FLOW in the News


A sampling of recent news coverage involving FLOW

Whitmer directs state agencies to prepare to use federal infrastructure funds

Detroit News — November 22, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday directed state government to work with the Michigan Legislature and prepare to launch lead service line replacement and other water projects when federal money from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is dispersed. “We appreciate Governor Whitmer’s leadership and determination to prioritize water-protection work in the Great Lake State with the new federal infrastructure funds. Michiganders' urgent water needs can’t wait,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW. “We must use this once-in-a-generation infrastructure investment to replace lead lines, modernize drinking water and sewage plants, and clean up PFAS contamination right away. This investment is essential to the public health and prosperity of families and communities, and will support good-paying jobs that cannot be outsourced.”

Enviros, tribal leaders face right-wing, pro-Line 5 ‘echo chamber’ 

Michigan Advance — November 22, 2021

However, a 2015 composite report from scientific advisors for FLOW concludes that a Line 5 shutdown at the Straits would not disrupt propane in the U.P. or Wisconsin. “No more than 5-10 percent of the [light to medium] crude oil in Line 5 is going to the Detroit and Toledo refineries. In reality, it is most likely closer to 5 percent than 10 percent,” the report reads, noting that the “overwhelming majority” of Line 5 oil goes back into Canada rather than Michigan and other states.

Business Memoranda

Traverse City Record-Eagle — November 10, 2021

FLOW announced the election of new officers on its board of directors. Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt becomes the first woman to chair the Traverse City-based Great Lakes law and policy center, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2021. Mittelstaedt, the former president and CEO of Huckle Media, LLC/Huckle Holdings Inc., joined FLOW’s board in 2015 and previously was treasurer. Organizational consultant Sarah Naperala is FLOW’s new vice chair. Alma College emeritus professor of Communication, Public Affairs and Environmental Studies and former board chair Mike Vickery is treasurer. Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, an executive advisor and learning leader in leadership, management and policy, is secretary.

EPA Orders Benton Harbor, Michigan to Protect Residents from Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water

Natural Resources Defense Council — November 2, 2021

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today issued an enforcement order directing the City of Benton Harbor to take specific steps to bring its water system into compliance with federal drinking water law, just months after nearly 20 groups (including FLOW) petitioned the agency to take emergency action. Due to high levels of lead in tap water, the State of Michigan is providing free bottled water to residents.

Green Lights: Meet 11 Of Northern Michigan’s Environmental Leaders

Traverse City Business News — November 1, 2021

Northern Michigan has no shortage of impressive green leaders, from nonprofit leaders whose organizations are aimed specifically at protecting the environment, to local businesspeople who have taken it upon themselves to embrace sustainability as a core value. FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood was named among 11 of the local folks leading the charge in areas of green business, alternative energy and environmental preservation.

Trust issues linger over PFAS response

Traverse City Record-Eagle — October 24, 2021

Ingesting PFAS causes health effects ranging from high cholesterol to impaired immune responses and liver function, FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey said. It has also been linked to kidney and heart disease, osteoarthritis and fertility issues, among others.

Coast Guard to launch freshwater oil spill research in Michigan

MLive — October 20, 2021

A new military research agency will come to Michigan to study the effects of oil spills in freshwater and develop plans to respond to such an environmental disaster, reports MLive.com. “It’s ideal to have this center located so close to the point where the three Upper Great Lakes flow together and where there is an aging pipeline which has caused great concern,” said FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey.

Dave Dempsey: Protecting Michigan wilderness is one of Dale Kildee’s enduring legacies

Michigan Advance — October 20, 2021

When former U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee died last week at the age of 92, admirers celebrated his work on behalf of the community of Flint, his support for education and labor and his personal decency. Each of these merited praise, but one aspect of his career escaped mention in most quarters – his environmental values. A lifetime 89% supporter of the environment as measured by the League of Conservation Voters scorecard, Kildee led the successful fight to protect over 90,000 acres of wilderness in 10 areas on Michigan’s National Forest lands. It wasn’t easy.

Michigan environmental law pioneer Jim Olson stepping down after 50 years

Great Lakes Notebook — October 18, 2021

Canadian social justice and environmental advocate Maude Barlow praised Olson saying he “has been one of the most important voices in the world promoting the public trust doctrine and is widely respected for both his legal analysis and his tireless advocacy.” Barlow, formerly a senior adviser to the United Nations on water, said Olson has brought energy and commitment to every court case and issue where he has engaged. Olson is “one-of-a-kind,” Barlow said.

Michigan's failing septic system is 'slow motion catastrophe' for groundwater

Detroit Free Press — October 14, 2021

"Septic systems are a chronic problem that Michigan has continued to fail to address statewide," FLOW senior advisor David Dempsey told the Detroit Free Press. Dempsey authored our report on threats to Michigan's groundwater which FLOW released earlier this year. "We don't know what we want of our groundwater. We want to use it for drinking water, and we want to be able to use it as a waste receptacle as well. We don't allow people to just dump their waste into streams, but that's essentially what's happening in slow motion with septic systems."

Lake Huron Zoom program tonight

The Alpena News — October 7, 2021

The Wonders of Lake Huron will be presented at 7 p.m. tonight in a live online format, featuring Katie Wolf and Dave Dempsey. The public is invited to join in this second event with Great Lakes Inspired, featuring NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Katie Wolf and author Dave Dempsey as they share their respective stories related to Lake Huron. Their presentations will focus on the scientific and ecological wonders of Lake Huron and on living along the lake in all its majesty. The interactive event will feature photos and short videos displaying some of the lake’s qualities, with time for questions and answers from attendees.

Lead Contamination: This Small Michigan Town Hasn’t Had Safe Drinking Water Since 2015

Gander Newsroom — October 6, 2021

Yet another Michigan town’s water supply is contaminated with lead. Every day, residents in Benton Harbor need to drink bottled water or cope with dire health consequences, reports The 'Gander Newsroom. The state has officially urged residents to use only bottled water for cooking, drinking, and brushing teeth. Previously, local authorities had passed out water filters, but now the federal government is reviewing their effectiveness. Through Michigan’s newest budget, the city will receive $10 million to replace pipes, as part of a larger package for clean water. The state also set up an emergency drinking water fund, which is designed to provide clean bottled water and filters in the meantime.

FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood said this type of fund is the first of its kind she’s heard of, but that long-term the goal should be to prevent problems before stopgap measures are necessary. Kirkwood’s long-term hope is that all groundwater becomes public property, which currently is not the case, so that bottled water companies cannot profit by going around government. In this scenario, people would have ownership of their local water, and water companies couldn’t gouge the prices. FLOW has drafted model legislation to these ends, but only parts of the bill have been touched on so far.

NMEAC Awards features virtual format

Traverse City Record-Eagle — September 24, 2021

FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey accepted NMEAC's first Greg Reisig Award last Thursday as the Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council hosted its first virtual nod to good work done on behalf of the region, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle. The Sept. 23 Environmentalist of the Year celebration was done on Zoom, with musical performances by brotha james, a keynote address by Michigan Climate Action Network's Kate Madigan, a history of NMEAC and Neahtawanta Inn by Sally Van Vleck and the presentation of awards.

Question of Diversion: Great Lakes governors group silent on future water threats

Great Lakes Now — August 27, 2021

Do water diversions pose a threat to the Great Lakes basin, now or in the future? Gary Wilson of Great Lakes Now spoke to FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey about this vexing issue. “We know that access to water is a major issue in the west and southwest and will only grow in importance," said Dempsey. "Long-range diversions are economically unfeasible right now, but water’s value and pricing will only grow.” Dempsey authored the book Great Lakes for Sale in 2009 and is finalizing an updated version for release in late 2021.

Michigan author & illustrator explore the depths of the Great Lakes

Fresh Perspective — August 23, 2021

The author of The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes, Lynne Heasley, and the illustrator of the book, Glenn Wolff, explore the dark depths of the Great Lakes in the Fresh Coast State. The artistic duo will headline a virtual book launch from 5:30-6:30 on August 25, the newest event in FLOW’s Art Meets Water series.

The Globe and Mail — August 3, 2021

Michigan’s governor and the Canadian oil company Enbridge are at odds over a decades-old pipeline and the risks that it might spill. The Globe and Mail asked the people who live alongside it where they stand. “I think what is really telling is that Canadians don’t want pipelines in their own country,” says FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood. “It’s enormously disappointing to see the Canadian government failing to stand up for the Great Lakes.”

Sewer line work continues; Bryan Park beach OK'd for swimming, infrastructure repair costs unknown

Traverse City Record-Eagle — July 28, 2021

A major sewer transmission main leak that prompted a water-contact advisory at a popular Traverse City beach still seeps up through the ground as workers prepare to literally unearth and fix the problem, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey said it’s definitely a troubling situation, “spawned by years of disinvestment in sewer and water at the federal and state level.”

 

Dave Dempsey: It’s raining PFAS in the Sleeping Bear Dunes

Michigan Advance — July 2, 2021

Every now and then, an environmental news headline jumps out at you as though it was printed in 12-inch lettering on a newspaper front page or website. That personal reaction comes not because the news is a surprise, but because it is a symbol. “It’s Raining ‘Forever Chemicals’ in the Great Lakes,” said one website recentlyNot only that, but the chemicals discussed in the story are being detected at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, just 25 miles down the road from where I live near Traverse City.

Epic paddling journey chronicles fresh water concern

Traverse City Record-Eagle — July 1, 2021

Several local entities back the “Troubled Water” mission. The Traverse City-based advocacy organization For Love of Water (FLOW) got onboard early on as an adviser helping to lift the project from concept to targeted action. “We see the power of artists, filmmakers, and others inspired by the water, inspiring others to protect waters,” said FLOW Deputy Director Kelly Thayer. FLOW’s Executive Director Liz Kirkwood gives voice on film to the organization’s commitment to protect the public resource. FLOW and the M22 store align their passion for the lakes in support of the film. Proceeds from the M22’s For Love of Water T-shirts and hats benefit the trio’s effort.

Fish, propane, cash: Not everyone loves Enbridge generosity in the Straits

Bridge Michigan — June 28, 2021

Barbara Brown is not a fan of Enbridge. But for her friend, about 40 bucks worth of free whitefish from Enbridge was reason enough to set differences aside, if only momentarily. Brown felt differently, viewing the whitefish as an effort to woo residents to Enbridge's side. “I thought it was an aggressive influence campaign,” said Brown, a former state judge who serves on the board of FLOW, a northern Michigan nonprofit that opposes Line 5.

Proposed Michigan PFAS public notice policy drafted; public should know of suspected contamination

Traverse City Record-Eagle — June 10, 2021

Environmental advocate Dave Dempsey, senior advisor at FLOW, said he agrees with CAWG members who wanted the wording changed. PFAS plumes with "likely" impacts to residential water supplies or surface waters won't include as many cases as those "with potential" for such ramifications.

A leaky pipeline operates illegally on tribal land. Will the White House please speak up?

Grist — June 2, 2021

Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline is threatening the Great Lakes and treaty-protected land. Biden needs to back his promises to Indigenous communities, write Whitney Gravelle, David Arroyo, and Jamie Stuck for Grist. Whitney Gravelle is the president and chairwoman of the Bay Mills Indian Community. David Arroyo is the chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. Jamie Stuck is the chairperson of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of The Potawatomi.

According to an Enbridge report, only about 30 percent of the oil and gas transported through Line 5 will be used in the U.S., with 70 percent serving Canada. But neither country needs this oil to meet its energy needs, as experts at the Great Lakes advocacy nonprofit For Love of Water have stressed. The White House must send a clear message to Canada and abroad: Jeopardizing the health, natural resources, and treaty rights of Indigenous Americans to provide oil to a foreign country is in direct opposition to America’s economic, energy, and environmental justice goals.

Ohio Lawmakers Make Plea to Keep Line 5 Open Citing Potential Toledo Area Job Losses

Toledo Blade — May 18, 2021

One of the more vocal Enbridge critics has been Traverse City-based For Love of Water, or FLOW. FLOW attorney and president, Jim Olson, told The Blade that the group’s research shows the Great Lakes region has the capacity and flexibility to meet its energy needs “without threatening our public waters and the economy.”

“Just because Enbridge and some refineries don’t want to change their oil supply strategies, [that] doesn’t mean that change is not feasible,” he said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Mr. Olson said a spill in the Straits “would have profound, negative impacts on the regional economy” and he wishes Ohio would support “its sister Great Lakes state, Michigan, not Enbridge and its political tactics, especially when Ohio bears none of the risk of a spill that will ruin the upper one-third of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, with long-term damage exceeding $6.2 billion dollars, not to mention the potential $45 billion to the steel industry because of the likely shutdown of shipping through these waters.”

Enbridge defies Michigan governor's order to close Line 5

Associated Press — May 14, 2021

Environmentalists and native tribes planned rallies in Detroit, Lansing and the Straits of Mackinac area. They accused the company of flouting the law and endangering the world’s largest freshwater system.

"The scale and impact of a Line 5 oil spill would be an unprecedented ecological and economic disaster," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of Traverse City-based For Love of Water.

Traverse City National Writers Series Announces 2021 Lineup

MyNorth.com — May 14, 2021

The National Writers Series' summer season kicks off June 10th with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of the remarkable Braiding Sweetgrass, a collection of ecological essays that spent nearly all of 2020 on the New York Times bestseller list. This special ticketed event is presented in partnership with For Love of Water (FLOW), and we’re also honored to welcome Chairman David M. Arroyo of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians for a blessing at the beginning of our event.

Our guest host is Matthew L.M. Fletcher, Foundation Professor of Law at Michigan State University College of Law, Director of the Indigenous Law and Policy Center, and a frequent instructor at the Pre-Law Summer Institute for American Indian students.

Canada: Stall Line 5 shutdown due to treaty discussions with U.S.

Detroit News — May 12, 2021

Environmental groups have praised Whitmer for her decision and lambasted Enbridge for ignoring her order. Officials with the For Love of Water group said Enbridge had a “troubling track record and that the governor was just trying to protect the state’s air, water and other natural resources from a potential oil spill."

"Michiganders have not forgotten Enbridge’s epic failure and legacy of the million-gallon, Line 6B oil spill disaster into the Kalamazoo River that drove about 150 families permanently from their homes and properties,” said Liz Kirkwood, the executive director of FLOW and an attorney in Traverse City. The pipeline, FLOW officials said, is at risk of a rupture from anchor strikes given rough currents in the Straits.

Dave Dempsey: Stop polluting and neglecting Michigan’s groundwater

Michigan Advance — May 11, 2021

Michigan prides itself on superior water stewardship. But the state cannot make that claim without a new approach to groundwater. That would include everything from articulation of a single, protective state groundwater policy to passage of legislation pending in the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives requiring that parties responsible for groundwater pollution clean up their contamination unless this is technically infeasible, and adoption of a state sanitary code legislation. Groundwater feeds the Great Lakes, fuels the economy and fulfills our need for drinking water. It serves us well. It is time we return the favor so that current and future generations can depend on its quality and quantity.

Michigan tribes plan peaceful gatherings for Enbridge ‘eviction day,’ LaDuke to speak

Michigan Advance — May 10, 2021

“A spill from Line 5 at the Straits of Mackinac could deliver a blow of over $6 billion in impacts and natural resource damages to Michigan’s economy, according to a study commissioned by FLOW [For Love of Water]. … While this astroturf group’s report claims it is Ohio — not Michigan — that will bear the brunt of a Line 5 shutdown economic impact, even that conclusion seems largely based on anecdotal stories from biased sources with an agenda to keep Line 5 operating,” Sean McBrearty said.

As Line 5 debate continues, residents weigh risks to shorelines, economies

The Alpena News — May 8, 2021

According to Enbridge, employees of the company own rings made out of pieces of Line 6 [which spilled 1 million gallons of heavy tar sands oil into the Kalamazoo River watershed in 2010] to remind them of the importance of safety. Intentions to do better aren’t enough, according to Liz Kirkwood, executive director of environmental group For Love of Water, or FLOW. An oil leak could cost 1.5 million jobs tied to the Great Lakes and destroy a unique freshwater ecosystem, clobbering a $7 billion fishing industry and shutting down one of the busiest shipping lanes in the Great Lakes, Kirkwood said. More than 1.1 million gallons of oil have leaked from Line 5 in more than 30 on-land spills, according to a report released in 2017 by the Pipeline Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The pipeline travels 645 miles, from Superior, Wisconsin, across Michigan to Sarnia, Ontario.

WGVU Public Radio's Eco Insider Program Talks about Shutting Down Line 5 with FLOW's Liz Kirkwood

WGVU — May 7, 2021

Listen to FLOW's Liz Kirkwood, who spoke Friday morning with Shelley Irwin on WGVU Public Radio's Eco Insider show about why Enbridge must shut down the Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. Gov. Whitmer has set a Weds., May 12, deadline for Enbridge to comply with her lawful shutdown order to protect the Great Lakes.

Residents near three Michigan airports to get quicker PFAS water tests; citizen volunteers say faster, broader public notice is best

Traverse City Record-Eagle — April 29, 2021

Grand Traverse County residents can learn more details about the ongoing PFAS investigation in East Bay Township during a free webinar tonight at 7 pm hosted by FLOW and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. Discussion is expected to include frustrations about the delay from the state in notifying the public. “I don’t question the good intentions of MPART, but the basic principle should be to disclose investigations and resulting data as soon as they are known. That’s not complicated. It’s just basic common sense,” said FLOW senior advisor Dave Dempsey. Residents who drink groundwater and live nearby three Michigan airports may have their well water tested for PFAS contamination by state officials about a year sooner than they otherwise might have. That’s because a group of citizen volunteers tasked with improving the way and rapidity with which state environmental regulators tell residents about PFAS contamination suggested they should do so, reports the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Oil pipeline disputes raise tensions between U.S. and Canada

ABC News — April 28, 2021

Months after President Joe Biden snubbed Canadian officials by canceling Keystone XL, an impending showdown over a second crude oil pipeline threatens to further strain ties between the two neighbors that were frayed during the Trump administration.Critics say most economic benefits go to Canada, while Michigan risks a rupture that could foul hundreds of miles of waters. “The Canadians are awfully silent about our shared responsibility to protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the world's fresh surface water,” said Liz Kirkwood, director of a Michigan group called For Love of Water.

16 states, 4 tribes back Whitmer’s lawsuit over Line 5 shutdown

Michigan Advance — April 23, 2021

As the state of Michigan continues to battle Canadian oil company Enbridge in court over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s impending shutdown order for the company’s Line 5 oil pipeline, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Friday that 28 entities have so far thrown in their support for the state’s motion to remand the case back to the Ingham County 30th Circuit Court. Those entities include four tribes (Bay Mills Indian Community, Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi); the Great Lakes Business Network and six environmental organizations, including FLOW, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Michigan Climate Action Network, the Great Lakes Law and Policy Center, the National Wildlife Federation and the Straits of Mackinac Alliance.

Michigan Regulator to Weigh Climate Impact of Enbridge Oil Line Tunnel

Reuters — April 22, 2021

A state of Michigan regulator said on Wednesday it will consider the impact of climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions when deciding whether Enbridge Inc can build an underwater tunnel to rehouse a four-mile (6-km) section of its Line 5 oil pipeline. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) agreed with interveners, including environmental groups, that GHG emissions are pollutants  whose impact must be considered under  the Michigan Environmental Protection Act. Environmental campaigners opposed to Line 5 hailed the decision as a win. "It recognizes that the Michigan Environmental Protection Act applies to consideration of greenhouse gas emissions that would be spurred by Enbridge's proposed oil pipeline tunnel," said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water.

Showing Great Lakes Love on Earth Day

TraverseCity.com — April 19, 2021

“The Great Lakes are vast and vulnerable,” FLOW senior advisor Dave told Traverse City Tourism. “They contain 20-percent of the world’s fresh water. We need to be careful with them and not take them for granted.” Dempsey offered the following suggestions for what we can do to protect the Great Lakes during Earth Day and every day: conserve water; water your lawn at night when there is less evaporation; don’t let the water run when brushing your teeth; avoid single-use plastics since more of that trash finds its way to the lakes; wash your boat bottom to avoid transporting invasive species; don’t use the lakes as an ash tray; learn about the Great Lakes – they are remarkable.