Archive of FLOW in the News

A sampling of recent news coverage involving FLOW

Research shows Great Lakes algae and microplastics connect

March 21, 2021

Scientists discovered plastic microfibers in the Great Lakes are sticking to green algae that grows along the bottomlands in a way that could help keep the pollution out of the environment. Liz Kirkwood, executive director for Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, said this is a remarkable revelation by the Valparaiso University research team. And it offers multiple benefits, she argued. “This is an extraordinarily important scientific discovery and it really illustrates how interwoven our actions are to the water itself and how something as small as a microfiber could have impacts on the environment,” she said.

Reality check: Line 5 threatens more jobs than it sustains

March 18, 2021

The United States and Canada are not only close friends and neighbours, but are also committed to resolving their differences with civility and common purpose. The 112-year-old International Joint Commission (IJC), which prevents and resolves disputes over boundary waters, is an example of this special relationship. So is the groundbreaking agreement among Ontario, Quebec and the eight Great Lakes states to ban water diversions from these shared and treasured waters. The two nations, however, are clashing over energy policy and the effects of Line 5, the Canadian petroleum pipelines in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac, a major shipping lane and important whitefish spawning ground where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron. If both Canada and the U.S. take a hard look at these issues together, they will swiftly realize that co-operation, not confrontation, is in the best interests of both — and, significantly, the interests of the planet, write Maude Barlow and Jim Olson in this op-ed published in Canada’s National Observer.

Canadian officials testify Line 5 shutdown would have big impact on the region during Michigan Senate committee

March 16, 2021

A joint Michigan Senate committee meeting heard testimony Tuesday from Canadian officials and business leaders as a potential shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipeline is on the horizon. President and a legal adviser of For the Love of Water, an environmental advocacy group, Jim Olson said state legislatures have a duty to protect Michigan’s natural resources because of the Public Trust Doctrine. “Pipelines for oil and hydrocarbon transport are important, but they are not dependent on or part of the rights and protected uses of the Great Lakes,” Olson said. “Gov. Whitmer has, under the rule of law, fulfilled the mandatory duty to prevent grave harm to the public trust.”

Gov. Whitmer offers propane plan for Upper Peninsula after Line 5 shutdown

March 12, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration released its plan Friday to heat Michigan homes without depending on the Line 5 oil pipeline to deliver propane. The plan calls for millions of dollars of investment in rail infrastructure and storage to help wean propane suppliers off the pipeline, plus other programs to reduce propane demand, help low-income customers pay their propane bills, and increase the state’s ability to monitor propane supplies. Liz Kirkwood, environmental attorney and executive director of Traverse City-based water advocacy group FLOW (For Love of Water), called Whitmer’s announcement the “right plan at the right time,” and emphasized the risk to Michiganders of keeping the “dangerous and outdated” pipeline in place at the bottom of the Straits.

State of Michigan announces MI Propane Security Plan, others respond

March 12, 2021

Friday, the State of Michigan announced the MI Propane Security Plan. The plan is a multiagency effort with the Michigan Public Service Commission; the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy; the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The state says the five-point plan is focused on ensuring Michigan’s energy needs are met when Enbridge’s Line 5 oil pipelines that run through the Great Lakes is possibly shut down. “The administration’s plan protects the health and safety of Michiganders by moving us away from the ticking time bomb of an old, damaged, dangerous oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac and embracing concrete actions to secure the state’s propane supply and protect energy consumers,” said Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director for FLOW. “Michigan’s energy needs can be met without Line 5, and we can’t afford another Enbridge disaster like the Kalamazoo River oil spill.”

Whitmer officials bet on storage, rail transport to weather Line 5 closure

March 12, 2021

Michigan released a plan Friday meant to help the state weather expected propane shortages after the ordered May closure of Enbridge’s Line 5 through the Straits of Mackinac. The report recommends companies find other means to transport the heating resource, better ways to store it and measures to protect customers from price gouging when Line 5 is closed. “Michigan’s energy needs can be met without Line 5, and we can’t afford another Enbridge disaster like the Kalamazoo River oil spill,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water.

Why the Line 5 Issue Should Concern Everyone

February 24, 2021

“Line 5’s products mostly serve Canada, with less than 10 percent of the oil used in Michigan,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told Downtown Publications. “The Line 5 easement–essentially a shortcut for Enbridge to move Canadian oil products from their western regions to their eastern refineries, was never intended to be a vital energy source for Michigan. Instead, it threatens the drinking water supply for 5 million Michigan residents, the Pure Michigan tourist economy, and a way of life. It is time for the state of Michigan to evict Enbridge from the Straits of Mackinac and shut down Line 5 because of the oil spill danger to the Great Lakes.”

February 24, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s notice to shut down Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac by May won’t prompt some of the changes many environmental groups hoped for, reports Interlochen Public Radio. It won’t affect how the state reviews a plan to replace the pipelines and build a tunnel beneath the lakebed, according to a ruling from Judge Dennis Mack this week. FLOW and other environmental nonprofits plan to appeal the judge’s decision.

Points North: Michigan’s apolitical conservation legacy

February 12, 2021

A century ago, Michigan decided politics was not useful for protecting the state’s forests, water and wildlife. A commission was set up to manage natural resources without much influence from elected officials. That was a key part of a plan that worked–Michigan was an environmental leader in the following decades. The state restored large forests, transformed the fisheries in the Great Lakes and created a massive endowment to protect more land. The Natural Resources Commission turns 100 next month, but much of its power has been chiseled away. On this episode of Points North, FLOW’s Dave Dempsey talks about Michigan’s conservation legacy and future. He’s the author of Ruin and Recovery: Michigan’s Rise as a Conservation Leader.

The Battle Over Michigan’s Water

February 6, 2021

Water advocates fighting a Nestle permit are frustrated by the environmental regulators under Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s watch, reports the Northern Express. After two years and more than $200,000 in litigation spent to stop Nestlé Waters from ratcheting up the amount of spring water it pumps from a well in central Michigan, water advocates are flummoxed; the state’s environmental regulator shot down their objections. In late January, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians filed suit in Ingham County to reverse a decision by the director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy that dismissed MCWC’s case.
FLOW founder and president Jim Olson, who helped put limits on Nestlé Water’s Michigan operations when they began in the 2000s, said it also concerns him that EGLE is forcing a nonprofit to do the job of protecting the state’s water. “This was probably expected under the Snyder administration to be honest with you,” Olson said. “It was not what anybody expected under the Whitmer administration and came as quite a shock.” Nonetheless, Olson said he believes water should be a nonpartisan issue. “If anything is important to the people of Michigan, I don’t care what party you’re in, it’s water,” he said.

Line 5 pipeline controversy pits jobs against the environment

January 28, 2021

“People come to Michigan and Canada because of the Great Lakes, not because of an oil pipeline,” FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told The Sarnia Journal. “And they’re certainly not going to come if there’s a black stain in our Great Lakes.” FLOW commissioned a University of Michigan study that concludes 70% of a spill would never be recovered, resulting in an economic hit of $6.3 billion over five years. Kirkwood said the threat isn’t hypothetical. Line 5 has suffered more than 30 spills in its lifetime. “It’s quite remarkable that the Canadian response has really just focused on jobs and the economy related to the fossil fuel industry, rather than talking about the incredible responsibility of protecting the Great Lakes,” she said. Kirkwood said Line 5 is just one of multiple pipelines servicing Sarnia. Enbridge pipeline Line 78, for example, carries 500,000 barrels of oil daily and could cover the shortfall.

Michigan pipeline fight intensifies as permit deadline nears

January 14, 2021

Enbridge is defying Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s move to shut down the Line 5 underwater pipeline, which environmentalists and tribes fear could cause an environmental disaster. Before 2010, most Michiganders didn’t know Line 5 existed, FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told Drilled News. Whitmer ordered a review of the original 1953 easement that allowed Line 5’s construction, which concluded the state had never demonstrated that Line 5 abided by Michigan’s public trust doctrine. This legal principle requires Michigan to protect navigable waters and other “natural resources that are inalienable and belong to all of us,” Kirkwood said, allowing the state to give private companies use of such waters and lands only if it improves or doesn’t harm them.

2020 in Review: Climate change, COVID-19, and Michigan’s governor

January 1, 2021

Great Lakes Now‘s 2020 Year in Review story includes the work of FLOW and other environmental groups who pressured Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to take action on the water agenda she articulated in her election campaign. FLOW wrote to Whitmer asking her to strengthen the Great Lakes Compact, the eight-state agreement designed to prevent diversions of water out of the region. Noting that Whitmer was recently elected chair of the governors and premiers group known as the Compact Council, FLOW said her “leadership gives Michigan, the Great Lakes state, the opportunity to further strengthen protections of the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.”

After years of tough talk, 2020 was the year Michigan moved against Line 5

December 29, 2020

The moment FLOW and many environmental groups in Michigan had been waiting for more than a decade for happened this year when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced she was shutting down Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipeline. “Unexpected” is the word FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told to describe the Nov. 13 move by Whitmer. Kirkwood and others have spent years trying to get the state to end its easement with Enbridge and shut down the oil and natural gas line. “Line five is a race against time,” Kirkwood said. “And so the action of the governor comes at a moment, at a really critical moment.”

Pipelines and plastic bottles: Michigan advocate focuses on Line 5 and Nestle bottled water issue

December 16, 2020

When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January 2019, she immediately put a spotlight on the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline and started the process that would eventually lead to her ordering it shut down. In her 2018 campaign, Whitmer also pledged to remedy the inequities related to water withdrawal issues, specifically a Nestle Waters case being fought by grassroots advocates that originated in the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder. Both are among the most high-profile environmental issues in Michigan in recent times and are at the heart of the public trust advocacy work Liz Kirkwood does, writes Gary Wilson for Great Lakes Now.

The fight against Line 5 intensifies

December 12, 2020

“The state of Michigan is the legal guardian of the public trust waters,” Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the nonprofit FLOW (For Love of Water), tells The Progressive Magazine. “They have a paramount duty to the public and to the waters and all the uses of fishing, swimming, navigation, commerce, and more. … (The tunnel) is not an alternative we should be embracing. With the construction of the tunnel you have the impact on wetlands and the discharge of wastewater directly into the straits. On top of all that, the continued operation of Line 5 is in conflict with Michigan’s goals for reducing carbon emissions,” said Kirkwood, citing an executive order from Governor Whitmer that targets 2050 as a goal for the state’s carbon neutrality.

Whitmer shifts Line 5 dynamic ahead of legal dispute, tunnel uncertainty

November 22, 2020

In a move sought for years by environmental advocates, tribes, and hospitality and tourism businesses, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month notified Enbridge Inc. that it would no longer have the state’s permission to operate the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.“I think (the state) is very much on the offensive,” said Liz Kirkwood, an attorney and executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), which has long advocated the pipeline’s closure. “They’re affirmatively saying under public trust law that the 1953 easement never incurred the proper public trust evaluations. As the public trustee, the state’s duty is ongoing and continuous.” Kirkwood called it an “exceptional case” and unique, since public trust issues typically involve areas where land and water meet. “They’re typically beach-walking cases,” she said.

Michigan upholds Nestle permit to withdraw 576K gallons of groundwater daily

November 20, 2020

Michigan environmental regulators will not reconsider their decision to let Nestlé Waters North America increase groundwater withdrawals to support the company’s Ice Mountain bottling operation in Stanwood, state officials announced Friday. Instead, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has dismissed a complaint challenging the 2018 permit that allows the company to increase its withdrawals form the Osceola County well by 60 percent. Jim Olson, founder and president of the nonprofit For Love of Water, said EGLE’s action “undercuts citizens’ faith and trust. There was no reason for the Department or Attorney General’s office to after-the fact argue there was no jurisdiction,” Olson said, “other than punish citizens’ good faith participation in government.”

Experts: Whitmer has upper hand in Line 5 case, but May shutdown is uncertain

November 18, 2020

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has a strong case against Enbridge Energy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the oil will stop flowing through Line 5 anytime soon, writes Bridge Michigan. Ultimately, the most important question in the case may not be WHETHER Enbridge must shut down Line 5, but WHEN. “Delay is their biggest weapon here,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. She added that if Whitmer succeeds in her shutdown quest and Michigan’s propane and oil industries find other ways to transport petroleum products, Enbridge will have a harder time convincing the Michigan Public Service Commission a new pipeline is necessary. “Making a decision about whether to let Enbirdge relocate a piece of pipeline from Point A to Point B is a very different question than ‘are we going to let you restart this pipeline that has already been shut down?’”

Line 5 shutdown order ‘creates a scenario’ for stopping Enbridge tunnel

November 14, 2020

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water), a Traverse City nonprofit that’s long opposed the pipeline, said the Army Corps has yet to decide whether it will conduct a full environmental impact assessment of Enbridge’s proposal oil tunnel or a more limited review under federal statutes. “I think the whole tunnel permitting process is just a nightmare,” said Kirkwood, noting that it’s being done by two state agencies and a federal agency that aren’t coordinating.
Kirkwood questioned whether Enbridge is actually serious about wanting to build a tunnel, or whether the company is just going through the motions in order to extend operation of the existing, highly profitable pipeline.

Environmentalist groups applaud Gov. Whitmer over Line 5 decision

November 14, 2020

FLOW Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood says, “To finally and permanently remove these aging pipelines out of our Great Lakes is unprecedented and truly extraordinary. This moment didn’t just happen. This took years in the making.” Kirkwood says the 67 year-old pipe is deteriorating and it’s only time before it creates a disaster from “pipeline coating loss, to curvatures and bends in this pipeline, because remember this pipeline is moving and undulating with these incredibly powerful currents,” said Kirkwood.

Line 5 shutdown order heralded as ‘enormous victory’ by pipeline opponents, but ‘irresponsible’ by others

November 13, 2020

“As public trustees of our waters, the State of Michigan is affirmatively upholding the rule of law and protecting the public’s treasured Great Lakes from the clear and present danger of an oil spill catastrophe from Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director for For Love of Water (FLOW), a Great Lakes law and policy center in Traverse City. “People of diverse backgrounds have come together to work tirelessly on a common purpose — protecting the Great Lakes, drinking water, fishing rights, the economy, coastal communities and a way of life from the most dangerous oil pipeline in America.”

Fire & Ice Don’t Go, Neither Do Oil & Water

November 1, 2020

It is impossible to sum into a couple of words the grandeur of the five Great Lakes. These are by far the largest sources of fresh water in the world, specifically 21 percent of the world’s fresh water. It is home to more than 3,500 species of plants and animals, and 170 species of fish. Not to mention over 30 million people rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water – that’s 10 percent of the U.S. population and 30 percent of the Canadian population. Advocacy groups such as Oil & Water Don’t Mix and For Love of Water (or FLOW) continue to push for the complete elimination of Line 5, which seems like one of the only solutions to effectively protect the Great Lakes and the surrounding environment.

Activists put pressure on Nestle’s water operations

October 26, 2020

There’s an effort underway to take back the pumping site in Michigan’s Osceola County where Nestle draws groundwater for Ice Mountain bottles, reports WOOD TV8. Earlier this year, the multinational corporation’s CEO shared the company is considering selling most of its bottled water operations in the U.S. and Canada. In response, several organizations including FLOW sent a letter requesting Nestle divest from certain operations before any potential sale. “Michigan is literally giving away our water for free,” said FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood. “It is imperative that our states and that our nation claim these public waters for the people and not for profit.”

‘Troubled Waters’ campaign calls for Nestle to give up water rights

October 24, 2020

Cadillac News

Just go home. That’s the message from Peggy Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, to Nestle Waters North America. Nestle said this summer that the company was thinking about getting out of the regional bottled water business. Ice Mountain, the Nestle brand bottled in Stanwood, Michigan, and withdrawn from wells near Evart, is one of the brands. The time is ripe, according to Case, for action. “This is a good opportunity, when they are trying to negotiate sales to these places, to tell them to just return the permits. Return whatever they think they own back to public entities,” Case told the Cadillac News. “It’s a good time for them to just go home. That’s all we want. Just go home. Leave the water where it is.” “But we do take a strong position on the privatization of water anywhere in the country,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president. “As we enter into the 21st century, there’s a huge demand for water,” Olson said. If water is privatized for sale, it’s a slippery slope leading to people losing control of their right to use water, he added.

Regulators begin PFAS investigation in East Bay Township

October 21, 2020

Traverse City Record-Eagle

About 20 homes and one business in Traverse City’s East Bay Township may have for years been using drinking water contaminated with PFAS chemicals, and state environmental regulators now launched efforts to find out for sure. Officials said the new investigation comes after a series of state-installed groundwater monitoring wells returned elevated results for various PFAS chemicals. The worry is some residents of the nearby Pine Grove neighborhood may have been drinking and cooking with PFAS-laden water for decades. FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood said the latest PFAS discovery in the Traverse City area is a “disturbing reminder of the systemic statewide health issues raised by the past and present use of these forever chemicals. On a broader level, this emergency provides additional evidence that prevention and precaution must guide the use of hazardous chemicals in our state and that polluters, whether public or private, must be held accountable and pay to clean up their pollution.”

Line 5: an unnecessary and imprudent investment

October 19, 2020

Bridge Magazine

What are the full costs of our continued dependence on fossil fuels? The answer should inform the Whitmer administration’s decisions on the future of Line 5 — the 67-year old pipeline system transporting crude oil across Michigan and under the Straits of Mackinac, writes Skip Press in Bridge Magazine. The burning of fossil fuels affects the environment and public health in ways that are well documented by scientists, economists, and public health officials. The impact from fossil fuel uses include respiratory diseases from air pollution, environmental degradation of surface and groundwater, and acidification of oceans and lakes.

Enbridge outlines plans to burrow under Straits of Mackinac in new animated video

September 30, 2020


Enbridge’s video is a sleek and misleading sales pitch to the people of Michigan, FLOW tells UpNorthLive. The company continues to hammer a narrative that isn’t accurate. Line 5 and its proposed tunnel are not critical energy infrastructure. It benefits Enbridge, not the citizens of Michigan. The state’s UP Energy Taskforce and multiple independent reports over the past 5 years have concluded that Line 5 is not vital energy infrastructure. This is a system with multiple pipelines. There are lots of ways to move energy. Plus, we are shifting to a new energy system with renewables. Governor Whitmer is moving us to become energy neutral by 2050. But we must do it decisively and intentionally to make sure the UP has the energy it needs at affordable rates.

Enbridge now inspects freighters to avoid another anchor strike on Line 5

September 28, 2020

Michigan Radio

Enbridge tells Michigan Radio it will ensure the Straits of Mackinac are protected and safe while it pursues the Great Lakes Tunnel Project which is planned to house Line 5 one hundred feet below the lake bed. But there’s reason for concern. “This is just yet another effort, I think, to kind of distract the public and our state leaders on the ongoing crisis that continues in the Straits of Mackinac,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood tells Michigan Radio. She says the only safe answer is to shut down Line 5. “Here we are 10 years after Enbridge’s Kalamazoo disaster and Line 5 is still operating. It’s quite extraordinary to think we still have an oil pipeline in the middle of our Great Lakes.”

In perpetuity: Toxic Great Lakes sites will require attention for generations to come

September 21, 2020

Great Lakes Now

It’s convenient to think of fixing a problem and it’s done. But that doesn’t apply to the long-neglected legacy polluted sites in the Great Lakes region. In simple terms we think of a cleanup as removal of something that, left unattended, will become a nuisance or a problem. But cleanup of toxic sites, especially in water, is not that simple, writes Gary Wilson for Great Lakes Now. In 1987 Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard launched a Great Lakes 2001 program designed to clean up the toxic sites in Michigan by 2001, according to David Dempsey, FLOW senior policy advisor and former Blanchard adviser. Dempsey said funding for the project ended when Blanchard, a Democrat, lost his reelection bid to Republican John Engler.

Be Smart About Your Septic System

September 14, 2020

Ludington Daily News

Home owners with septic systems don’t think much about them — unless the system quits working. During Septic Smart Week, now through Sept. 18, the Mason-Lake Conservation District asks people using septic systems to think about what they put down drains, flush down toilets, how they use water, and to consider having their system inspected and pumped if that hasn’t been done in the past few years. This op-ed in the Ludington Daily News quotes FLOW as reporting that Michigan is the only state that lacks a uniform sanitary code requiring periodic inspection and maintenance of septic systems — even though 30% of Michiganders rely on such systems.

5 Groups Working to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes

September 14, 2020

Wiki Ezvid – The World’s Video Wiki

The interconnected series of lakes bridging Canada and the United States is the largest group of its kind on Earth by area, containing about a fifth of the world’s supply of surface fresh water. Unfortunately, these resources are under attack from threats including chemical spills, microplastic pollution, and invasive species. However, there are dedicated people working to combat these problems. In no particular order, here are some organizations striving to repair the damage before it is too late.

Defending the Great Lakes by day, writing about them by night

September 10, 2020

Soo Today

Author Sally Cole-Misch used her memories of summers spent in the region as a youth as the backdrop to her first fictional novel, The Best Part of Us. Until late May, Cole-Misch was the Public Affairs Officer at the International Joint Commission (IJC), a Canadian-US organization formed by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to help the two countries prevent and resolve issues concerning the waters flowing across their boundaries. Cole-Misch will be virtually promoting her new book at FLOW-For Love of Water, an environmental organization that works on Great Lakes issues, at 5 pm ET on Sunday, September 27 as part of its Art Meets Water series, entitled: Exploring The Best Part of Usthrough words and water.

Safe Water: Learning from Flint

September 7, 2020

The Sault News

Mary McKSchmidt: ​I heard a knock on the door while I was editing this video about safe water and handed my first-ever “boil water” alert. The utility considered it a precautionary measure—expressing concern about a broken water main nearby and the potential for bacterial contamination in our water. Coincidence? I don’t think so. It was a wake-up call.

Epic Swim 2020 completes 60-mile swim across Lake Michigan

August 13, 2020

Up North Live

Ludington marked the finish-line for six swimmers on Wednesday as they wrapped up their 60-mile swim across Lake Michigan. The Epic Swim 2020 overnight adventure started on Tuesday night in Two Rivers, Wisconsin and finished on the shores of northern Michigan just under 21 hours later. Epic Swim 2020 teamed up with FLOW (For the Love of Water) as their charity partner to help not only honor the lakes but also raise awareness for Great Lakes protection and preservation.

Six local swimmers to attempt swim across Lake Michigan

August 6, 2020

Holland Sentinel

Jon Ornée has had the same dream for the past seven years. He’s hoping it becomes a reality in the near future. Some time between Aug. 9-23, the team will depart Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and swim continuously, relay style until they reach the shore of Ludington, Michigan. The team hopes to complete the 60-mile swim in 24-28 hours. A support boat — a 39-foot Sea Ray motor yacht — will accompany and assist them on the trek. The swim will support the charity, For Love of Water (FLOW), which is based in Traverse City, Michigan. FLOW is dedicated to protecting and preserving the Great Lakes as an extraordinary and essential natural resource endowment. They aim to apply public trust principles to educate, advance policy, and provide solutions to the pressing water, energy and climate issues facing the region, nation and planet.

“We really wanted to partner with an organization that’s committed to protecting and preserving Lake Michigan and FLOW is doing that and for the Great Lakes as a whole,” Ornée said. “None of this is possible unless we care for the amazing resource and gift the lake is, so we want to make sure we use our swim to encourage people to keep the lake clean and keep it a gift that keeps giving for generations to come.”

Opinion: Kalamazoo oil spill 10 years ago taught Enbridge nothing

July 29, 2020

Detroit News

Saturday marked the 10th anniversary of Enbridge’s spilling almost a million gallons of heavy tar-sands oil into the Kalamazoo River from its 41-year-old Line 6B — causing one of the worst inland oil spills in U.S. history, writes FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. The July 25, 2010, disaster awoke Michigan from its complacency by revealing an even older and more dangerous set of oil pipelines lurking in the open waters of the Straits of Mackinac — Enbridge Line 5. Today the overwhelming consensus across party lines is that Enbridge’s 67-year-old Line 5 threatens Michigan resident’s drinking water, economy and our way of life.

How a Spill From One Oil Pipeline Launched a Movement to Shut Down Another

July 24, 2020


“At the very beginning of this awakening, there was this sense that because (Line 5) was an interstate oil pipeline, that the feds were kind of the key decision makers,” FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told WMUK. Kirkwood says even the state seemed to think so. She recalls what happened when she called the Department of Natural Resources. “I was calling the Department of Natural Resources and I said, ‘I’m looking for this pipeline, it’s located in the Straits of Mackinac and I think there’s some kind of deed,’ and the guy on the other end of the line said, ‘We have this policy, we throw away all the documents after 40 years.’ And I said, ‘As a lawyer, I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t be throwing this one out.’ Sure enough, we hung up the phone and he got back to his office and he found this 1953 easement.”

Groups Call for Stronger Response in Enbridge Line 5 Saga

July 23, 2020

Public News Service

Some water-quality groups say Michigan needs to take a stronger stance against Enbridge for its refusal to assume responsibility for losses related to a Line 5 oil pipeline failure in the Great Lakes. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced yesterday that the pipeline company has not agreed to provide a minimum of $900 million in liability insurance to cover all damages and losses caused to property or individuals due to the operation of the pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac. Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, says that while financial assurances are nice, they can’t keep the Great Lakes whole. “But ultimately the fate of Line 5 is really a race against time,” says Kirkwood. “We’re either going to act with the kind of prudence and precaution that we should or we will end up with a catastrophic disaster.”

What Lurks Beneath: Line 5 on Trial

July 11, 2020

Northern Express

Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water) and one of the central attorneys opposing Enbridge in this case, said questioning the project as a matter of infrastructure is critical. “We haven’t, as a state, even sat down and asked the question, ‘Do we need Line 5 for our energy future?’ Not ‘Does Enbridge need it?’ but ‘Do we need it?’” Kirkwood said. “We’re going to be asking ourselves the most important public questions, such as, ‘Is there a public need for this type of pipeline?’” Kirkwood disputes Enbridge’s claims that the Upper Peninsula and the state as a whole rely on energy from Line 5. She cited a 2018 National Wildlife Commission study that found that decommissioning the pipeline would not have huge economic impacts. She said it is time for Line 5 to have its day in court.

Six Feet Apart: Glen Arbor Arts Center’s fresh take on exhibits

July 10, 2020


Join us outdoors in Glen Arbor on Friday, July 31, for the “Words For Water” Poetry Throw-Down at the Glen Arbor Arts Center. “Who owns the water?” People? Communities? Corporations? Nobody? That question is the basis for the Words For Water open-air poetry throw-down at the Glen Arbor Arts Center. This event is part of the GAAC’s 6ft Apart Art program, a series of outdoor pop-up events, and is offered in collaboration with FLOW. Participating poets and writer are challenged to create a short, original poem that answers this question: Who Owns The Water? Poems will be performed or read outdoors on Friday, July 31, at 7:00 p.m., before a live audience. Each writer may read up to five minutes. No pre-registration is required. Poets will be added to the evening’s readers list on a first-come basis.

EGLE permits Line 5 support replacement

July 2, 2020


Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City water law nonprofit ‘For Love of Water’ (FLOW), called the continued addition of screw anchor supports to Line 5 an “ongoing crisis in the making.” “Why on earth are [they] granting another permit?” said Kirkwood. “This response is, in my opinion, really not adequate, given the magnitude of harm and … duties to protect our public waters.” FLOW and other environmental watchdog groups have long contended that the dual lines weren’t designed to be supported by the screw anchors, which were added over time to secure the pipes as the Straits’ strong currents eroded the lakebed. They’re calling on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to revoke the 1953 easement with the state of Michigan that allows Enbridge to operate the lines.

Line 5 faces scrutiny from public service commission, judge

June 30, 2020

Toledo Blade

Liz Kirkwood, environmental attorney and executive director of the Traverse City-based environment group FLOW (For Love of Water) said the public service commission’s decision is “a big win for all Michigan residents that upholds their public trust rights in the Great Lakes.” “Enbridge now has the burden to show a public need for this proposed oil pipeline under the Great Lakes, ensure no harm or pollution to our public trust waters and lands, and fully consider feasible and prudent alternatives to this project,” she said.

Line 5 Decision Time: Livestream event

June 11, 2020

The Daily Mining Gazette

Join The Energy Show, an Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition (UPEC) livestream with guests Jim Olson, Founder and President of the group FLOW (For Love Of Water), and Joe Kaplan of Common Coast Research & Conservation. Olson will discuss issues surrounding Enbridge Energy’s Line 5, a major oil and gas pipeline that crosses the length of the Upper Peninsula, passes through the Straits of Mackinac on the lakebed, and continues through the Lower Peninsula to Sarnia, Ontario. Kaplan will talk about the potential dangers large-scale solar farms pose to migrating birds.

Protecting the Water for Now and Forever

May 14, 2020

Title Track

Musician, environmental activist and community builder Samuel Seth Bernard and the Clean Water Campaign for Michigan spoke recently with FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood and posted this inspirational video interview. A deep lover of Michigan lakes and waters, Kirkwood is a champion of public trust solutions, cutting edge policy, and strategic partnerships to protect the waters “for now and forever.” Enjoy this video!

New: Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel application hits snag with state

May 5, 2020

Michigan Advance

“We agree with EGLE that Enbridge’s application falls woefully short of complying with legal requirements,” said FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. “Now the state of Michigan should require Enbridge to apply for and obtain authorization for an easement to occupy state-owned bottomlands with a tunnel before any construction permitting proceeds. Enbridge is putting the cart before the horse, which suits their interests, but not the public interest in protecting the Great Lakes. The company’s haphazard rush during the pandemic is alarming.”

Nestle prevails: Law judge sides with water bottler in water withdrawal case

April 30, 2020

Great Lakes Now

An administrative law judge ruled this week in favor of Nestle in the long-running dispute over whether the company would be allowed to increase its withdrawals of groundwater to support its water bottling operation in Michigan, reports Great Lakes Now. Grassroots activists challenged the 2018 decision by Michigan’s then Department of Environmental Quality under former Gov. Rick Snyder.

FLOW president and law attorney Jim Olson, whose firm represented Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation in the case, said it’s important to know that the law judge works for the agency and that they rarely overturn an agency’s approval of a permit. It’s a step in the process that now allows the plaintiffs to take legal action in court. But Olson expressed disappointment in Gov. Whitmer and EGLE for not correcting the “foot-loose interpretations of the water withdrawal and bottled water standards by the Snyder administration in approving the permit in the first place.”

Enbridge pushes for Line 5 tunnel permits during coronavirus pandemic

April 30, 2020


“This is a strategic decision to move forward aggressively on all permitting,” FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood told “When you have a state of emergency, it’s a fact there’s going to be less public engagement because people are physically not able to gather together.”

Canadian pipeline giant Enbridge is undeterred by the global coronavirus pandemic as it seeks approvals for controversial plans to build a $500 million tunnel to house its Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, reports Enbridge submitted three applications this month for state permits needed to begin construction and is asking the Michigan Public Service Commission to declare that it already has the authority to relocate the pipeline in a tunnel. The public service commission is taking public comment until May 13.

Nestle wins legal challenge to Michigan groundwater extraction

April 28, 2020


Jim Olson, FLOW’s founder and president—and a Traverse City environmental attorney who represented citizens in a lawsuit that resulted in a 2009 settlement limiting the amount Nestle can pump in Mecosta County—said the Whitmer administration is “perpetuating” errors made under Snyder. During her 2018 campaign, Whitmer criticized “poor water policy” in Michigan, citing Nestle’s ability to source water at essentially no cost. “Everybody in the election knew darn well this was a major issue that needed to be corrected,” Olson said. “We’re really no further ahead than we were before.” Olson said the state owns groundwater as a sovereign for reasonable public use, but it has never asserted its authority to prohibit or allow its sale for public benefit. “The failure of the legislature and the administration to assert that position is a de-facto capitulation to the continuing grab of public water by bottled water companies, both from private wells or use fee taps on public water systems,” he said. “It’s a massive subsidy.”

The Earth Day Celebration that Wasn’t

April 25, 2020

Northern Express

This year’s 50th Earth Day didn’t arrive with the fanfare that many environmental activists had hoped. After all, it wasn’t just a milestone for Earth Day, it was also the 40th anniversary of the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council, reports the Northern Express. The nonprofit’s Environmentalist of the Year award celebration scheduled for April 24 in Traverse City had to be canceled. If there could possibly be something good to all of this, Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, said it’s that some water utilities across Michigan have stopped shutting off people’s water for lack of payment. “It’s taken a global pandemic health crisis for the state of Michigan to open its eyes and recognize the harsh and inhumane consequences of water shutoff,” Kirkwood said. “I think the silver lining of this terrible public health crisis is that we have an awakening as to the vital role that water plays in our society and the obvious conclusion that water and clean health and access to clean water are inseparable.”

Enbridge submits permit application, prepares to start work on Line 5

April 8, 2020


Enbridge has officially submitted a permit application to begin its Line 5 tunnel project. They sent the application to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy and the Army Corp of Engineers.

“Until Enbridge receives such legal authorization from the State of Michigan, the Canadian company has no business applying for the construction permit, and many other permits and approvals, they would need to locate and build an oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac,” said Jim Olson, FLOW Founder and Legal Advisor.”

“A 10-year tunnel construction project will not prevent an oil spill disaster that grows more likely every day. The State of Michigan has a perpetual and paramount public trust duty to its citizens, not a private Canadian corporation whose uninterrupted oil transport threatens grave consequences for 95 percent of America’s fresh surface water supply,” said Liz Kirkwood, FLOW’s Executive Director and an environmental attorney.”

Michigan Water Shutoffs: A test of governor’s commitment to social, environmental justice

March 9, 2020

Great Lakes Now

Drinking water rights advocates pushed back hard on the governor’s decision.“The state has a duty to turn the water back on,” said Jim Olson, an attorney and founder of For Love of Water, a Traverse City water advocacy group, reacting to the governor’s decision in a blogpost. “Not only was the rejection wrong on moral grounds, it also should never have been the residents’ burden to prove life without water is a crisis,” Olson wrote.

Olson used the opportunity to point out Michigan’s glaring inequity on public water supplies. He called for bottled water companies like Nestle to pay royalties with the money going to a “trust fund for public water and social justice needs.”

“After all, when it comes to our shared public water, we are all citizens of Detroit,” Olson said.

Enbridge hires companies to design, build Great Lakes tunnel

March 6, 2020

Associated Press

FLOW urged the corridor authority to halt further work on the tunnel plan. The Traverse City-based organization argued that Enbridge had failed to seek authorization for the project through the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act as required under a common-law doctrine that holds navigable waters and soils beneath them in trust for public uses.

Bypassing those laws is “one of the most egregious attacks on citizens’ rights and sovereign public trust interest in the Great Lakes in the history of the state of Michigan,” said Jim Olson, FLOW’s president.

Water Activism: Detroit, Flint, and the Great Lakes

February 27, 2020

Columbia University School of the Arts

FLOW founder and president Jim Olson will speak at Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University in New York City on Thursday, February 27, about “Water Activism: Detroit, Flint, and the Great Lakes”.

Michigan Environmental and Community Groups Urge ERRC to Adopt PFAS Drinking Water Standards

February 26, 2020

Michigan Environmental Council

The Environmental Rules Review Committee (ERRC) will meet today at 1 PM to vote on the draft rules that set limits for PFAS in drinking water. Under Michigan law the ERRC can vote to approve the draft rules, approve the draft rules with modification, or reject the draft rules. The ERRC vote comes after a month-long public comment period during which thousands of Michigan residents weighed in to support the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s effort to adopt PFAS drinking water standards. Environmental and community groups issued the following statements urging the ERRC to approve the draft rules as is.

“Given that it will take years for the federal government to set drinking water standards on just two PFAS chemicals—if they act at all—it’s imperative for state government to act now to protect the health of Michiganders from this imminent threat,” said FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey.

Michigan environmental, health advocates react to federal PFAS announcement

February 24, 2020

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Environmental and health advocates in northern Michigan, including FLOW senior policy advisor David Dempsey, reacted to news that federal authorities intend to regulate some PFAS chemicals. It’s a sea change from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s longtime policy of setting a lifetime health advisory standard for the chemicals — meaning what concentration would not be expected to cause adverse health effects over a lifetime of daily PFAS exposure at that level, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle. Instead, the EPA announced Thursday that it plans to regulate two nonstick and stain-resistant compounds in drinking water amid growing concerns the chemicals — found in everything from pizza boxes to carpet — pose a health hazard.

“It will take three to four years before there’s a final standard, if there is one,” said Dempsey. “My fear is that this announcement is intended to head off state actions. If there is a second Trump term, EPA can always change its mind and not regulate PFAS. In the meantime, those opposed to regulating PFAS can try to block state initiatives like Michigan’s. They can say that we should wait for the federal government to act based on what EPA decides is the latest science. And as we just saw with the gutting of the clean water rule, EPA’s science is political science.”

Core priority: Michigan environmental budget boosts funding for EGLE

February 11, 2020

Great Lakes Now

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the environment and clean water one of her top three priorities last week in her annual budget proposal to the state legislature. After giving environmental and climate issues only a passing mention in her annual State of the State speech, Whitmer’s budget director Chris Kolb told legislators that protecting Michigan’s water will be a “core priority.” Michigan has been beset with legacy environmental issues since long before Whitmer took office in January 2019.

Veteran Michigan environmental policy adviser Dave Dempsey praised Whitmer’s inclusion of $20 million in one-time funding in her budget for rapid response to contamination saying it is “much needed.” But he was circumspect on the overall budget process. “Politics is the art of the possible,” Dempsey said, and “environmental programs are unpopular with the people running the legislature. There’s been a pathetic level of disinvestment on the environment in Michigan going back decades,” Dempsey said. He commended Whitmer for “taking steps, however small, to reverse the long-term trend.”

Judge lets challenge to Enbridge Line 5 supports proceed

February 11, 2020

Detroit News

A challenge to the state permits that allow Enbridge to install dozens of screw anchor supports along Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac will proceed after a judge kept some parts of the argument alive. Administrative Law Judge Daniel Pulter dismissed most of the challenges to the placement of screw anchors along the dual oil pipelines, but found there was legal grounding to examine whether the state adequately assessed the risks those supports pose to the bottom lands.

“This decision means Enbridge and the state must now prove they have done that, and that the existing Line 5 does not pose more than a minimal potential for harm,” said Jim Olson, president for For the Love of Water. “We believe a thorough real evaluation of the overall risks of harm and alternatives to avoid that harm will lead to a conclusion that the risks are so far beyond minimal, the Line 5 must be shut down and decommissioned.”

Timeline: State officials knew about the problems at Electro-Plating Services for 30 years

January 17, 2020

Michigan Radio

Thirty years before toxic green ooze spilled onto a Madison Heights road, the state’s Pollution Emergency Alerting System hotline received a complaint about chemical storage pits dug into the basement of Electro-Plating Services (EPS). For three years, it appears the state took no action. Then, in 1993, another complaint was made to the hotline. This time, the state investigated. What followed were 23 years of failed state efforts to force the owner of EPS, Gary Sayers, to follow the law.

Dave Dempsey, senior advisor for FLOW (For Love of Water) said it was “a classic case of the futility of pursuing ‘voluntary compliance’ with bad actors.” In testimony before the Michigan House Appropriations Committee earlier this week, EGLE Director Liesl Clark agreed. She said the state had “pulled its punches” too often and for too long.

FLOW gives thoughts on PFAS lawsuit

January 15, 2020

9&10 News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a lawsuit against 17 companies. She says those companies played a part in the spread of PFAS in Michigan. It accuses companies like 3M and DuPont of knowingly and recklessly using PFAS in a way to contaminate natural resources—and harm people in Michigan. PFAS have been linked to several health problems, including cancer.

Northern Michigan’s News Leader spoke with FLOW. The group in Traverse City is dedicated to preserving Michigan’s water. They say the clean-up could take years and lots of money. “Taxpayers are going to pay hundreds of millions to clean up the mess made by PFAS, so the attorney general and the governor are trying to recover some of that cost from the companies that made the products or the chemicals. That’ll lessen the burden on taxpayers,” said Senior Policy Adviser of FLOW, Dave Dempsey.

Michigan DNR takes steps to hold Enbridge accountable

January 13, 2020

WLNS (Lansing)

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Director Daniel Eichinger has given Enbridge 30 days to provide details regarding its ongoing violations of a state-granted easement that allows the company’s 66-year-old Line 5 oil pipelines to occupy the Straits of Mackinac. Eichinger’s letter to Enbridge includes 20 questions to be answered by Feb. 12, 2020.

According to For Love of Water FLOW, the Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City, the letter is an “appropriate step” to conclude the DNR’s review ordered by Governor Whitmer last June. “It’s a welcome sign that Director Eichinger and his staff appear to be wrapping up their Line 5 investigation by asking for all other information and documentation that Enbridge has in its possession or control,” said Kelly Thayer, Deputy Director of FLOW (For Love of Water). “At the conclusion of this process, these serious and continuing violations of the easement by Enbridge should trigger the state to shut down the dangerous dual Line 5 oil pipelines in the Great Lakes before it’s too late.”

Michigan Democrats take aim at Nestle. Farmers urge caution.

December 17, 2019

Bridge Magazine

A Swiss company’s water withdrawals in northern Michigan are again stoking long-simmering tensions, with the issue becoming part of a larger debate over who controls water diversion across the Great Lakes region. In a one-two punch, Nestlé Waters North America, Inc. is the target of two state bills designed to increase the state’s control over groundwater supplies shortly after the company lost a court appeal related to its plans to increase pumping rates. It’s the latest turn in a longstanding dispute over whether Nestlé’s groundwater extraction for Ice Mountain bottled water is an acceptable use of the state’s public water supplies.

Nestlé is likely to appeal the decision, but environmentalists applauded it. The ruling is “really significant,” and sets an important precedent, said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), a water conservation nonprofit organization based in Traverse City.

Bills would ban Nestle from distributing Michigan water outside Great Lakes watershed

December 6, 2019


New bills in the Michigan legislature would limit distribution of the state’s water resources to the Great Lakes watershed by removing an exemption that currently allows companies like Nestle to ship bottled water outside the basin. Sponsored by state Reps. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann Arbor, Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, and Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, the three-bill package would also designate groundwater as part of the public trust and would give the Department of Natural Resources more authority in water resource management.

As freshwater becomes more in demand around the globe, ensuring that water isn’t viewed as a product is crucial to protecting the state’s water resources, said Jim Olson, founder and president of the environmental group For Love of Water. “A lot of states are not realizing what’s coming and what is happening,” he said. “I don’t care who you are or what political side of the aisle you’re on, what business you’re in. Unless you’re trying to export water for a lot of money, you want public trust protection for all of us.”

Nestle cannot claim bottled water is ‘essential public service’, court rules

December 5, 2019

The Guardian

Michigan’s second-highest court has dealt a legal blow to Nestlé’s Ice Mountain water brand, ruling that the company’s commercial water-bottling operation is “not an essential public service” or a public water supply. The court of appeals ruling is a victory for Osceola township, a small mid-Michigan town that blocked Nestlé from building a pumping station that doesn’t comply with its zoning laws. But the case could also throw a wrench in Nestlé’s attempts to privatize water around the country.

If it is to carry out such plans, then it will need to be legally recognized as a public water source that provides an essential public service. The Michigan environmental attorney Jim Olson, who did not represent Osceola township but has previously battled Nestlé in court, said any claim that the Swiss multinational is a public water utility “is ludicrous”.

We’ve Been Here Before: In 1986, Lake Michigan’s up north shores looked a lot like now. Will 2020 be worse?

November 16, 2019

Northern Express

We didn’t learn the important lessons from the record-breaking high water levels of 1986, FLOW senior policy adviser Dave Dempsey told the Northern Express. That’s the last time Lake Michigan water levels were this high. The Express devoted last week’s cover story to high water levels and a comparison of 1986 vs 2019. Dempsey worked as the environmental policy director for Gov. Jim Blanchard in 1986, when the high-water record was set. “It was very dramatic and basically an emergency for a lot of people,” Dempsey recalled. When homes started to fall into Lake Michigan that year, Dempsey said he helped the Blanchard administration craft a policy to offer low-interest loans for homeowners to protect their shoreline or move their home away from the edge. Ultimately, lawmakers did not address the possibility that the new high-water level could come back or even be washed away by a new record (which is possible in 2020). “You’ve got to adapt and learn lessons from the experience,” Dempsey said.

Make it rain: Diane Dupuis is here to help us fund the fight of the Great Lakes’ life

November 16, 2019

Northern Express

The Northern Express has an in-depth and upbeat interview this week with our new development director, Diane Dupuis, who “is here to help us fund the fight of the Great Lakes’ life,” writes the Express. She joins FLOW at a propitious time; the organization has been in the forefront of two high-profile legal fights. One concerns the drawing of water by Nestle in Mecosta County, and the other is the dispute over Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac. The Express talked with Dupuis about ground water, high water, water justice, and the critical flow that moves — or drains — the people’s fight: money.

Summit participants talk statewide septic code

November 7, 2019

Traverse City Record-Eagle

The Michigan Septic Summit in Traverse City was a lively, sold-out affair with experts and organizers attending from around the state and beyond. Sessions focused on how septic systems are sited, work, and fail. Multiple presenters described the scientific detective work used to trace contamination to its source. And nearly every presenter, panelist, and participant spoke to the need for a mix a statewide septic code or law to set minimum standards (Michigan is the only state without such a law) and local regulations to go further in tailoring protections for public health and the environment to local soil conditions and other factors.

Opinion | Enbridge is not working to protect Michigan waters

November 5, 2019

Bridge Magazine

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood in this op-ed for Bridge Magazine shines a very bright spotlight on the Enbridge playbook of distraction and deception, including false advertising and a lack of insurance to cover a Line 5 oil spill disaster in the Great Lakes. #ShutDownLine5

Forum: Michigan fails to address septic systems

November 2, 2019

Traverse City Record-Eagle

In this piece, FLOW’s Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey points to the problem of, and solutions to, unregulated septic systems fouling Michigan’s fresh water. On the solution side, FLOW and our co-sponsors are hosting the Michigan Septic Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 6, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at NMC’s Hagerty Center in Traverse City. This one-day conference will explore emerging research on human health and environmental risks presented by old and failing septic systems in Michigan — and local and regional programs and regulations adopted in response.The agenda features a variety of perspectives from public health officials, Realtors, representatives of lake associations, and others.

Judge Rules Line 5 Tunnel is Constitutional, Lawmakers React

November 1, 2019

9&10 News

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and some environmental advocacy groups like For Love of Water (FLOW), believe the 60 year old pipeline is a liability. “We cannot risk our greatest, greatest gift, and that’s the Great Lakes. That’s what this is a battle for,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW. Kirkwood pored over a more than 120 page study, commissioned by the state, which looked into Enbridge’s financial assurances. AG Nessel and Kirkwood both believe the findings show Enbridge would not be accountable for an environmental disaster.

Opinion | Gov. Milliken’s enduring legacy: civility, bridging divides

October 22, 2019

Bridge Magazine

In this commentary for Bridge Magazine, Dave Dempsey, FLOW’s senior policy adviser and author of the award-winning biography of Gov. William G. Milliken, traces the arc of Gov. Milliken’s life of service in protection of democracy, civil rights, and the environment.

Experts to discuss septic science, policy for Michigan

October 20, 2019

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan has a poop-in-the-water problem, writes the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The Great Lakes State boasts more freshwater resources than any other state in the nation, yet has no statewide oversight to protect those waters from human fecal contamination that escapes faulty septic systems. Of Michigan’s approximately 1.3 million rural septic systems, an estimated 130,000 to 300,000 are failing. Only a smattering of townships and counties require septic tanks and drain fields be inspected after installation, and then only when property is sold or transferred. Join FLOW at the Michigan Septic Summit on Nov. 6 in Traverse City to learn more about our state’s septic problem.

William G. Milliken, Michigan’s longest serving governor, is dead at 97

October 18, 2019

Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan on Friday lost a great leader and true champion of decency, humanity, and the environment. We mourn the loss of Gov. William G. Milliken and honor his lasting legacy. FLOW Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey, author of a biography of Milliken, told Michigan Radio that civility in public life was an important part of Gov. Milliken’s contribution. “He consulted regularly with legislative leaders of both parties. And he did not dictate to the legislature what they needed to do, but tried to reach agreement on things,” said Dempsey. “And he was a hard man to dislike. People from various political philosophies looked at him and really just found him to be somebody who was agreeable and eager to do the right thing for the citizenry.”

Michigan AG focuses on clean energy, ratepayer support in shift for office

October 14, 2019

Energy News Network

Jim Olson, longtime environmental attorney and founder of FLOW, said the case against the tunnel deal and for getting Line 5 out of the Straits of Mackinac is simply about the “rule of law.” Enbridge is free to go through a state environmental regulatory process to try and build the tunnel, which hasn’t happened, advocates say. Nessel credited Olson and other advocates for raising the public trust legal argument around Line 5, a theory that essentially says private companies can’t use public resources — in this case, the Great Lakes — for private benefit.

Water-inspired: Great Lakes theme of art show

October 11, 2019

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Great story in today’s Traverse City Record-Eagle about the “Artists for FLOW” show at Higher Art Gallery, which runs until November 5. “This is my first year doing this and I felt like something pertaining to the Great Lakes would be something everybody cares about,” said gallery owner Shanny Brooke. The exhibition features 26 pieces from 19 artists. All artwork is for sale with price tags ranging from $200 to $3,600. FLOW gets 10 percent of art sales.

A septic battle in Kalkaska

September 28, 2019

Northern Express

FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey told the Northern Express there is a renewed push for state-mandated septic inspections, and Kalkaska County eliminating a local requirement for septic system inspections proves why a state-wide remedy is necessary. Michigan is the only state in the country that does not have a state law mandating inspections. That’s astonishing given that Michigan is the Great Lakes State. “It’s both appalling and tragic,” Dempsey said. “I think it’s embarrassing to some lawmakers that Michigan has this huge hole in our water protection system.”

Help Protect Our Great Lakes at “Artist’s for FLOW”

September 27, 2019

9&10 News

If you love fine art and want to contribute to the safety and vitality of our Great Lakes, join us at Artists for FLOW- A community fundraiser on Oct. 11 at Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City, and check out this great story by Melissa Smith of 9&10 News. Higher Art Gallery will feature 21 artists whose work highlights their love of the Great Lakes. During the event, 20% of all sales go directly to FLOW.

State steps closer to PFAS standards for drinking water

September 28, 2019

Traverse City Record-Eagle

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water, said she agrees with officials from those environmental nonprofits about rules being needed for the entire class of PFAS chemicals. “The health-based values the state derived through scientific work is important but doesn’t fully recognize class-based regulation and the cumulative effects of multiple PFAS chemicals over a lifetime of exposure,” she said.

Legal gears on Nestle water cases grind slowly in Michigan

September 17, 2019


FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood tells that the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) should change its mind about Nestle’s applied permit to pump groundwater at an increased rate of 400 gallons-per-minute from a well near Evart in Mecosta County. The outgoing Snyder Administration last year moved to approve Nestle’s request.

Bottled Water is Sucking Florida Dry

September 15, 2019

New York Times

Nestlé has incensed other communities in the United States. In Michigan, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and the grass-roots nonprofit organization Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation filed an appeal of a decision to allow Nestlé to increase water pumping from 250 gallons per minute to to 400 gallons per minute from a spring aquifer in Osceola County.

Trump admin decision to drop Obama-era wetlands rule draws mixed reactions in Michigan

September 12, 2019

Michigan Radio

“Honestly it’s quite astonishing that the federal government is considering dialing us back to the standards of 1986,” says Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), a group that works to protect Michigan’s fragile wetlands.

Love Letters to the Lakes: Public Comments from the Heart

September 10, 2019

International Joint Commission

Poetry and public comments don’t usually go together, especially when it comes to consultations under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The IJC has been holding public meetings this summer to gather input in places like Traverse City, Michigan.

That’s where writer Anne-Marie Oomen of nearby Empire, Michigan, mixed art with sound to deliver a short program on “Love Letters to the Lakes,” enlisting the help of area musicians to deliver a message to Commissioners and others.

Opinion: Michigan Should Become Global Freshwater Capital

September 9, 2019

Detroit News

For a state whose destiny is so intertwined with clean freshwater, it’s surprising how Michigan has lagged in treasuring and protecting this resource in the past. Thankfully this has changed, especially in southeast Michigan.

Today, we have an opportunity to put water at the center of our civic life and personal lives. We are the freshwater capital of the world — if we choose to be.

Liz Kirkwood, Executive Director of FLOW, is our Great Lakes Guardian

August 22, 2019 / Traverse Magazine

This is this story of Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the nonprofit FLOW and a protector of the Great Lakes.

First told at the October 2018 Fulfillament Storytelling event in Traverse City and featured in the August 2019 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

Get Off the Bottle with FLOW in Traverse City

August 20, 2019

9 & 10 News

With August being National Water Quality month, the staff at For Love Of Water or FLOW in Traverse City is talking about their campaign to keep plastic out of northern Michigan waters.

In fact, according to FLOW, bottled water costs up to 2,000 times more per volume than tap water and 70% of plastic water bottles are not recycled and yet still people drink from them.

National Water Quality Month with FLOW

August 13, 2019

9 & 10 News

It’s always a good time to talk about water quality, especially having the Great Lakes providing 20-percent of the world’s fresh water.  August is National Water Quality Month, so we stopped by to chat with the staff of For Love of Water or FLOW in Traverse City to see how they’re working to create an awareness of protecting Michigan’s waterways. The organization works to inform governments and citizens about how we all play a role in keeping our water clean.

Gov. Whitmer: Research tunnel legality

January 2, 2019

Record Eagle

“It was almost mandatory on her part as governor to take this action,” said Jim Olson, founder and president of Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water.

Nestle Wins Permit to Pump More Michigan Groundwater

April 5, 2018

The Takeaway

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW), discusses the implications of Nestle’s involvement with a local water supply.

Amid transition to clean energy, utilities tackle water conservation

March 4, 2018


In February, Consumers Energy pledged to save one billion gallons of water in the next five years. Water usage is a huge, often underlooked, part of the energy sector.

Nestlé-style water withdrawals would be easier in Michigan under new bill, critics say

February 27, 2018

Detroit Free Press

Michigan state house representative, Aaron Miller’s bill would let businesses and farms use their own experts’ analyses to gain approval for large-scale water withdrawals. It would be more difficult for the public to learn the farmers’ and businesses’ analyses, as they would be exempt from disclosure under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.

Michiganders fight back against against water privatization as Nestlé tries to increase water intake

February 17, 2018

Nation of Change

Residents of Michigan are writing letters, holding meetings, and going door-to-door to demand clean, public water for Michigan.

President’s proposed budget cuts Great Lakes Restoration Funding

February 13, 2018


President Trump proposes a 90% cut in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for the 2018-19 budget. The initiative has bipartisan support in many Great Lakes states.

Campaign releases Line 5 removal plan

January 17, 2018

Record Eagle

The Oil & Water Don’t Mix campaign released a plan Tuesday to decommission Enbridge’s Line 5 while finding alternatives to supply the Upper Peninsula with propane and transport crude oil pumped in the northern Lower Peninsula. For Love Of Water Executive Director Liz Kirkwood said she and others with the Traverse City-based nonprofit helped with the five-step plan that implores Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette to take action.

Advocacy group: ‘State must stop the delays,’ shut down Line 5

January 16, 2018


“Simply put, the state must stop the delays and stop kicking the can,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water (FLOW). “The 65-year-old Line 5 pipelines pose too great a threat to the Great Lakes.”

Michigan leaders have tunnel vision on Line 5

December 19, 2017

Bridge Magazine

Jim Olson speaks to the “tunnel vision” of our state leaders when it comes to the alternatives for Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac.

Washington waffles; Should states take lead on Great Lakes?

October 31, 2017

Great Lakes Now

While federal funding is important to help fund Great Lakes protection, the states should be prioritizing the Great Lakes and funding them, says FLOW advisor Dave Dempsey.

Op-Ed: Enbridge losing credibility across region

October 22, 2017

Traverse City Record Eagle

FLOW’s Liz Kirkwood authored this piece in the Record Eagle illustrating how Michigan should follow Minnesota’s lead pertaining to Enbridge. The state has the authority to shut down the Line 5 pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac – and they should do so immediately.

The ‘long game’: How Michigan could be building a case to close Line 5

October 10, 2017

Midwest Energy News

The lengthy state review of safety issues associated with the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac continues — but the case for a shutdown is building.  In Midwest Energy News, FLOW’s Liz Kirkwood comments on the delay in a risk assessment of the line.  There is more than enough evidence for the state to act.

Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For

September 21, 2017

Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg takes a look at Nestle’s profit of bottled water, paying nearly nothing for the water it sells and seeking out areas with lax laws to conduct business. Jim Olson points out how Nestle’s data does not reflect real world conditions in Michigan and the importance of water as a public right.

Inspections show Line 5 coating gaps larger than disclosed

September 14, 2017


“Patches of bare metal larger than dinner plates” are found on Line 5. FLOW and officials express their concern about the state of the line and the need for action.


Officials call for Line 5 repairs

September 3, 2017

Record Eagle

Gaps are found in the coating of the Line 5 pipeline. FLOW’s Dave Dempsey and others stress that the Great Lakes cannot be entrusted to Enbridge, and that it is time for the state to decommission the pipeline.

Reporter’s Notebook: How much Detroit water do Coke and Pepsi use?

August 3, 2017

Michigan Radio

Kaye LaFond takes a look at Coke, Pepsi, and other bottlers of Michigan’s water in this story. Concerns are expressed about diversions of water outside of the Great Lakes Basin and the privatization and commodification of water.

Joint Fundraising Event with Groundwork Center at Betsie Bay Furniture

August 3, 2017

On Thursday, a group of area residents and visitors gathered at Betsie Bay Furniture in Frankfort, Michigan, to learn about the status of Line 5 and the 64-year-old pipelines pushing nearly 23 million gallons of oil through the heart of the Great Lakes. In this short audio clip (produced by Leslie Hamp, Frankfort), many shared their thoughts, concerns and why they are imploring Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney Bill Schuette to Shut Down Line 5. Take a listen to the Voice of the People.

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