FLOW in the News


Democrats in control: Advocates want action on justice, climate and “stronger leadership” from Gov. Whitmer

By Gary Wilson, Great Lakes Now—Nov. 18, 2022

Elections have consequences, the saying goes, and for the Michigan Democratic party, the election last week resulted in a sweep of the race for governor and the legislature.

Now comes their opportunity to deliver on long-stalled environmental initiatives.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was re-elected and for the first time in almost 40 years, Democrats will be the majority in the legislature. The results prompted Whitmer to say it’s time to “step on the accelerator” to enact her administration’s priorities that include her climate plan, clean water and environmental justice initiatives.

Great Lakes Now asked environmental advocacy executives for their priorities for the governor and legislature. The inquiries were conducted by email and responses were edited for clarity and length.

Liz Kirkwood

Traverse City’s Liz Kirkwood said the election results “mark a watershed opportunity for the Whitmer administration to boldly lead and establish a legacy for long-term Great Lakes protection and stewardship.”

Kirkwood is an attorney and executive director of For Love of Water, a non-profit focused on applying Public Trust principles to conservation issues.

That stewardship should also prioritize rebuilding water infrastructure projects like lead service line replacements in disproportionately impacted communities, Kirkwood said.  FLOW was part of the coalition that petitioned the EPA in the Benton Harbor crisis.

Michigan’s groundwater is at times referred to as the 6th Great Lakes given its volume and Kirkwood wants to see “groundwater reform prioritized with regulations to hold polluters accountable.”

Michigan is an outlier state when it comes to regulating septic systems as it lacks a sanitary code and Kirkwood said, “with a favorable legislature, the Whitmer administration finally has a chance to pass a common-sense state-wide septic code that addresses all 1.25 million septic systems and creates a funding stream for routine inspection, maintenance, and replacement of those systems.”

As governor, Whitmer can play a leading role in addressing the bottled water exemption in the Great Lakes Compact, Kirkwood said. The Compact is the eight-state agreement designed to prevent diversions of water outside the Great Lakes basin.

She called on the governor to support model legislation that would generally prevent diversions of water in containers less than 5.7 gallons, commonly known as the bottled water loophole in the Compact.

If enacted, the model legislation would require small container diversions to be aligned with Public Trust principles, licensed by the state and subject to royalties that benefit public water.

As a candidate in 2018, Whitmer cited bottled water in her water policy agenda as an issue that required attention.

Water withdrawal for bottling water has been steadily increasing at cheap rates, meanwhile Michiganders themselves struggle to pay past-due bills for undrinkable water,” the document said.

In 2020, the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy dismissed a case that challenged the permit issued to Nestlé Waters North America in 2018 for increased water withdrawals from its bottled water facility in Osceola County.

In a press release after the dismissal, EGLE Director Liesl Clark said she welcomed action by the legislature to update regulations to provide the agency with more authority over water withdrawals for bottled water.

Clark did not indicate if she would lobby the legislature to take action.

Business Memoranda: 11/16/2022

By Stephanie Shomin, Traverse City Record-Eagle—Nov. 16, 2022

For Love Of Water (FLOW) recently elected these new board officers for fiscal year 2023: Chair Renee Huckle Mittelstaedt, former president/CEO of Huckle Media LLC; Vice Chair Benjamin Muth, Ann Arbor-based attorney; Treasurer Sarah Naperala, organizational consultant with Naperala Consulting and Secretary Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, executive adviser and learning leader with Wyatt Advisors. Joel Evenhouse, a Traverse City-based client success manager at Betterment, newly joined the board. FLOW is a Great Lakes law and policy center based in Traverse City.

Clean Water Act Turns 50

By Sally Barber, Traverse City Record-Eagle—Oct. 27, 2022

TRAVERSE CITY — This month marks the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act.

The 1972 legislation signified a reckoning of society’s devastating impact on the natural environment.

While CWA falls far short of its original objective, the National Wildlife Federation reports CWA succeeds in keeping 700 billion pounds of pollutants out of the nation’s waters annually.

“Analyzing the success and failures over 50 years is complicated,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the Traverse City-based water advocacy nonprofit FLOW (For Love of Water).

“Has there been adequate federal and state level funding? Sometimes there has and sometimes there hasn’t.”

CWA’s disappointing performance includes its failure to provide comprehensive regulations for agriculture runoff. Currently, controversy hangs over legal definitions guiding CWA rules. A pending Supreme Court decision could impact wetland protections.

Kirkwood acknowledges that progress isn’t linear. As we mark CWA’s anniversary, she believes it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

“In historic moments like this, it affords us the perspective we need and opportunity to take stock of the vision for the future of our waters,” she said. “What are we going to expect of ourselves for the future of our children?”

Line 5 has got to go—without a tunnel taking its place. Tell the Army Corps of Engineers TODAY

By Peregrine Kate for Michigan, My Michigan and Daily Kos—Oct. 14, 2022

Line 5, the 645-mile-long segment of Enbridge’s Lakehead Pipeline system that runs between Superior, Wisconsin, and Sarnia, Ontario, Canada crosses one of the most delicate and cherished stretches of fresh water in North America: the Straits of Mackinac. This narrow body of water connecting Lake Michigan and Lake Huron is a place of subtle beauty and much cultural and ecological significance. For the past 69 years, however, this precious ecosystem has faced a dire threat presented by Line 5. The twin 20-inch pipelines rest out in the open on the bottom of the straits and are vulnerable to the elements, anchor strikes from freighters, and the inherent material stress resulting from the transport of millions of gallons of petroleum products per day under high pressure.

Additional information on Shut Down Line 5 activism:

Michigan Septic Inspection Bill To Protect Water From Leaks May Spill Into Next Legislative Session

By Sheri McWhirter, MLive—Oct. 10, 2022

LANSING, MICH. – Michigan is the sole state in the nation without a statewide septic code and a bill in the state House is meant to remedy that, perhaps in the coming lame duck session.

In Traverse City, water advocacy nonprofit organization For Love of Water has argued for a statewide septic code for years. The group even hosted a one-day conference in 2019 about protecting water resources from uncontrolled septic pollution.

Liz Kirkwood, the group’s executive director, said she believes this bill won’t make it through the fast-approaching lame duck legislative session that follows the mid-term election. But the issue will linger, she said.

“I believe it will come back in the next legislative session and my hope is that the different stakeholders can find consensus and broker something that is acceptable to the majority of folks here, because this has to be addressed if we’re really, really serious about being the Great Lakes State. And the reason I say that is the potential for pollution and public health issues are tremendous,” Kirkwood said.

Stand Against Line 5

By Brenda Sodt Marshall, Life in Michigan—Oct. 11, 2022

The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation hosted a solidarity event supporting Line 5 Shutdown and Tunnel prevention on Sunday, October 9, 2022, at Frog Island in Ypsilanti, Michigan. 

Stand Against Line 5

Three things you can do:

  1. Submit your public comment to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by October 14! 
  2. Vote! Support the candidates who stand against Line 5
    1. Governor Whitmer is working to protect our water by shutting down Line 5
    2. Attorney General Dana Nessel opposes the continued operation of Line 5 within the Straits of Mackinac
    3. Michigan Supreme Court has a pair of seats open in the November election. We need those seats filled by justices who support shutting down Line 5
  3. Talk about it. There are people that don’t know there’s a 70-year-old pipeline under the straights of Mackinac. Call Governor Whitmer and our Attorney General, Dana Nessel.  

For Love of Water

Join FLOW today so you can stay informed and help stop the Enbridge Oil Tunnel. A few things I learned:

  • Line 5 carries nearly 23 million gallons of oil and natural gas liquids each day. It was built in 1953 to last 50 years, Line 5 is nearly 70 years old.
  • Outside the Straits, Line 5 has failed at least 33 times since 1968, spilling more than 1.1 million gallons of oil in Michigan and Wisconsin. 
  • A Line 5 oil spill in the Straits of Mackinac could strike a $6 billion blow to Michigan’s economy, communities, and natural resources. 

There is more on the Flow Line 5 Factsheet. I encourage you to read it so you’ll be informed too.  

The Army Corps of Engineers is receiving hundreds of comments daily opposing the Line 5 tunnel

By April Siese, Daily Kos Staff—Oct. 07, 2022

A proposed tunnel that natural gas behemoth Enbridge claims is necessary to protect a section of its Line 5 pipeline is facing widespread pushback from community members and climate activists concerned about keeping the 4.5-mile section of pipeline that runs through the Straits of Mackinac—which is nearing 70 years in service—connected to Enbridge’s larger 645-mile system. The Army Corps of Engineers is presently in a scoping period seeking public comment on the tunnel project. Hundreds daily are responding with climate concerns as well as environmental justice concerns.

Pipelines built in the 1950s, like Line 5, are ticking time bombs for disasters. In fact, Enbridge’s Line 6B, which sent more than 1 million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River after rupturing in 2010, is much younger than Line 5, having been built in the 1980s. McBrearty has observed a change in rhetoric from Enbridge, which initially swore up and down that Line 5 was already safe on its own. Throughout, Enbridge claimed the pipeline was critical for, among other things, heating homes and ensuring affordable gas prices. For Love of Water (FLOW), another environmental group facing off against Enbridge, found that the company lied about how many Upper Peninsula households depend on Line 5 for propane to heat their homes. 

Building Consensus for Prioritizing Groundwater Protections in the Great Lakes

By Dave Dempsey, Published by the International Joint Commission—Sept. 22, 2022

Water flows through a single cycle from air to surface water and groundwater, or from land to lakes and streams, evaporating and beginning its journey all over again. But environmental law and policy often overlook an entire arc of the cycle, regulating groundwater separately and increasing the potential for risks to public health and ecosystem degradation. 

The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is beginning to change that. One important step forward is the inclusion of an annex devoted to groundwater. Annex 8 commits the Canadian and United States governments to coordinating groundwater science and management actions. The goal is to build the base of knowledge about the impact of groundwater on the Great Lakes, leading to specific policy and science actions.

“Cherrishing” Northern Michigan

By Jillian Manning, Northern Express—Sept. 17, 2022

Sara Harding is perhaps best known in NoMi for her role as the studio director of Yen Yoga & Fitness (which is now in their new digs at the Delamar Traverse City), but she’s also a curator and founder of TEDx Traverse City and a board member for Traverse Connect, TART Trails, and the Munson Medical Center Community Council.

Oh, and she was just named the VP of climate and community impact at Cherry Republic.

One place where Cherry Republic appears to be leading by example is in their giving program. The company donates up to 2 percent of their earnings—roughly $500,000, according to a recent press release—to groups like Friends of Sleeping Bear, Circle of Blue, Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, For Love of Water (FLOW), the Inland Seas Education Association, and others.

“What’s been great is that I get to meet and talk to all of those organizations that we have helped in the past,” Harding says. “Right now I can be with all of these amazing people in our communities that are so mission driven for their organization and find out how has [Cherry Republic] helped them in the past? How can we help them going forward?”

Wisconsin Line 5 trespass ruling may influence Michigan legal fight

By Sheri McWhirter, MLive—Sept. 14, 2022

A federal judge said Enbridge has been trespassing for years with its Line 5 pipeline on sovereign tribal lands in Wisconsin, and some believe elements of the ruling eventually may be felt in Michigan.

Experts suggest multiple legal arguments about the Line 5 oil and gas pipeline in a federal case in Wisconsin could potentially influence the outcome of an ongoing legal fight over the same pipeline in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters.

One watcher of the Wisconsin legal case said the part of the recent ruling about Enbridge trespassing yet being allowed to continue to operate the pipeline while a new route is pursued might spell trouble for the efforts of Line 5 opponents in Michigan.

The concern is federal District Court Judge Janet Neff in Michigan – presiding over the case between Enbridge and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel – might similarly agree the state can revoke the Great Lakes bottomlands easement and that Enbridge may be trespassing, yet allow the company to continue to operate the pipeline while pursuing an underground tunnel beneath the lakes.

“That would almost be a nightmare scenario because it would put the state and all of the state’s friends here in the position of having to choose really between supporting the tunnel in order to get rid of something that’s more dangerous, or fighting like hell to appeal,” said Zach Welcker, legal director for nonprofit For Love Of Water, an environmental advocacy group based in Traverse City.

Opinion: Leelanau County board wisely votes to protect fresh water and public health from septic pollution

By Skip Pruss, Opinion Article, Traverse City Record-Eagle—Sept. 4, 2022

In August, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners voted to task the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department with drafting an ordinance requiring the inspection of septic systems upon the transfer or sale of a home. The bipartisan vote endorsing this ordinance came after years of rancorous debate and unsuccessful attempts at passage.

The vote was a hopeful sign of progress, demonstrating an understanding that malfunctioning septic systems can affect surface water and groundwater locally and statewide, potentially burdening communities with avoidable harmful economic, health and environmental outcomes.

The Latest on Line 5

By Victor Skinner, Northern Express—August 27, 2022

To Enbridge or not to Enbridge—it’s a question that has been brewing all summer (and long before) as those for and against the Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline take steps forward toward conflicting goals.

What’s New?
Last month, a three-member regulatory panel at the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) voted unanimously to request more safety and engineering information regarding Enbridge’s tunnel application, as well as information “relating to safety and maintenance of the current dual pipelines, including leak detection systems and shutdown procedures.”

The MPSC, one of three government agencies that must approve the $750-million project, made the request following testimony about the risks a catastrophic failure pose to the Great Lakes, the regional economy, fish, and wildlife.

“Not only is the commission concerned about the current operations, they’re concerned about this tunnel. It’s a signal, I think, from a state regulator saying, ‘I’m not comfortable with this proposal,’” says Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For the Love of Water (FLOW), a Traverse City nonprofit fighting Line 5. “They’re evaluating some of the alternatives as to whether or not this pipeline should be built.”

The order, which is expected to delay a decision until next year, came about three weeks after documents filed in a federal lawsuit in Wisconsin severely undercut Enbridge’s claim that shutting down Line 5 will result in significant fuel price increases in Michigan. The lawsuit stems from efforts by the Bad River Band of the Lake Superior Tribe of Chippewa Indians to revoke Enbridge’s easement through its reservation.

According to Enbridge consultant Neil Earnest, prices would increase an estimated 0.5 cents per gallon in the U.S. and about 5 cents per gallon in Ontario.

“I think it’s significant because Enbridge’s own expert is debunking all their claims” about increased energy costs associated with a Line 5 shutdown, Kirkwood says.

Arid West starts dreaming about piping in water from afar

By Jennifer Yachnin, E&E News Greenwire -- August 25, 2022

Even in the decades before the West plunged into a 22-year drought, the proposals to shift water from wetter states to more arid locations have never been in short supply.

But those proposals — whether well-planned or bordering on fantasy — have never managed to gain traction.

Despite that lack of success, as drought threatens key water supplies across the West like the Colorado River and Rio Grande basins, these ideas are again percolating. Could this period of rapidly increasing scarcity be the time when they’re more than just a mirage?

“It’s always possible that if a large population of the South and West really wants the water, instead of living sustainably, someday there might be a transfer of water,” asserts author Dave Dempsey, who serves as a policy adviser to FLOW, For Love of Water. The Traverse City, Mich.-based group is a law and policy center focused on the Great Lakes.

Earlier this year, Utah legislators approved a study of using the Pacific Ocean to refill the dwindling Great Salt Lake via pipeline. Dempsey likewise pointed to suggestions last year by an Idaho radio host who said the state should use its political influence to “borrow the Great Lakes.”

“People look at a map and see a lot of water and say, ‘Why can’t we have that?'” said Dempsey, who wrote “Great Lakes for Sale: From Whitecaps to Bottlecaps.”

Editorial: Breakthrough may lead to breakdown – and that’s good

Editorial of the Traverse City Record-Eagle -- August 25, 2022

A recent report that scientists at Northwestern University may have discovered a new method for breaking down PFAS compounds is a milestone.

Hopefully, it’s a major one...

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love Of Water (FLOW), called PFAS “a cautionary tale” and emphasized what we need to learn from the experience. Kirkwood mentioned that transparency in the use of chemicals, and how they are disposed, is essential to protect people and the environment. We like the sound of that. For years, the Record-Eagle has aggressively reported on PFAS contamination in the region — and will continue to do so.

Man swims across Lake Michigan's Manitou Passage for non-profits

by Nicole Long -- TV 7&4 News -- August 24, 2022

LEELANAU COUNTY, Mich., (WPBN/WGTU) -- A New York man with northern Michigan ties has completed the first official swim across Lake Michigan's Manitou Passage.

Jake Bright started his morning from Sleeping Bear Point and swam 6.9 miles to South Manitou Island.

The swim took him just under four hours and he will now be certified by the World Open Water Swim Association.

On top of his trek across the passage, Jake also set a goal to raise $3,000 for North Manitou Light Keepers and For Love of Water.

"I wanted to make it not just about me, so we created a campaign around it called the North Manitou Marathon Swim Campaign for Charity, and the swim also benefits two local nonprofits," Bright said. "One in North Manitou Lightkeepers and then with FLOW, I wanted an organization that really was looking out for the entire freshwater ecosystem and resources in Michigan."

More than $4,000 has been raised since Jake finished his swim.

"We set fundraising goals, we surpassed them and made this swim, so everything that we wanted to do happened and it feels great," Bright said.

Jake also says even though he has more than a decade of open-water distance swimming experience, he does not recommend swimming the Manitou Passage.

He spent weeks planning the swim and had a safety boat crew along with him in case anything went wrong.

Judge rules oil pipeline dispute between Enbridge and Michigan belongs in federal court

By Nia Williams -- Reuters -- August 18, 2022

Aug 18 (Reuters) - A state of Michigan lawsuit that aims to force Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO) to stop operating the Line 5 oil pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes will be heard in federal court, a judge ruled on Thursday.

The decision from Judge Janet Neff is a win for Calgary-based Enbridge. The Canadian pipeline company has been locked long-running dispute with Michigan over Line 5, which ships 540,000 barrels per day of crude and refined products from Superior, Wisconsin, to Sarnia, Ontario.

Environmental campaigners opposed to Line 5 said the judge's latest decision undermined state court proceedings.

"The State of Michigan now will have to expend precious resources relitigating matters it has already litigated in state court for more than two years," said Zach Welcker, legal director of environmental group FLOW.

Line 5 pipeline lawsuit to remain in federal court

by Roxanne Werly--TV 7&4 News -- Thursday, August 18th, 2022

STRAITS OF MACKINAC, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- A federal court judge denied Attorney General Dana Nessel's request to have the Line 5 pipeline lawsuit heard in a state courtroom.

Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a Motion to Remand, asking a federal court judge to remove the case from federal court back to the state court's jurisdiction. Enbridge argued the Line 5 pipeline is a federal issue and should be heard in a federal forum. Federal Court Judge Janet Neff denied the Motion to Remand Thursday.

The following is a press statement from Zach Welcker, Legal Director of FLOW (For Love of Water):

“The U.S. District Court’s decision today to exercise federal jurisdiction over the State of Michigan’s Line 5 oil pipeline lawsuit, which Line 5-owner Enbridge had previously chosen to litigate in state court for more than 2 years, is bad for the State of Michigan, bad for state courts, and bad for plaintiffs.

“State-court defendants who have a plausible basis for federal jurisdiction are no longer obligated to seek removal within the statutory timelines established by Congress, but can now play their removal card at the time of their choosing. This gives defendants nearly unfettered discretion to seek refuge in federal court when things are not going their way in state court.

“The effect is that the State of Michigan now will have to expend precious resources relitigating matters it has already litigated in state court for more than two years and, more generally, that federal courts are free to pull the rug out from under state-court proceedings at the whim of opportunistic defendants like Enbridge.”

It’s our duty to protect Great Lakes: groups remain united against Line 5 pipeline

By Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter -- August 10, 2022

MICHIGAN—Efforts to protect the Great Lakes from a Line 5 oil spill disaster are first and foremost about the water. Opponents of Enbridge’s pipeline shared the latest news on the battle over the future of the 69-year-old pipeline in a live webinar July 28. Despite Enbridge’s best legal, political and media efforts, people in the Great Lakes continue to unite around water, said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW (For Love of Water). “It’s in our DNA. We instinctively know that they are part of our common heritage to enjoy and protect, and to pass on to our children and grandchildren.”

For Love of Water Reviews Legal Case Concerning Enbridge’s Line 5

August 04, 2022 -- By Alexis Rankin -- The St. Ignace News

An update on the legal and scientific background, current status, and future plans surrounding the Line 5 oil and natural gas pipeline that crosses the Straits of Mackinac was offered to inform citizens Thursday morning, July 28, in a webinar.

“The Latest on Line 5: Key Pathways to Protect the Great Lakes from an Oil Spill Disaster” was hosted by the nonprofits For Love of Water (FLOW), Oil & Water Don’t Mix, and the Bay Mills Indian Community. The webinar was intended for residents of Mackinac Island, the Straits area, and beyond. The event was also funded in part by a grant from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation and was free for all participants.

Nearly 600 people attended the online session where three panelists, Whitney Gravelle, president of the Executive Council of Bay Mills Indian Community, Sean McBrearty, campaign coordinator for Oil & Water Don’t Mix, and Zack Welcker, FLOW legal director, presented legal briefings and campaign updates regarding the 69-year-old pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge Energy, a Canadian company.

Access to the Great Lakes Shore: A Public Trust and Public Treasure

By Liz Kirkwood, FLOW Executive Director -- August/September 2022

The Great Lakes belong to all of us. They’re in our DNA. We instinctively know that these freshwater seas are part of our common heritage to enjoy and protect, and to pass on to our children and grandchildren.

As a mother living in Traverse City, I have been proud to introduce my daughter and son to these magnificent waters. We have fashioned many lasting family memories of days at the beach along Lake Michigan.

Michigan GOP governor candidates oppose shutting down 'dangerous' Great Lakes oil pipeline

By Adrian Cole -- The American Independent -- July 29, 2022

Removing Line 5 would protect Lake Michigan from a potentially disastrous oil spill and would 'have no noticeable impact to consumers,' according to one study.

Contrary to Dixon's claims, however, relatively few households in Michigan's Upper Peninsula receive propane from Line 5, according to the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. The same amount of propane carried by the pipeline could instead be delivered by "4-5 tanker trucks" or "1-2 rail cars" per day, according to a report from the Great Lakes environmental group For Love of Water (FLOW).

30+ Events to Check Out this August 2022 in Northern Michigan

by MyNorthTickets and Ashlyn Korienek | Jul 27, 2022

Seth Bernard Concert & Fundraiser | Traverse City | August 21

Protect and celebrate the water at this intimate concert featuring Seth Bernard at Civic Center Park. Plus, 100 percent of ticket sales benefit FLOW (For Love of Water) and TC Tritons High School Girls Swim/Dive Team. Buy tickets now.

Line 5 Webinar Planned July 28

The St. Ignace News— July 26, 2022

Environmental policy advocate For Love of Water (FLOW) will host a webinar about Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipeline Thursday, July 28, at 11 a.m. Local residents seeking to ask questions regarding the pipeline, and the Great Lakes tunnel project, will be given priority. The presentation, called “The Latest on Line 5: Key Pathways to Protect the Great Lakes from an Oil Spill Disaster” will review the recent updates on the pipeline, including the status of the tunnel project proposed for under the Straits of Mackinac.

The event is free and open to the public. Those wishing to participate are asked to register at bit.ly/3AdSFpb.

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood will host the session, and the speakers will include Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle, FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker, and Oil and Water Don’t Mix Campaign Coordinator Sean McBrearty.

The event is funded in part by a grant from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation.

Anne Stanton: A special night to discuss our greatest resource

Traverse City Record-Eagle— July 22, 2022

The National Writers Series draws authors from all over the country and the world. But no matter who is visiting our fair city — Margaret Atwood, Lee Child, Ann Patchett, Paul Holes, Alice Walker — they’ve all been knocked out by the beauty of our region — and, most of all, by the water around us. The Great Lakes comprise 20 percent of the world’s fresh water and their majesty and importance to the US, and our area, can’t be overestimated.

It’s easy to think the lakes will always lay shimmering on the horizon. But will they? On Aug. 25, the Writers Series is planning a special event with Jerry Dennis and Dave Dempsey, who’ve dedicated their careers as writing about, looking at, defending, and understanding the water around us.  Jerry Dennis, whose works have been translated into five languages, has written a dozen books, including “The Living Great Lakes” and “Up North in Michigan.” In the latter title, Dennis writes of seeing an abundant patch of Pitcher’s thistle, a threatened species that lives only in Great Lakes dunes. Dennis noticed the deep footprints he and others left behind.

"I Think Spirituality is Central" - a Conversation with Dave Dempsey

Great Lakes Spirituality Project— July 21, 2022

Here's a look back at Dan Robinson's post from his 2020 conversation with Dave Dempsey, author and longtime protector of the Great Lakes. Dave recently published "Great Lakes for Sale: Updated Edition," which brings to today the work he originally did with his 2008 book. You can also hear Dave speak about his work, along with Great Lakes author Jerry Dennis, on August 25 online or in-person in Traverse City, MI.

FLOW To Host Webinar on Line 5

The St. Ignace News— July 19, 2022

Environmental policy advocate For Love of Water (FLOW) will host a webinar about Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 pipeline Thursday, July 28, at 11 a.m. Local residents seeking to ask questions regarding the pipeline, and the Great Lakes tunnel project, will be given priority. The presentation, called “The Latest on Line 5: Key Pathways to Protect the Great Lakes from an Oil Spill Disaster” will review the recent updates on the pipeline, including the status of the tunnel project proposed for under the Straits of Mackinac. The event is free and open to the public. Those wishing to participate are asked to register at bit.ly/3AdSFpb.

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood will host the session, and the speakers will include Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle, FLOW Legal Director Zach Welcker, and Oil and Water Don’t Mix Campaign Coordinator Sean McBrearty. The event is funded in part by a grant from the Mackinac Island Community Foundation.

How Gov. Whitmer built a climate legacy in divided Michigan

E&E News— July 14, 2022

For a swing-state governor in a harsh political climate, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is an enviable position. Polling this summer suggested Whitmer began the campaign with an advantage over her potential opponents, though the field won’t be set until the Aug. 2 primary. Whitmer nevertheless has taken steps to future-proof her climate plans against the chance that Republicans regain the governor’s mansion. Part of that strategy involves cutting bipartisan deals, such as a $4.8 billion water funding package she crafted this year with the Republican Legislature.

“The optics are really complicated, because here we are four years later … [and] there’s not a neat conclusion,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the water advocacy group FLOW, about Whitmer's efforts to shut down the Line 5 pipeline. Whitmer has excelled at using those types of insider maneuvers to lock in her policies, Kirkwood of FLOW said. “Although you might not get the big ‘headline wins,’ you could also argue that it’s a very smart way to build the policy in the institutions that actually have the longevity to carry out the work,” she said.

State Seeks More Details on Tunnel

The St. Ignace News— July 12, 2022

Jim Olson, the senior legal advisor of the Traverse City-based environmental law and policy group For Love of Water (FLOW), praised Thursday’s decision as “a step toward victory for the public and the Great Lakes.” The group opposes the construction of the tunnel through the State of Michigan’s public bottomlands for both the impacts its construction could have on the Straits area and the ongoing risks of climate change it believes any continued operation of Line 5 could exacerbate via either the existing pipelines or new developments.

“FLOW and other interested parties have identified critical deficiencies in the tunnel project’s construction permit application, its legal authorization, and the review by state environmental agencies of expected impacts to wetlands, bottomlands, and surface water, including from the daily discharge of millions of gallons of wastewater during construction,” Mr. Olson said. “FLOW also has deep concerns about the lack of public necessity for the project, which would worsen climate change and related impacts to the Great Lakes.”

MPSC demands more information on Line 5 tunnel project

WOODTV— July 7, 2022

The Michigan Public Service Commission has voted to reopen the record on Enbridge’s Line 5 tunnel project in the Straits of Mackinac, requesting more specific information from the oil company. The order, which was approved unanimously, said the current record is “deficient” in the tunnel’s potential for fires and explosions. The commission also has remaining concerns about how construction of the tunnel project could impact the current Line 5 pipelines. Environmental groups like the Michigan League of Conservation Voters and For Love of Water are pushing for the state or federal government to shut down Line 5 and force Enbridge to re-route the pipeline away from the Great Lakes, but the concerns aren’t purely environmental. There are economic concerns, as well. A study commissioned by For Love of Water estimated a 25,000-barrel spill in the Straits could cost the Great Lakes region up to $6 billion dollars in a matter of weeks following the spill.

Michigan regulators demand more info from Enbridge on its Line 5 tunnel plan

MLive— July 7, 2022

Michigan utility regulators demanded Enbridge answer more engineering and safety questions about its plan to build an underground tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to house a section of its Line 5 oil and gas pipeline. The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Thursday, July 7, 2022, told the Canadian energy transportation giant its application was lacking details on tunnel engineering and safety measures, as well as the risk of fire or explosion from electrical equipment. Longtime environmental attorney Jim Olson of Traverse City, senior legal advisor for nonprofit For Love Of Water (FLOW) which intervened in the case, said he’s pleased with the MPSC’s demand for more details out of Enbridge. He hopes this will force the company to consider other alternatives to the continued use of Line 5 and called this a “step toward victory for the public and Great Lakes.”

U.S. Supreme Court limits climate action, but Michigan aims to stay course

Bridge Michigan— June 30, 2022

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 30 dealt a blow to the Biden administration’s efforts to decarbonize the nation’s power sector, issuing a ruling that worsens society’s odds of meeting global climate goals and could invite new legal challenges targeting federal agencies’ ability to regulate a host of industries. But in Michigan, industry officials and experts say, the decision won’t slow electrical utilities’ steady shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. “It is now even more important that states like Michigan step up to defend and strengthen their environmental safeguards,” said Jim Olson, senior legal advisor at FLOW. “Fortunately, under the (federal) Clean Air Act, states can continue to limit and force the shutdown of existing coal plants under state laws and regulations.”

Activist champions water as a human right

The Toledo Blade— June 16, 2022

One of the world’s best-known water activists said this week she finds it appalling and racist when communities in the water-rich Great Lakes region, such as Detroit, shut off service to low-income people who have trouble keeping up with payments on their bills.

“It's just an incredible indictment of what our values are when we have to look at that,” Canadian Maude Barlow said during an hour-long webinar held Wednesday night by the Traverse City-based group, FLOW, which stands For Love of Water.

Great Lakes levels are down, but it may be too soon to celebrate

Traverse City Record-Eagle— June 15, 2022

Great Lakes water levels are declining from their record-level highs two years ago. While that will be a welcome change for communities and property owners who have been trying to keep up with erosion affecting their shoreline, some experts are advising caution before folks get swept up in a wave of relief. "We have a real problem," FLOW founder Jim Olson told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. "We've designed all of our engineering and land design and construction and building an infrastructure is all centered on the historical range, not the new range."

International Joint Commission— June 14, 2022

Artists like Glenn Wolff can help us visualize the interplay between Great Lakes groundwater and surface water, as depicted in this illustration commissioned by Michigan-based nonprofit FLOW. FLOW commissioned a conceptual integration of groundwater and surface water by Michigan artist Glenn Wolff.

St. Marys River oil spill highlights bigger Line 5 risk to Great Lakes, critics say

MLive— June 14, 2022

Environmental advocates say damage from oil spills in Great Lakes waters will be long-term problems. That includes the oil spill last week in the St. Marys River. “We will not know for a long time about the damage to any of the fisheries and you know the benthic environment of those waters in the Soo,” said Liz Kirkwood, executive director at Traverse City-based nonprofit For Love of Water (FLOW) which advocates for shutting down Line 5. “I keep on imagining I’m going to get this call about Line 5, and I just don’t know, we’re not going to get a lot more wake-up calls.”

Water Advocates “Concerned” About Groundwater, Drinking Water After U.P. Oil Spil

9&10 News— June 10, 2022

Last week's oil spill has renewed concern about water quality in Michigan, reports 9&10 News. FLOW's new Groundwater Table report found Michigan’s groundwater quality is often overlooked and water advocates are sounding the alarm. FLOW is concerned about Thursday’s oil spill into the St. Mary’s River. FLOW Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, says it’s a sign something needs to be done to protect our waters. “Oil and water don’t mix. And it’s extremely difficult to clean up,” Kirkwood states. “This oil spill is just part of a long litany of other human made disaster that imperil our waters.”

Opinion | Michigan must protect its underground water

Bridge Michigan— June 9, 2022

Water flows through a single cycle from air to surface water and groundwater, or from the land to lakes and streams, evaporating and beginning its journey all over again. But environmental law and policy often overlook an entire arc of the cycle, neglecting to include groundwater, and as a result, exposing the public to health risks and exposing ecosystems to degradation, writes FLOW's Dave Dempsey for Bridge Michigan.

Massive salmon farm gets green light from Ohio DNR

Great Lakes Now— June 1, 2022

Liz Kirkwood, executive director of For Love of Water, a Traverse City-based water policy center, said every water diversion in the Great Lakes region matters.

“These are the types of quantities that raise alarm bells for all jurisdictions in the Great lakes Basin,” she said. “The Great Lakes Compact was really clear about directing states to monitor and evaluate these massive water withdrawals, because they have tremendous impact not only on individual aquifers but on the larger watersheds and ultimately the Great Lakes Basin itself.”

Crude Oil Catastrophes Part 2: "A Perfect Storm"

Interlochen Public Radio— May 27, 2022

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood sets the record straight on Line 5:
* The writing is on the wall that it’s not a question of if, but when Line 5 ruptures.
* It doesn’t make sense to expose one of the most globally unique freshwater bodies on this planet to an oil disaster. We know it’s going to happen.
* It doesn’t have to be either/or. It doesn’t have to be the Line 5 pipeline or a surge in oil by rail. Other pipelines have excess capacity running to the same refineries.
* In the end, renewables are the answer to protect fresh water and the climate.
* FLOW, commissioned a researcher with Michigan State University to study what the economic impact of a spill might be. That study estimated about $45 billion in losses. That includes drinking water and natural resource damage, as well as impacts to industries like tourism, shipping and fisheries.

Volunteers clean up State Park Beach over the weekend

Up North Live— May 16, 2022

Volunteers organized by M-22 gathered at the State Park Beach in Traverse City on Saturday morning for a clean-up.  More than five large burlap bags were filled with trash. Organizers said it's important to collect it now before it breaks down into microplastics.

"Tourists also have a big impact on the beaches by bringing new trash to the areas and not remembering to take it with them when they leave,” For Love of Water Development Specialist Tessa Diem said. “So, this was a great spring cleaning to get the beaches to a nice base level."

The ethics and economics of trading water futures

Interlochen Public Radio— April 29, 2022

“I think water is a human right, and I don’t think we should be speculating or trading in human rights,” FLOW senior policy advisor and "Great Lakes for Sale" author Dave Dempsey told Interlochen Public Radio (IPR). Ninety percent of North America’s surface freshwater is in the Great Lakes. So every now and then, the Great Lakes are proposed as a solution to drought in the American West. There’s been speculation about piping water to Idaho, Phoenix or Las Vegas. FLOW believes the more immediate danger is commodifying water, including trading water on a futures market.

“That's a taste of what's to come,” Dempsey told IPR. “And these diversions are legal under the compact if they're within Great Lakes states,” adding that such legal diversions are a concerning loophole in the Great Lakes Compact.

State bill provides funding for water infrastructure

The Petoskey News-Review— April 23, 2022

In March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Building Michigan Together Plan, which included the largest infrastructure investment in state history. 

“We were particularly pleased with the septic system money, $35 million, because it's really the first time the state has made a commitment to helping property owners, homeowners pay for the replacement of septic systems. We got at least 130,000 failing septic systems in Michigan and we need to begin addressing that problem,” For Love of Water (FLOW) Senior Advisor Dave Dempsey said. FLOW is also pleased with the $10 million to implement recommendations by the Water Use Advisory Council, which will help gather data on groundwater so it can be better understood and managed.

Kicking Off Earth Day Celebrations at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City

TV 9&10 News — April 22, 2022

Happy Earth Day! Coverage of Northwest Michigan College's Earth Day festivities in Traverse City, including a free concert on the main campus and other activities focussing on environmental issues, especially water. Information tables were set up by campus and community groups, including NMC Water Studies, the NMC Green Team, FLOW (For Love of Water) non-profit, Title Track, and more.

Great Lakes region marks half a century since adoption of Water Quality Agreement

Daily Kos — April 15, 2022

Over the years, additional provisions have been added to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to address invasive species, environmental and health threats, and climate change, the latter of which For Love of Water (FLOW) executive director Liz Kirkwood has especially kept an eye on. “The biggest threat to the Great Lakes is undoubtedly climate change,” Kirkwood said in a statement. “It will alter the waters of the Great Lakes Basin in many ways, only some of them not foreseeable. Warming groundwater, changes in the aquatic food web, and increasing algae blooms are among the expected impacts.” Being that the Great Lakes make up 20% of the planet’s fresh surface water, those changes could severely impact the ecosystem. Around 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes region for drinking water, and the lakes are considered a vital carbon sink.

Our Drinking Water Lacks the Protection It Deserves

Lansing State Journal — April 2, 2022

Opinion article by Dave Dempsey, FLOW Senior Advisior

A natural resource on which nearly half the population of Michigan depends every day is one that most of us rarely think about: Groundwater, and it’s especially critical in mid-Michigan. The tri-county area depends almost exclusively on groundwater as a drinking water source—both from public wells managed by the Lansing Board of Water and Light and the City of East Lansing, and thousands of private wells in outlying areas.

UN urges the world to give groundwater the attention it needs

Toledo Blade — March 22, 2022

“The Great Lakes can never be restored if groundwater isn't protected,” Liz Kirkwood, executive director of the Traverse City, Mich.-based environmental group called FLOW said.

House Democrats introduce bills to protect Michigan groundwater

Michigan Radio — March 21, 2022

A new package of bills introduced in the Michigan State House would direct the state to treat groundwater as a public trust. That’s among the protections for groundwater included in the bills, which are sponsored by four House Democrats. Environmental groups applaud the move. They say that in an increasingly thirsty world, it’s important to ensure that water isn’t turned into a commodity like oil.

 “The bills will direct the Department of Natural Resources to be strong public trustees of the lands and water it manages,” said Liz Kirkwood, head of the Traverse City-based For Love of Water, or FLOW. “The Great Lakes must never be for sale. And Michigan's groundwater must never become privatized and siphoned away. We must protect every arc of the water cycle for the benefit of the public today and for generations to come.” Kirkwood said the legislation would also close what she called a “loophole” in the current Great Lakes Compact. That loophole allows private companies and others to extract groundwater in the state, so long as it uses containers no larger than 5.7 gallons.

Northerners You Need to Know: Katherine Corden: The Lakeside Painter

Northern Express — March 5, 2022

Because she lives in northern Michigan, painter Katherine Corden finds inspiration everywhere she goes. Her loose, layered style gives viewers the feeling of “hanging out at the beach” or enjoying the “social culture that surrounds our Great Lakes region.” Corden also makes sure to connect back to the natural world she loves. “I donate a small percentage of my proceeds to FLOW,” Corden says, referring to the environmental nonprofit For Love of Water. “I live here in Traverse City, and the Great Lakes are so important to me. They inspire my work significantly, and [FLOW is] a cause that’s close to my heart.”

Comments overwhelmingly against AquaBounty project

Toledo Blade — March 2, 2022

Plans to build an enclosed salmon-rearing facility in this Williams County village have drawn a sharp rebuke from hundreds of residents who live within a short drive of the proposed site, according to publicly available written statements submitted to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Even in water-rich Michigan, there's no guarantee of enough for all

Associated Press — February 27, 2022

Some futurists depict Michigan and the Great Lakes as "climate havens" that will lure people and businesses weary of worsening drought, wildfire, hurricanes and other disasters. Not so fast, skeptics say. Amid images of abundance lurk problems with pollution, overuse and deteriorating infrastructure. Outsiders "see these five enormous lakes and assume there's more than enough water for everybody," FLOW senior policy advisor David Dempsey told the Associated Press. "But we have tons of unresolved problems."

Enbridge gets green light to seek proposals for Line 5 tunnel

Toledo Blade — February 16, 2022

FLOW is urging the Mackinac Straits Corridor Authority “to suspend further consideration of this ill-conceived project until Enbridge seeks and obtains legal authorization to occupy state bottomlands from appropriate state agencies," The Blade reported last week. FLOW contends that Enbridge has never received authorization from the state of Michigan to occupy state-owned bottomlands, citing the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. The state has never made required public trust findings to authorize a public utility easement “Without such authorization, Enbridge does not have a ‘legal warrant’ to occupy state-owned bottomlands."

Dempsey: Great Lakes Compact ‘2.0’ necessary to protect against water commodification

Michigan Advance — February 3, 2022

Scientists predict that by 2050, Michigan will be the safest state in the country to escape from increasingly severe effects of climate change. According to FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey, that may not be such good news for the Great Lakes State itself. “If you turn the Great Lakes into a product, you’re going to, in essence, begin draining the Great Lakes for the Southwest or other areas that are climate impacted,” Dempsey said. With a keen eye on water scarcity, climate change and the increasing pace of water commodification as it pertains to Michigan and its five lakes, Dempsey has emerged from a 30-year career as perhaps the most well-known figure in Michigan’s realm of environmental policy.

Madcap Coffee joins 1% for the Planet

Grand Rapids Magazine — January 28, 2022

A Grand Rapids-based coffee company became a member of an initiative that supports environmental advocacy through donations to nonprofits. Madcap Coffee Company said Thursday, Jan. 27, it now is a member of 1% for the Planet, effective Jan. 1. As part of its membership in this initiative, Madcap is committing to donate 1% of its annual sales to support nonprofits focused on defending the environment, combatting climate change and conserving water. To celebrate its 1% membership and to highlight its retail expansion into northern Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula with the acquisition of Blue Boat Coffee in September, Madcap is partnering with Traverse City-based nonprofit and 1% partner For Love of Water (FLOW) to launch a seasonal Lake Effect winter coffee blend and associated merchandise collection. Ten percent of café and online sales from Madcap’s Lake Effect coffee and collection will benefit FLOW, which is dedicated to protecting and preserving waters in the Great Lakes Basin through education; policy; and solutions to pressing energy, water and climate issues.

Madcap Coffee acquires Blue Boat Coffee in Leland

Glen Arbor Sun — January 26, 2022

Grand Rapids-based Madcap Coffee Company has acquired Leland-based Blue Boat Coffee and will open its fourth café location in Michigan and its first in Leelanau County. Prior to Madcap’s acquisition, Blue Boat—the Fishtown-adjacent café and coffee destination known both for its blue to-go cups and its popularity with locals and vacationers in Leland—had been a highly collaborative and successful wholesale partner of Madcap Coffee since opening its doors in 2014.

This week Madcap also announced its initial membership in 1% for the Planet and the company’s intent to donate 1% of annual sales to support nonprofit organizations focused on the environment, climate change, and water conservation. To celebrate its 1% membership and to highlight its retail expansion into Leelanau County, Madcap is partnering with FLOW to launch its seasonal Lake Effect winter coffee blend and a supporting merchandise collection. 10% of café and online sales from Madcap’s Lake Effect coffee and collection will directly benefit FLOW, whose mission is protecting and preserving waters in the Great Lakes Basin through public trust principles like education, policy, and solutions to urgent energy, water, and climate issues.

Why the water in the Great Lakes should not be "for sale," according to one Michigan author

WMUK — January 11, 2022

In the drought-stricken West, some people are turning toward the Great Lakes and asking, what if we could bring some of that water out here? It wouldn’t be the first time water’s been diverted from the Lakes. Would-be buyers might also point to commercial water bottling in Michigan, says conservationist and Western Michigan University graduate Dave Dempsey. "The bottled water industry has, I think, lulled people into a state of numbness about the idea of water as a product," Dempsey said in a recent interview with WMUK.

Shifting political winds could send Great Lakes water sailing to other states, new book warns

MLive — January 4, 2022

As the effects of climate change continue to scorch the thirsty West and bake the Sun Belt, politicians and pundits in recent years have turned envious eyes toward the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Compact was hailed as the ironclad ban on diversions of America’s freshwater seas, but FLOW senior policy advisor Dave Dempsey reminds readers in "Great Lakes For Sale, Updated Edition" that political winds shift, particularly as negative climate impacts compound. The book argues for the agreement to be revisited as environmental conditions have changed in the dozen years since the Compact’s adoption. “We have a growing chorus of voices in the West, suggesting the Great Lakes might be an answer to their water scarcity,” Dempsey told MLive.com. “We need to be awakened again to that threat and devise new strategies to combat it.”

Reconnecting America: What can the trillion dollar infrastructure bill achieve?

BBC — January 3, 2022

"In the past decade, we as a state have faced extraordinary water crises, and the poster child that was a wakeup call for American water infrastructure was the Flint lead crisis. That tragedy was absolutely unconscionable; the water color changed; people's hair started falling out, the smell was foul," FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told the BBC News World Business Report. "There is this urgent need to replace these lead service lines. We need to focus on the most elemental things, ensuring that everyone has safe water, clean water, basic necessities. It's a very positive development that we're seeing bipartisan support at the federal level, but also at the state level, to move and advance water infrastructure agenda that prioritizes rebuilding our system to ensure safe, affordable water for all."

The Michigan Senate last month unanimously passed the largest water infrastructure investment in the state's history. "A transformational $3.3 billion," said Kirkwood. Following decades of underinvestment. Michigan's water systems are hopelessly out of date. Kirkwood and others are urging major upgrades to massive water systems. The hope is that federal money will kickstart those upgrades.

Reconnecting America: What can the trillion dollar infrastructure bill achieve?

BBC — January 3, 2022

"In the past decade, we as a state have faced extraordinary water crises, and the poster child that was a wakeup call for American water infrastructure was the Flint lead crisis. That tragedy was absolutely unconscionable; the water color changed; people's hair started falling out, the smell was foul," FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood told the BBC News World Business Report. "There is this urgent need to replace these lead service lines. We need to focus on the most elemental things, ensuring that everyone has safe water, clean water, basic necessities. It's a very positive development that we're seeing bipartisan support at the federal level, but also at the state level, to move and advance water infrastructure agenda that prioritizes rebuilding our system to ensure safe, affordable water for all."

The Michigan Senate last month unanimously passed the largest water infrastructure investment in the state's history. "A transformational $3.3 billion," said Kirkwood. Following decades of underinvestment. Michigan's water systems are hopelessly out of date. Kirkwood and others are urging major upgrades to massive water systems. The hope is that federal money will kickstart those upgrades.

Click to access the 2021 Archive of FLOW in the News.