My name is Eliza Somsel and I am currently an intern here at FLOW. I am from Grand Rapids, MI originally, but after I graduated high school in 2011, my parents moved to Traverse City. While I have not lived here long, I have always enjoyed Crystal Lake, Lake Michigan and the rest of Northern Michigan at my grandparent’s home in Beulah. I am a rising junior at the College of Wooster in Ohio, studying Communication and Environmental Studies.
As FLOW’s summer Grassroots Outreach Intern, I wear numerous hats. I write press releases, assist in event planning and advertising, and work on expanding our Great Lakes Society. My favorite work, however, is finding new ways to expand FLOW’s presence in the greater Grand Traverse community and Great Lakes Basin.
On Friday, July 5th, FLOW participated in the National Cherry Festival’s DTE Energy Green Day with our newly invented “Wheel of Water.” Along with FLOW staff and volunteers, I developed a Great Lakes trivia game and constructed a spinning game wheel to draw the attention of festivalgoers. My goal was to get people thinking about the importance of the Great Lakes and the work that FLOW does to protect the waters both now and for future generations. The wheel was divided into four colors that aligned with a category of questions: science, geography, people/economy, and history/politics. The process of creating the game was enjoyable itself, but I was absolutely in my element when interacting with kids and adults alike who share my passion and interest in the Great Lakes. I even got my picture in the Record Eagle!
For the kids, I asked a preliminary question before playing the game. “Can you name the five Great Lakes?” I was fortunate enough to have a variety of entertaining answers throughout the day. Some kids blew me away by naming them off without a blink of an eye, while others could only name one or two at best. I often heard that Crystal Lake, Torch Lake, Silver Lake, or whichever lake they loved was considered to be a Great Lake in their opinion. While by definition this may not be true, I must agree that any lake is a pretty “great” lake and worth protecting.
Like many of you, I have always loved the Great Lakes and want my future (way in the future) children and grandchildren to get to experience them as I have. FLOW strives to ensure this through the public trust. While a seemingly complex concept at first, I have come to understand the public trust as the best way to protect our waters. The public trust doctrine essentially says that water is shared and owned by the public and therefore cannot be privately owned. Uses of the waters have to be balanced in such a way that protected uses, like swimming and fishing, are maintained. FLOW works to ensure these rights are not forgotten or ignored. Activities or projects such as the Enbridge pipeline expansion across the Straits of Mackinac—which will transport tar sands through the Great Lakes—is a violation of the public trust. Using this principle is, to me, the most obvious solution to many similar threats to the Great Lakes. For this issue in particular, I am attending Oil and Water Don’t Mix: A Rally for the Great Lakes this Sunday, July 14th.
Also, join me on Friday, August 9th in downtown Traverse City during Friday Night Live to test your knowledge of the Great Lakes and spin the “Wheel of Water!”