The more than 5,400 projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) have done considerable good, especially in speeding progress toward cleaning up dozens of toxic hotspots in bays and harbors. Even so, completing the job of restoring these areas could take another decade or more. The $1 billion infusion of federal GLRI funding this year provides an important opportunity to take stock of what has been accomplished, what remains to be done, and whether the funding is being used effectively.
In a proposed budget with major increases thanks to a booming state economy and massive amounts of federal infrastructure and COVID-19 relief funding, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday announced important investments in environmental programs. As an aide to the governor said, “budgets are a reflection of values.” The Governor’s office characterized Gov. Whitmer’s environmental recommendations as record amounts for protection of water, including the replacement of lead pipes, control of toxic PFAS, rebuilding water infrastructure, and providing safe drinking water in schools.
When a coalition of citizen groups, including FLOW, last fall urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect the nearly 10,000 residents of Benton Harbor from lead in their drinking water, it was a reminder that government officials have failed to heed the lessons of a half-century of Michigan environmental health disasters. Once again, Michigan’s state government had failed to act with urgency to protect the public from toxic contaminants. This week, seeking to protect Benton Harbor residents from lead as well as hoping to head off further criticism, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services promised to continue providing bottled water to the community until all lead pipes are replaced.
FLOW is excited to announce that Tessa Diem has joined our staff as Development Specialist. Tessa, who lives in Arcadia in Manistee County, has worked in the nonprofit sector since 2014, serving environmental and cultural organizations to advance their missions through program coordination, strategic planning, resource development and communications. We asked Tessa about her connection to the Great Lakes, her favorite place in Michigan, and her favorite Great Lakes fact.
A global aquatic resource under threat from drainage, filling and development is the focus of World Wetlands Day, which is observed on Wednesday, February 2. Michigan has a special stake in preventing wetland destruction and promoting wetland restoration.
This week Grand Rapids-based Madcap Coffee announced its initial membership in 1% for the Planet and the company’s intent to donate 1% of annual sales to support nonprofit organizations focused on the environment, climate change, and water conservation. To celebrate its 1% membership and to highlight its retail expansion into Leelanau County, Madcap is partnering with FLOW to launch its seasonal Lake Effect winter coffee blend and a supporting merchandise collection. 10% of café and online sales from Madcap’s Lake Effect coffee and collection will directly benefit FLOW, whose mission is protecting and preserving waters in the Great Lakes Basin through public trust principles like education, policy, and solutions to urgent energy, water, and climate issues.
What’s the natural resource that is critical to the survival of billions of human beings but invisible to the vast majority of them? The answer is groundwater, both in Michigan and globally. Out of sight but not detached from our economy and health, groundwater plays a critical role in Michigan communities, supplying 45 percent of Michigan’s population with drinking water. Yet groundwater is a neglected and much-abused part of our state’s natural endowment. This year, groundwater will be in the spotlight on the annual World Water Day, March 22.
As she begins her fourth year in office, Governor Whitmer, who will deliver this year’s State of the State message on Jan. 26, has an opportunity to build on past environmental successes and set the tone for a historic year of accomplishment. Thanks to significant federal COVID relief aid and a state economy performing better than forecast, Michigan has a rare abundance of funding to attack the state’s multi-billion-dollar backlog of sewage and drinking water infrastructure needs and attend to other urgent environmental needs. Here are a few ways she can strengthen public health protections and restore our environment.
In Michigan, water in its natural state, including groundwater, is held by the state as sovereign for the benefit of the people. Michigan’s 2008 groundwater withdrawal law declares that lakes, streams, and groundwater–indeed springs, seeps, and wetlands–are a singularly connected part of the water cycle. The removal of water from one arc of the water cycle affects the other, often substantially.
For years my family lived in steamy Arkansas, driving for days to get to northern Michigan in the summers. The air cooled down mile by mile. The moment we rounded a curve and our lake glimmered into view I was transported, transformed. I wanted nothing but to be in it, on it, all over it, writes poet and Traverse City resident Fleda Brown.