Tag: water policy

Bayfield: A community full of inspiring stewards of the Great Lakes

By Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member, Emma Lui, Council of Canadians Water Campaigner.
Read the original post here.

Maude Barlow and I arrived in Bayfield, Ontario, the 15th stop of the Great Lakes Need Great Friends tour, on Friday evening. It is a beautiful village and Main Street is full of quaint, cozy and independent restaurants, inns, café’s, art galleries and stores.

Maude speaking in Bayfield ON Sept 2013Maude was invited by the Bayfield River Valley Trail Association, a group of dedicated volunteers that establish and maintain trails in the area.

A reception was held Friday evening with fellow water activists, conservationists, environmentalists and people who simply love the Great Lakes. On Saturday, Roger and Pat Lewington of the Trail Association invited Maude, Environmental Defence’s Nancy Goucher and Alanna Scott and I for a boat ride on the beautiful waters of Lake Huron. In the afternoon, we joined others for an Urban Pole Walk on the Saw Mill Trail to raise funds for the Alexandra Marine and General Hospital Foundation. There was also an art show and silent auction showcasing the talent of local artists.

madue with lower water levels in Bayfield ON Sept 2013 It didn’t take long to see the strong sense of community that Bayfield has. Roger explained how the community members are always helping each other out. And volunteers of the Trail Association understand the connection between protecting the trails and local waters and Great Lakes issues.

Bayfield is smack in the middle of Chemical Valley in Aamjiwnaang First Nation and Sarnia and the proposed nuclear waste dumps in Saugeen Shores and Kincardine. Bayfield is also faced with agricultural run-off, E. coli and drastically low water levels that plague much of Lake Huron’s communities. See Maude in the picture to the right where the wall behind her marks the receding lake levels in Bayfield.

The Saturday evening event was sold out and the Town Hall where the event was held was jam packed. The Town Hall is a beautiful old building that was saved by locals years back from being destroyed.

Maude gave an inspiring speech to a fully engaged crowd. She warned the audience that “we are a world running out of water” and talked about the “vicious new threats” to the Great Lakes are fracking and pipelines carrying tar sands and fracked oil and gas. Maude stressed the need for a new water ethic where water is at the centre of all policy including trade, economics, the environment and health, which she outlines in her new book Blue Future released Saturday night.

Bayfield ON Audience for maude sept 2013
Some ways of protecting the Great Lakes include helping to stop Line 67 that would carry bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to Lake Superior, urging Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to stop a pipeline project that would bring fracked gas from the Marcellus shale to Toronto, calling for a moratorium on fracking in Ontario and the Great Lakes and making Great Lakes communities Blue Communities.

 
Bayfield’s beaches and marina have their Blue Flag label. The Trail Association volunteers and others have been asking Mayor Bill Dowson for many years to ban bottled water as well as recognize the human right to water and promote public water services in order to become a Blue Community. After attending Maude’s talk on Saturday, we hope Mayor Dowson will consider making the town of Bluewater, which the village of Bayfield belongs to, a Blue Community.

Congratulations to Ray and Paula Letheren, Roger and Pat Lewington and the other volunteers of the Trail Association for organizing such an amazing event and for all the fantastic work they do to protect the Great Lakes. They are an inspiring example of what it means to be stewards of the Great Lakes.

The Province: B.C. should enshrine ‘public trust’ principle to protect its groundwater, says Michigan water lawyer

Read the full article in The Province here

Nestle - Laurence Gillieron, APAmid growing controversy around B.C.’s lax groundwater regulation, an American lawyer who waged a 10-year winning court battle against Nestlé is watching to see how the province modernizes its century-old Water Act.

The Province’s reports last week on Nestlé and other companies extracting B.C. groundwater without regulation caught the attention of Michigan environmental lawyer Jim Olson, who offered his views on the matter.

Olson is no stranger to these issues. In 2010, he was awarded the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice award for the decade-long court battle he waged on behalf of Michigan citizens against Nestlé.

The case of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation vs. Nestlé began in 2000, when activists grew concerned the government was not adequately monitoring or controlling Nestlé’s water-taking practices in the region.

Representing the citizens, Olson won the case, resulting in Nestlé being ordered to reduce its water withdrawals during low-flow seasons.

Now, Olson says he’s watching B.C. But beyond the specific details of B.C.’s proposed water regulation — the price charged per million litres, the number of litres allowed, how much to allocate to different users, and so on — Olson says one vital piece of any new legislation is a broader legal concept: the public trust.

“This is true in both the United States and Canada, both states and provinces, no matter what water regime you choose … it’s going to be very important for each province to declare water a public trust,” Olson said from his law office in Michigan.

The public trust concept essentially means water is a public resource owned by the people of Canada, with the government acting as a trustee responsible for taking care of the resource.

“It’s a very important principle, even if it’s a one-paragraph declaration,” Olson said. “It would operate as a shield against unforeseen claims and unforeseen circumstances.”

Olson gives a hypothetical example: if, at some point in the future, B.C.’s water resources were depleted significantly, the government might ask a bottled water company to reduce their water takings accordingly. But without the public trust doctrine enshrined in legislation, it would be much more difficult to make that company reduce its consumption, not unlike Olson’s court case against Nestlé in Michigan.

The public trust doctrine is becoming increasingly common and established in modern water legislation, said Oliver Brandes, a water expert from the University of Victoria’s faculty of law. The legal concept is more evolved in several American states, and has been incorporated into environmental legislation in some parts of Canada, including Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Quebec.

The public trust concept acknowledges that water is different from other resources, said Brandes.

“There are certain resources that are just so special, because life depends on it,” Brandes said. “Something like oil and gas, it isn’t crucial to life. But water, you have to protect it for everybody, because if you take it away, there is no substitute.”

Kalkaska County: The centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin

Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member Emma Lui is the Water Campaign Director for the Council of Canadians. She shared her recent blog post with us about her recent trip to Kalkaska, MI. Read the original post on canadians.org

Driving into Kalkaska County, the welcome sign displays a picture of an oil well which is indicative of the history of oil and gas drilling in the county.

Welcome sign to Kalkaska, MIFLOW’s Communications Director Eric Olson and I drove 30 minutes outside of Traverse City Monday afternoon to the neighbouring county of Kalkaska. Kalkaska is an economically depressed community and many closed stores on Kalkaska’s downtown are a stark indication of that.

We met with Paul Brady, a ‘fracking watchdog’ according to media reports, who took us to see some of Encana’s well sites. The first well site we visited was the Excelsior 1-13 well in Excelsior Township, one of Kalkaska’s twelve townships. The site stores equipment and produces gas but minimal compared to some of Encana’s other well sites. But Encana has plans to expand the number of horizontal wells at this site. The development of the original site destroyed wetlands and some residents are concerned that Encana’s expansion will further destroy wetlands in the area.

Excelsior Well operated by EncanaKalkaska has become the centre of fracking in Michigan with more fracking permits and active applications than any other county in the state. What’s more, not only is Canadian company Encana planning to frack 500 new deep shale wells in the area but they are also breaking records with the amount of water they are using to frack Kalkaska’s wells. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s report Hydraulic Fracturing in the Great Lakes Basin: The State of Play in Michigan in Ohio, most fracked wells in the Utica shale use between 7.5 and 22.7 million litres of water but Encana has reported that it used 45 million litres of groundwater per well to frack the Excelsior 2-25and Garfield 1-25 wells and 80 million litres of groundwater to frack its Excelsior 3-25 well. Recent news reports revealed that Ecana wants to withdraw 15 billion litres of water for the 500 new wells they plan to frack.

Michigan may soon be the state with the most fracking within the Great Lakes Basin, making Kalkaska County the centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin. Ohio and Pennsylvania are Great Lakes states with a significant amount of fracking but most of the fracking within these states occurs outside of the Basin.

Encana brine tanks fracking Kalkaska

 

Next we drove down a dirt road called Sunset Trail and arrived at what Paul calls “Michigan’s first superpad,” known as the Oliver pad. The pad currently has three wells, which were completed in November of 2011 and are now producing wells. There are five more to come, for a total of eight wells. Standing on a small hill just outside the Oliver pad, we saw Encana’s holding tanks of condensate and brine. The site is clean, neat and almost sparse, with no traces of the toxic mixture that Encana used to frack the three wells on site – a very different picture from when the wells were being fracked. But the real threat is what can’t be seen above ground. Encana will draw groundwater in Kalkaska resulting in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch of the Manistee River. The North Branch of the Manistee River, a coldwater trout stream, is roughly 1400 feet from where we stood looking at the fracked wells of the Oliver pad.

Emma Lui fracking kalkaskaAs we walked on Sunset Trail which is in the Pere Marquette State Forest, Paul tells us the story of how back in May 2012, Team Services, a company contracted out by Encana, sprayed over 150,000 litres of fracking flowback on the very road we were walking on.

We drove down a few roads and arrived at the North Branch of the Manistee River. It looks small and unassuming but is a tributary to the Manistee River, which itself is a winding river of over 300 kilometres that eventually snakes its way to Lake Michigan. As mentioned, Encana’s fracking projects will result in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch.

Kalkaska wastewater

Encana has other well sites in the county including the Garfield well in Garfield Township which used 45 million litres of water in December 2012 as well as the Westerman well site in Rapid River Township where residents have raised concerns about water well failures after fracking began.

Encana’s proposed fracking plans are a threat to the county’s water sources, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. The shorelines of Lake Michigan are already under stress, with Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Erie having the highest levels of cumulative stress. Several municipalities in Michigan have already placed a moratorium on fracking.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has begun a statewide ballot initiative to “prohibit the new type of horizontal fracking and frack wastes in Michigan.” 258, 088 signatures are required in order for Michigan to hold a referendum on the issue in 2014. Click here to endorse this initiative.

As Maude Barlow points out in her report Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, while there are many political jurisdictions governing the Great Lakes Basin, it is, in fact, one integrated watershed and needs to be seen and governed as such. We need to work towards banning fracking around the lakes in order to protect the entire Great Lakes Basin.

To read background information about fracking in Michigan, click here.
To view more pictures from this trip, click here.

Emma Lui’s blog

Annual Celebration of the Great Lakes Society

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director
231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

FLOW HOSTS ITS FIRST ANNUAL CELEBRATION
Celebrating the Great Lakes Society: Common Waters, Common Purpose

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW (“For Love Of Water”), the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, is hosting its first Great Lakes Society Annual Celebration at The Workshop Brewing Company in Traverse City, MI from 12-3pm, on Saturday, August 17, 2013. FLOW welcomes community members and guests of all ages to join in the celebration and learn about FLOW’s programs and the Great Lakes Society. Great Lakes Society members share a common purpose: to protect the common waters of the Great Lakes Basin. The Society’s members provide vital funding to FLOW with a four-year pledge of support. FLOW will present two Beacon Awards to acknowledge those members who have shown tremendous passion for and dedication to protecting the Great Lakes. This free program includes performances by several talented local musicians, including pianist Jimmy Olson and vintage swing duo The True Falsettos. FLOW would like to thank our generous co-sponsors Oryana Natural Foods Market and Food for Thought for their support.

FLOW’s Founder and Chair, Jim Olson notes that “FLOW’s cutting edge work—on water, energy and food, climate change, water levels, invasive species, diversions and exports, nutrient loading and the public trust doctrine—would not be possible without our Great Lakes Society. These dedicated supporters make our work here at FLOW possible and allows us to apply our critical research and work to protect waters of the Great Lakes.”

FLOW invites water lovers to join the Great Lakes Society in its founding year. New members pledging and making their first year contribution before December 31, 2013 will be recognized as Founding Members. Members pledge a four-year commitment to donate at one of three levels.

  • Isle Royale Member: $500 or more per year for four years
  • Mackinaw Member: $250 per year for four years
  • Manitou Member: $125 per year for four years

Great Lakes Society Founding Member and Director of the Environmental Law Center at Vermont Law School, Melissa Scanlan, says that joining the organization is important for maintaining the integrity of these shared waters, which contain 20% of the world’s freshwater supply. “I support FLOW by joining the Great Lakes Society because the Great Lakes are a public treasure to be protected today for future generations,” says Scanlan.

GLS INVITE POSTERFLOW is fortunate to host the party at a brand new venue, The Workshop Brewing Company, located at 221 Garland Street in the Warehouse District. The Workshop’s mission is to sustain nature, build community, and honor the craft of brewing beer. They do this by creating honest, traditional beers and wholesome, delicious food using ingredients sourced as locally/organically as possible, served with genuine warmth and enthusiasm, in a setting that is welcoming and fun.

FLOW is delighted to celebrate with performers pianist Jimmy Olson and vintage swing duoThe True Falsettos. Born and raised in Northern Michigan, pianist Jimmy Olson graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy with a major in percussion and continued his studies at the L.A. Musicians Institute in California. Olson formerly played with bands including Egon and Medicinal Groove, and now plays with G Snacks. Olson plays throughout Northern Michigan on a regular basis with his band and as a solo musician.

The True Falsettos are a vintage swing duo featuring Joe Wilson (Steel Guitar, Guitar, Vocals) and Kevin Gills (Bass, Vocals). Embracing the hot jazz and swing styles of the 30’s and 40’s, Joe and Kevin play some of the liveliest, most danceable music around. In addition to original tunes, Joe and Kevin play the songs of the Nat King Cole trio, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, Fat Waller, Jimmie Lunceford, and Louis Jordan.

FLOW greatly appreciates the help of our event co-sponsors, Oryana Natural Foods Marketand Food for Thought. Oryana has been supporting good food, sustainable agriculture and cooperative economics since 1973. The co-op offers high quality food produced in ecologically sound ways at fair value to member-owners and the community at large. Local, Fair Trade and organic foods are emphasized. Oryana was Michigan’s first Certified Organic Retailer. Today, Oryana generates $14 million sales annually from their 8,800-square-foot facility located in Traverse City.

Food For Thought produces more than gourmet, organic canned preserved goods; their goal is to produce gifts that matter. When you give a gift from Food For Thought, you can be assured that they have done their best to bring you products that make a difference in the quality of life on this planet. Satisfaction is guaranteed. Food For Thought strives to be a model of corporate responsibility that is expressed, in part, through an unwavering commitment to organic foods. Such a commitment has a direct and positive impact on the quality of land and water. Not only does Food For Thought make products that help sustain and preserve our natural world, but they are also of the best quality available anywhere.

We look forward to spending the afternoon with our current and future Great Lakes Society members.

Allegan County News: Fracking – Gun Plain continues process

Read the full article in the Allegan County News here

By Kayla Deneau, Staff Writer

The Gun Plain Township board and the planning commission had a joint informational meeting Wednesday, July 17, to discuss horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, with residents.

For the Love Of Water representatives were at the meeting to give a presentation and answer the public’s questions on the issue.

FLOW and the Department of Environmental Quality have both previously met with the board and the planning commission to educate them about fracking.

Fracking is a relatively new technology. It uses a mixture of fresh water, sand and chemicals and injects the mixture in wells at a high pressure to fracture rock and release oil and natural gas.

The method has been used in Michigan since 2010. It can reach depths up to two miles deep and can use up to 21 million gallons of water per well.

According to FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood, Michigan is ranked 12th in the nation for the production of natural gas and as of May has 52 current fracking wells, 17 pending wells and it is expected to have 200 new wells by the end of this year.

May estimates showed approximately 752,260 acres of land are leased for the purpose of fracking in Michigan with about 25,000 acres leased in Allegan County.

Township supervisor Mike VanDenBerg said none of the 17 pending wells are in the county.

Kirkwood said there are many local risks associated with this unconventional method.

The first is the massive amount of water that is permanently lost. The water used in each well is removed from lakes, stream and groundwater sources.

Another risk, Kirkwood said, is the wastewater that returns to the surface and its disposal. The water can be 10 times saltier than seawater and can also be mixed with other contaminants such as various chemicals or radioactive matter.

In Michigan, the wastewater is disposed of in Class II deep injection wells, of which there are approximately 1,500 throughout the state. This increases the risk of earthquakes in the state, she said.

There is limited disclosure of chemicals used in the water mixture. Over 750 chemicals are used in the process, Kirkwood said, including at least 29 that are known as possible carcinogens. Local authorities are not privy to what chemicals are being used until well after fracking is completed.

Water and air pollution can also occur and a result of fracking, Kirkwood said. Faulty wells can create ways for fracking fluid to contaminate groundwater and aquifers. Excess natural gas from the wells as well as methane, ozone smog and soot from diesel engines, compressor stations and hauling trucks pollute the air.

She said heavy truck traffic not only increases pollution and surface spill risk, but also puts a burden on local road infrastructure and can require new road construction in rural areas. The land being used also has to house all the equipment necessary to complete the fracking process.

In 2010, 21 percent of all natural gas was obtained through fracking; in 2011 30 percent was obtained this way, according to Kirkwood.

“This is a real issue we need to think about because we are investing very heavily in this course,” she said. “I raise this question to all of us, is this the bridge to clean energy and renewable resources that we think that we need to get in order to reduce climate change impacts.”

She said the natural gas and oil industry is currently exempt from key federal environmental laws including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, RCRA and Safe Drinking Water Act.

“Some communities have chosen to ban fracking. Some of the advantages are that if it is a real threat to your community it will stop it immediately,” Kirkwood said. “In Michigan bans are tough. Unless the legislature is going to enact a ban it is difficult for townships to do it.”

She said FLOW is committed to working with residents of Gun Plain Township to achieve the outcome that best meets their needs.

For more information, visit flowforwater.org or call (231) 944-1568.

Allegan County News: Gun Plain Township Hosts Meetings on Fracking

Read the article on the Allegan County News here.

By Daniel Pepper, Interim Editor
Monday, July 15, 2013 10:38 AM EDT

Gun Plain Township invites all interested citizens to attend a discussion of the issues surrounding fracking.

The process of releasing natural gas trapped in rock deep beneath the earth, more properly known as hydraulic fracturing, will be discussed Wednesday, July 17, at the township hall.

Township Supervisor Mike VanDenBerg said the group For Love Of Water will be on hand to give a presentation to the township board and interested citizens at 7 p.m.

The non-profit, which describes itself as dedicated to protecting water in the Great Lakes basin, will give a presentation to the board on fracking and various suggested ordinances to regulate it. The practice has been controversial, with activists arguing its environmental costs are too high and the industry defending it as safe.

Michigan law does not allow local municipalities to ban fracking, but they can regulate it.

The board will also question the group’s representatives and allow the public to ask questions, as well as take public comment.

“Then, there’s another meeting in August, if you can’t get your comments in at this one,” VanDenBerg said.

In other business, the township board set a Truth in Taxation hearing for Thursday, Aug. 1, at the August regular board meeting.

Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534 or (269) 685-9571.

The Greatest Threat to the Great Lakes that No One Seems to Know About

The Greatest Threat to the Great Lakes and No One Seems to Know About It: Expanding Enbridge’s Line 5 Through the Straits of Mackinac

Click here to read and download PDF

How often do you hear a story in the news and then feel utterly shocked that you didn’t know anything about it? Well, that’s how all 40 million of us living in the Great Lakes should feel about the Enbridge Line 5 expansion across the Straits of Mackinac—a pipeline expansion project that will transport tar sands oil directly through the heart of the Great Lakes. In a nutshell, this just may be the greatest threat facing the Great Lakes at this time in history. “An oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac isn’t a question of if—it’s a question of when,” according to National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) comprehensive report on this issue, Sunken Hazard.

What would a tar sands oil spill the size of Exxon-Valdez mean for the Great Lakes? Goodbye fisheries, aquatic food links, goodbye wildlife, goodbye municipal drinking water, goodbye Mackinac Island, goodbye tourism and property values, and goodbye to one of the world’s largest freshwater inland seas.

What company is stealthily completing this hazardous energy venture with limited public scrutiny? Enbridge—the same Canadian company responsible in 2010 for a million gallon tar sands oil pipeline rupture and a $1 billion cleanup along a 35-mile stretch of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Known as the largest transporter of crude oil, Enbridge is requesting a permit from the State Department’s U.S. Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to expand its existing pipeline—Line 67 also known as the Alberta Clipper—to transport heavy tar sands oil originating from Alberta, Canada to Superior, Wisconsin. From there, Enbridge, according to company officials, has already expanded the capacity of a second existing pipeline—Line 5—that travels directly through the Straits of Mackinac to a refinery located in Sarnia, Ontario. The 1,000+ mile Alberta Clipper pipeline route will double the tar sands oil that it currently carries and will deliver even more tar sands oil than the highly publicized and controversial TransCanada Corp’s Keystone XL pipeline.

Built sixty years ago in 1953, Line 5’s twin pipelines that cross the Straits of Mackinac—each 20 inches in diameter—were designed to transport light conventional crude oil, not Enbridge’s viscous, heavy tar sands oil or “bitumen” blended or diluted with volatile natural gas liquid condensate, also known as “dilbit.” Dilbit spills are particularly difficult to remediate because the bitumen and diluents separate, releasing toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and heavy, sticky bitumen material. And in Lake Michigan, who knows how long it would take to actually clean up these pollutants. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that it takes an average of 99 years to rid of pollutants in Lake Michigan.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into Enbridge’s depressing track record. According to NWF, “Enbridge’s pipelines had more than 800 spills in the U.S. and Canada between 1999 and 2010, leaking 6.8 million gallons of oil.” So with the combination of strong currents along the Straits, Enbridge’s inexcusable track record, its weak emergency response, and a strong likelihood of mechanical pipeline failure in this fragile ecosystem, we must ask ourselves: is this a risk we as citizens, inheritors, and future protectors of the Great Lakes are willing to accept?

This Enbridge pipeline expansion is a perfect example of why we have the public trust in our navigable waters—an ancient legal doctrine dating back to the Roman times—designed to protect our common shared resources like the Great Lakes. The public trust empowers us as a democratic and thoughtful people to question the impacts of proposed actions like Enbridge’s and determine whether they will impair, pollute or irreparably harm our water resources, and jeopardize protected water uses like fishing, swimming, and navigation.

This proposed action is a clear violation of the public trust as the pipeline threatens to destroy the Great Lakes’ common waters, which support the region’s $62 billion economy with 1.5 million jobs, drinking water for 40 million citizens, as well as our very social fabric, quality of life and enjoyment, and shared ecosystem with wildlife. The unprecedented scale of such an ecological and economic disaster also would undermine the $1 billion already invested in the U.S. government’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This is why the public trust and its protection of the commons is more important than ever.

What this debate really boils down to is a much-needed larger national conversation about our country’s future energy policy. Not only does President Obama need to have the Keystone XL pipeline on his radar, but all pipeline expansions like this project, in assessing the impacts of climate change. It’s time that our nation makes good energy choices that respect the Great Lakes as a shared common resource protected by the public trust. We need to put the safety of our water and our future generations before our overzealous energy development. If we do this, we can chart a future with clean and abundant water, food, energy and a prosperous economy.

Looking for something concrete to do about this pressing pipeline issue? Come join FLOW, TC350, 350.org, National Wildlife Federation, Michigan Land Use Institute, Food & Water Watch, and many other organizations and attend the Oil and Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes on July 14th at the St. Ignace Bridge View Park, just north of the Mackinac Bridge. The purpose of the rally is to bring attention to the dangers of this pipeline and its expansion, and to organize a response to these risks. We want to pressure our leaders to put safety measures in place to prevent a devastating oil spill in the heart of the Great Lakes. Click here to sign up and RSVP via this Facebook event.

oil and water dont mix photo

Why I Volunteer for FLOW

Hello Great Lakes lovers.

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

My name is Justin Sterk and I have recently begun volunteering at FLOW, in downtown Traverse City, Michigan.  As a native of Traverse City, the Great Lakes hold special importance to me and my family, and it is a great thrill for me to be able to begin contributing to the protection of our region’s greatest resource.

As for me, I graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 2007, the University of Michigan in 2012 and am currently serving a year-long AmeriCorps term in Traverse City before starting law school at Wayne State University in August.  I am very interested in legal strategies that can be used to conserve and protect our planet’s natural resources.  My plan is to make a career out of the type of work FLOW does, which is another great benefit of being around the office, learning from FLOW’s incredible staff.

I’ve been here for about a month and a half and have been working on a couple different projects.  One has been the early stages of a program that complements the work of Council of Canadians, a partner of FLOW, and their Blue Communities Program.  A Council of Canadians Blue Community is one that adopts resolutions that

  1. Recognize water as a human right,
  2. Ban bottled water in public places and at municipal events, and
  3. Promote publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services.

A blue community is one that makes a commitment to sustainable water use and resists the ever increasing trend of water privatization.  It is our hope that a Blue Communities type of program can be implemented as part of a package of pragmatic water conservation best practices to assist communities in conserving water in many different areas.

The other research I have just recently begun working on relates to the connection between food production and water health.  FLOW’s goal is to provide information about water’s inextricable linkage to food production, especially as it relates to phosphorous runoff—a major cause of harmful algal blooms—which affected Lake Erie on a massive scale in 2011.  Further, we hope to promote awareness of how climate change increases the impacts on this food and water linkage.

I will try to update everyone on the work I am doing throughout the summer and to provide insight into the kind of work a FLOW volunteer can do.  Have a great day and enjoy our beautiful Great Lakes region.