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Liz Kirkwood Reflects on the Importance of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement After 50 Years

Friday, April 15, marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement–a deep and lasting commitment between the two nations to restore and protect the greatest collection of fresh surface water on the planet. A key institution in the execution of the Agreement is the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, which advises the International Joint Commission. Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s executive director, is a U.S. appointee to the 28-member binational board. Here are her thoughts on the Board’s role under the Agreement in protecting the lakes.

Evaluating the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement on its 50th Birthday

When Lake Erie algae blooms worsened to a crisis in the 1960s, Canada and the United States shared the problem—but no mechanism to combat it jointly. Out of that gap came the binational Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Signed 50 years ago this Friday by Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and U.S. President Richard Richard Nixon in Ottawa on April 15, 1972, the pact embraced the reality that Great Lakes water flows across the international boundary and that only through joint effort can the lakes be restored. FLOW asks the question: Has it worked?

Protecting Groundwater and Michigan’s Most Endangered Wildflower

An unseen resource, Michigan’s groundwater provides drinking water to more than 4 million Michiganders, supports agricultural irrigation and manufacturing, and contributes a significant portion of the inflow to the Great Lakes. But there is still another reason to protect Michigan’s groundwater: conservation of our state’s biological diversity. Groundwater is critical to valuable species and their habitats, including cold water trout streams like the Au Sable River–and a rare wildflower found exclusively in Michigan.

High Gas Prices Could Drive Down Emissions, Boost Support for Fuel Efficiency and Electric Vehicles

Photo source: iStock By Dave Dempsey Skyrocketing gasoline prices are shocking drivers–but they also provide an opportunity for environmental benefits and demonstrate the value of vehicle fuel efficiency standards. The transportation sector accounts for 28 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Within this sector, about 59 percent of those emissions, which… Read more »

Public Trust Bill Package Boosts Groundwater Protection in Michigan

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood expressed strong support for legislation introduced in Lansing today that would shore up public trust protections for the Great Lakes and groundwater against water-bottling companies thirsting for profits and strengthen safeguards for waterways on state land. “The Great Lakes must never be for sale,” Kirkwood said in a video-recording message for the press conference announcing the legislation. “And Michigan’s groundwater must never become privatized and siphoned away.”

Groundwater Emerges into the Light

Overlooked for many years, groundwater has taken the driver’s seat in 2022, as multiple organizations promote a deeper understanding of the source of drinking water for 145 million Americans and approximately 4.5 million Michiganders. Promotion this week comes from the Groundwater Foundation and National Ground Water Association as they encourage their constituents and the general public to observe National Groundwater Awareness Week. The two organizations call attention to  “the responsible development, management, and use of groundwater. The event is also a platform to encourage yearly water well testing and well maintenance, and the promotion of policies impacting groundwater quality and supply.”

Join FLOW in Helping Michigan Create a Comprehensive Climate Plan

Governor Gretchen Whitmer in 2019 charged the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) with developing and implementing a “Healthy Climate Plan” to achieve Michigan’s greenhouse-gas reduction targets and otherwise prepare for and adapt to climate impacts that are now unavoidable. But EGLE’s draft MI Healthy Climate Plan is an imperfect response to this charge. Please join FLOW in helping EGLE improve the draft by emailing your public comments by the March 14 deadline.

DNR Director Concerned about Climate Change, Accelerating Threats to Natural Resources

Managing one of the oldest agencies in Michigan state government is the job of the youngest person ever appointed as its director. Dan Eichinger was 37 when Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed him in 2019 to run the 101-year-old Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which was originally called the Department of Conservation. FLOW asked Eichinger to discuss what he regards as his most important accomplishments and the biggest challenges facing the DNR, which manages the state’s fish and wildlife, state parks, state forests, and more. Not surprisingly, climate change policy figures in both what’s been done and what’s yet to be tackled.

Happy Birthday to Jim Olson: Legal Lion for the Environment

Those working on Michigan environmental issues at any time during the last 50 years have known exactly who the pioneering legal advocate for Michigan’s precious air, water, and land is: FLOW founder Jim Olson. As Jim’s February 26 birthday approaches, it’s time to take stock of all that he’s accomplished in the service of current and future generations.

An Eighth Grader’s Quest to Protect the Great Lakes through Homemade Jewelry

Lucy Jones, a 14-year-old eighth grader at Traverse City West Middle School cares enough about protecting the Great Lakes to donate sales of her Up North Jewelry to FLOW, which is working with you to keep the Great Lakes public and protected for all. FLOW thrives on these creative collaborations with supporters, activists, and artists of all ages. We spoke with Lucy about what inspired this collaboration.