.

Third, we witnessed the bridging of differences by our Supreme Court in precedent setting cases that demand human dignity for marriage between two people, human rights to housing and water for the poor without access, as wells as the genuine search for a common goal to address wasteful and harmful water rights in the middle of the historical California droughts.

Fourth, our political debate heating up even before the 2016 presidential election has pointed to something more than the old, increasingly polarized beliefs in market economy, through money at wars and problems, rather than considering the root of the problem might be the way we are looking at them. Regardless of my own or others’ political persuasion, there is a fresh voice in Bernie Sanders, laying out the case for a community based on sharing of wealth, taking care of neighbors, and our neighborhood, what Pope Francis calls our “common home,” and at the same time helping with services to the poor, respecting and honoring diversity, and encouraging new business innovation. We have been trapped in this country in a red and blue, right and left, straight-jacket of false ideology, rather than identifying those things that are essential to every one of us and providing for them as principle of our country—the common good.

Fifth, then Michael Moore comes out with his latest film Where to Invade Next? Good God, here we have the message that we here in the USA had the idea, come up with the ideas, of common good, yet go in the opposite direction of individualized competition based on a law of the jungle called free markets. Everything is about profit and money and bottom line. The world is not a corporation, it is a commons in which corporations organizations are simply a means, not an end.

Do we really have a choice? Our common home and communities are simultaneously local and global. It’s not just act locally, think globally, or act globally, think locally. It’s all of this and more. If we don’t act, for example, on climate change, or understand that climate change is not just an energy issue but about water and food, if we don’t move toward a renewable economy within a few years, small island countries will literally disappear, rainforests and biodiversity will disappear, coastal cities and other areas will increasingly flood and fail from even more extreme storm events or the day-to-day failure to change, adapt and embrace resilient cooperation—the common good. All one has to do is read through “4 Degrees Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience,” a report published by renown scientists and even sponsored by the more conservative World Bank. The picture is not pretty, and it would it is ignorant, even immoral, at this time in history not to act, even out of self-interest, for this common good.

So I end this year and start the next with hope. At FLOW, the Great Lakes and Water Policy Center, here in Traverse City, and other organizations throughout the region, we have chosen as a mission and goal to protect the waters of the Great Lakes basin as a commons with principles, known as the public trust doctrine, that require government as trustee and people as beneficiaries, to work together to respect and protect water and community that depend on it from impairment. Private control of public waters and other public commons has always been prohibited; this is because some things essential to all of us are common to all of us. If we don’t protect the commons, we undermine the air, water, community and neighborhoods where we live. To work and live toward the common good is to work for the commons and at the same time work for yourself, family and friends. To not work for the common good, is to continue the long, slow, or perhaps not so slow, disintegration that leads to destruction of the earth, water, air, community, people, and leads to a world violent and unsafe.

It is hopeful and reassuring to see positive events pointing toward this new way of seeing, understanding and doing – living and working for the protection and sustainability of our common home and the common good. They are one and the same. Here’s to another hopeful New Year.

 

 

 

Mayors of Traverse City and Mackinac Island Urge Gov. Snyder to Regulate 61-Year-Old Oil Pipelines in Straits

 

Traverse City’s Mayor Michael Estes urged Gov. Snyder in a letter this week to take action as the state’s primary trustee and to regulate twin 61-year-old pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac that transport about 23 million gallons of oil every day.

Traverse City’s letter follows a similar letter that Mayor Doud of the City of Mackinac Island sent to the governor’s office just last month.  A catastrophic oil spill in the Straits would surround Mackinac Island and affect an 85-mile stretch from Lake Michigan’s Beaver Island to Rogers City in Lake Huron, according to University of Michigan’s recent dispersion model.

“Due to our proximity to the pipelines, a spill of almost any size would surround the Island in oil, shut down all ferry service, and leave residents without a viable drinking water supply for an indefinite period of time,” stated Mayor Doud in her letter to the Governor. “As Mayor of this unique community, I cannot stand by and simply hope that the pipelines pose no threat.”

Mayor Estes heralded the importance of water to Traverse City’s economy and way of life in his letter to the governor: “Lake Michigan’s clean water and magnificent shores are the backbone of Traverse City…  In 2013, tourism alone generated more than $1.23 billion in economic activity and was responsible for maintaining nearly 12,000 jobs in the Traverse City area.  Allowing the integrity of these waters to fall by the wayside would thus have dire consequences for the economy of the Traverse City area and subsequently the State of Michigan.”

This issue is a high priority for Mayor Estes who is a U.S. Michigan Advisor to the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, which issued a resolution in the spring for the replacement of Enbridge’s pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac.

The State of Michigan issued an easement to pipeline owner and operator, Enbridge, in 1953 to place two twenty-inch-diameter oil pipelines on the state-owned bottomlands and waters of Lake Michigan.  As owner and trustee, the state has a perpetual duty to the public to protect these waters and public uses of drinking, swimming, fishing, navigation, and recreation.  This means the state must ensure that that these private oil pipelines never harm or impair the state public waters.

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, commended both Mayors Estes and Doud saying, “Mayor Estes and Mayor Doud are serving their cities well by taking this leadership role and raising this important Great Lakes issue before the Governor who is our primary state trustee and steward of our waters.”

FLOW is a lead partner in the Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign – comprised of over 17 environmental organizations, businesses, and tribes – that authored a letter to the Governor, Attorney General, and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) Director in July, calling on state leaders to ensure Enbridge is in full compliance with the State’s 1953 easement.  The letter requested the state to require Enbridge to file an application under the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act and conclude that these oil pipelines will not impair or substantially harm the public trust waters or bottomlands in Lake Michigan.