Tag: FLOW

The Province: B.C. should enshrine ‘public trust’ principle to protect its groundwater, says Michigan water lawyer

Read the full article in The Province here

Nestle - Laurence Gillieron, APAmid growing controversy around B.C.’s lax groundwater regulation, an American lawyer who waged a 10-year winning court battle against Nestlé is watching to see how the province modernizes its century-old Water Act.

The Province’s reports last week on Nestlé and other companies extracting B.C. groundwater without regulation caught the attention of Michigan environmental lawyer Jim Olson, who offered his views on the matter.

Olson is no stranger to these issues. In 2010, he was awarded the State Bar of Michigan’s Champion of Justice award for the decade-long court battle he waged on behalf of Michigan citizens against Nestlé.

The case of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation vs. Nestlé began in 2000, when activists grew concerned the government was not adequately monitoring or controlling Nestlé’s water-taking practices in the region.

Representing the citizens, Olson won the case, resulting in Nestlé being ordered to reduce its water withdrawals during low-flow seasons.

Now, Olson says he’s watching B.C. But beyond the specific details of B.C.’s proposed water regulation — the price charged per million litres, the number of litres allowed, how much to allocate to different users, and so on — Olson says one vital piece of any new legislation is a broader legal concept: the public trust.

“This is true in both the United States and Canada, both states and provinces, no matter what water regime you choose … it’s going to be very important for each province to declare water a public trust,” Olson said from his law office in Michigan.

The public trust concept essentially means water is a public resource owned by the people of Canada, with the government acting as a trustee responsible for taking care of the resource.

“It’s a very important principle, even if it’s a one-paragraph declaration,” Olson said. “It would operate as a shield against unforeseen claims and unforeseen circumstances.”

Olson gives a hypothetical example: if, at some point in the future, B.C.’s water resources were depleted significantly, the government might ask a bottled water company to reduce their water takings accordingly. But without the public trust doctrine enshrined in legislation, it would be much more difficult to make that company reduce its consumption, not unlike Olson’s court case against Nestlé in Michigan.

The public trust doctrine is becoming increasingly common and established in modern water legislation, said Oliver Brandes, a water expert from the University of Victoria’s faculty of law. The legal concept is more evolved in several American states, and has been incorporated into environmental legislation in some parts of Canada, including Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Quebec.

The public trust concept acknowledges that water is different from other resources, said Brandes.

“There are certain resources that are just so special, because life depends on it,” Brandes said. “Something like oil and gas, it isn’t crucial to life. But water, you have to protect it for everybody, because if you take it away, there is no substitute.”

Kalkaska County: The centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin

Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member Emma Lui is the Water Campaign Director for the Council of Canadians. She shared her recent blog post with us about her recent trip to Kalkaska, MI. Read the original post on canadians.org

Driving into Kalkaska County, the welcome sign displays a picture of an oil well which is indicative of the history of oil and gas drilling in the county.

Welcome sign to Kalkaska, MIFLOW’s Communications Director Eric Olson and I drove 30 minutes outside of Traverse City Monday afternoon to the neighbouring county of Kalkaska. Kalkaska is an economically depressed community and many closed stores on Kalkaska’s downtown are a stark indication of that.

We met with Paul Brady, a ‘fracking watchdog’ according to media reports, who took us to see some of Encana’s well sites. The first well site we visited was the Excelsior 1-13 well in Excelsior Township, one of Kalkaska’s twelve townships. The site stores equipment and produces gas but minimal compared to some of Encana’s other well sites. But Encana has plans to expand the number of horizontal wells at this site. The development of the original site destroyed wetlands and some residents are concerned that Encana’s expansion will further destroy wetlands in the area.

Excelsior Well operated by EncanaKalkaska has become the centre of fracking in Michigan with more fracking permits and active applications than any other county in the state. What’s more, not only is Canadian company Encana planning to frack 500 new deep shale wells in the area but they are also breaking records with the amount of water they are using to frack Kalkaska’s wells. According to the National Wildlife Federation’s report Hydraulic Fracturing in the Great Lakes Basin: The State of Play in Michigan in Ohio, most fracked wells in the Utica shale use between 7.5 and 22.7 million litres of water but Encana has reported that it used 45 million litres of groundwater per well to frack the Excelsior 2-25and Garfield 1-25 wells and 80 million litres of groundwater to frack its Excelsior 3-25 well. Recent news reports revealed that Ecana wants to withdraw 15 billion litres of water for the 500 new wells they plan to frack.

Michigan may soon be the state with the most fracking within the Great Lakes Basin, making Kalkaska County the centre of fracking in the Great Lakes Basin. Ohio and Pennsylvania are Great Lakes states with a significant amount of fracking but most of the fracking within these states occurs outside of the Basin.

Encana brine tanks fracking Kalkaska

 

Next we drove down a dirt road called Sunset Trail and arrived at what Paul calls “Michigan’s first superpad,” known as the Oliver pad. The pad currently has three wells, which were completed in November of 2011 and are now producing wells. There are five more to come, for a total of eight wells. Standing on a small hill just outside the Oliver pad, we saw Encana’s holding tanks of condensate and brine. The site is clean, neat and almost sparse, with no traces of the toxic mixture that Encana used to frack the three wells on site – a very different picture from when the wells were being fracked. But the real threat is what can’t be seen above ground. Encana will draw groundwater in Kalkaska resulting in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch of the Manistee River. The North Branch of the Manistee River, a coldwater trout stream, is roughly 1400 feet from where we stood looking at the fracked wells of the Oliver pad.

Emma Lui fracking kalkaskaAs we walked on Sunset Trail which is in the Pere Marquette State Forest, Paul tells us the story of how back in May 2012, Team Services, a company contracted out by Encana, sprayed over 150,000 litres of fracking flowback on the very road we were walking on.

We drove down a few roads and arrived at the North Branch of the Manistee River. It looks small and unassuming but is a tributary to the Manistee River, which itself is a winding river of over 300 kilometres that eventually snakes its way to Lake Michigan. As mentioned, Encana’s fracking projects will result in the loss of approximately 1.1 billion litres from the North Branch.

Kalkaska wastewater

Encana has other well sites in the county including the Garfield well in Garfield Township which used 45 million litres of water in December 2012 as well as the Westerman well site in Rapid River Township where residents have raised concerns about water well failures after fracking began.

Encana’s proposed fracking plans are a threat to the county’s water sources, Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. The shorelines of Lake Michigan are already under stress, with Lakes Michigan, Ontario and Erie having the highest levels of cumulative stress. Several municipalities in Michigan have already placed a moratorium on fracking.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan has begun a statewide ballot initiative to “prohibit the new type of horizontal fracking and frack wastes in Michigan.” 258, 088 signatures are required in order for Michigan to hold a referendum on the issue in 2014. Click here to endorse this initiative.

As Maude Barlow points out in her report Our Great Lakes Commons: A People’s Plan to Protect the Great Lakes Forever, while there are many political jurisdictions governing the Great Lakes Basin, it is, in fact, one integrated watershed and needs to be seen and governed as such. We need to work towards banning fracking around the lakes in order to protect the entire Great Lakes Basin.

To read background information about fracking in Michigan, click here.
To view more pictures from this trip, click here.

Emma Lui’s blog

Canada’s Bill 6 Great Lakes Protection Act, the Public Trust, and Your Water Rights

Jim Olson, FLOW President

Jim Olson, FLOW President

This week I teamed up with Ralph Pentland, a leading Canadian water policy expert (see Pentland and Wood, Down the Drain, Greystone Books, 2013), and submitted to the Ontario Parliament comments on Bill 6, its proposed Great Lakes Protection Act. Bill 6 looks to the future by requiring policy and initiatives to protect Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, but does not declare or recognize the importance of protecting the public’s right to use these waters and the water they depend on for enjoyment.

FLOW has been working at several levels to make sure the Great Lakes are protected as a public trust – with the International Joint Commission, federal government, and the states. But Canada and its provinces are equally part of the Great Lakes Basin and community, and they, too, recognize the importance of the public right to boat, fish, and swim in the Great Lakes basin. As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court and state courts have ruled for more than 100 years that the waters, shore, and bottomland of the Great Lakes and all connecting or tributary streams and waters are owned by the state and held in trust for all citizens of each state, as legal beneficiaries. This means the state must protect, and that others cannot impair, the public’s right to boat, fish, swim and enjoy these public trust waters and shores.

Canada’s Pentland and my joint comments on Bill 6 to Ontario legislators and leaders spell out the application of the public right to use these waters that is recognized by the provinces, and that these rights, like the public trust in the U.S., are held in trust by the government. On both sides of the border, these waters are held in trust, and government has an affirmative duty to account to the people as beneficiaries that the waters have been and will be protected. If governments or others violate this duty, citizens have a right to demand the violation is correct — like beach closings, nutrient run off and “dead zones,” and drops in water levels. Pentland and I urge Ontario to declare these waters a public trust and impose duties and rights to make sure the rights of all citizens, the legal beneficiaries of the trust, are honored from one generation to the next.

The full text of our comments are set forth below:
Click here to view the comments as a PDF

31 October, 2013

Submission Regarding Bill 6, Great Lakes Protection Act

Ralph Pentland1 and James Olson2

The preamble to Bill 6 states that “In the face of the pressures of population growth and development, and threats such as climate change and invasive species, three of Ontario’s four Great Lakes are in decline.”3

That is clearly an understatement. New toxic substances are showing up in fish and sediments. These include fire retardants, plasticizers, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products. Many of these pose a risk to fish, wildlife and people. Although the exact cause has not been definitively established, various species of Great Lakes fish now suffer from tumors and lesions, and their reproductive capacities are decreasing. Of the ten most valuable species in Lake Ontario, seven have almost totally vanished.

Non-native species are threatening the balance in biological systems and water chemistry, and climate change is contributing new challenges to the sustainability and health of the basin. In recent years, we have been witnessing biological deserts developing in some areas, a series of botulism outbreaks in fish and birds, and extensive algae blooms. An increasing proportion of these algae blooms are blue-green cyanobacteria, which when they break down release a variety of liver, skin and neurological toxins.4

We applaud Ontario for its environmental leadership for more than a century. It introduced the first nineteenth century public health Act, and was the first to manage water resources within the natural contours of river basins in the 1940s. Uniquely among provinces, Ontario enacted an Environmental Bill of Rights in 1993 which acknowledges that Ontarians “have a right to a healthy environment” and to “the means that it is ensured.”

In 2002, the Province passed the Safe Drinking Water Act, which tightened oversight of municipal utilities, and mandated water testing and reporting to provincial authorities. The Clean Water Act followed four years later. Both of these, along with existing legislation, such as the Ontario Water Resources Act (which among other things regulates municipal sewage discharge) received further updates in a suite of related amendments in 2009. And in 2010, the Water Opportunities and Water Conservation Act authorized a variety of measures, including mandatory plans for water sustainability.

The vision of Bill 6 to authorize policy initiatives, and if ever adopted implement the initiatives as benchmarks for governmental decision-making is laudatory. But, given the magnitude of the issues and the urgency for action to address the systematic threats to these waters, simply piling on more and more laws will not in and of itself accomplish the desired outcome. During the 20 years of legislative activism since enactment of the Environmental Bill of Rights in 1993, the Ontario Ministry of Environment lost 45 % of its budget, while overall government spending soared by 72% (in constant dollars). Coincidentally federal environmental capacity was also drastically curtailed over the same period. And not coincidentally, the decline in the health of the Great Lakes has accelerated over that same 20 year period.

After delivering his annual report to the Ontario legislature in November of 2011, Environment Commissioner Gordon Miller reminded reporters that “I have 30 years of experience and I’m nervous”. He pointed to a “culture of inaction and procrastination” in defence of water productive ecosystems, marked by a demonstrable decline in resources dedicated to protecting Ontario’s overtaxed landscape.5

Have we been making the right choices? Probably not. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that well-designed and stringently enforced environmental regulation will yield economic benefits greater than their costs. As we let the quality, and in some instances the quantity of the Great Lakes and other provincial ecosystems decline, there is a very high probability that we are becoming both less wealthy and less healthy than we would have been if we had protected those ecosystems more rigorously.6

The proposed Great Lakes Protection Act has many good features. But, it could be both more effective and more beneficial if it were to include provisions designed to uphold the Bill of Rights guarantees of a “right to a healthy environment” and “the means that it is ensured.”

In enacting the Environmental Bill of Rights in 1993, the Province of Ontario essentially and quite appropriately accepted the fact that it has a fiduciary duty to preserve the essence of provincial environmental resources for the use and enjoyment of the entire populace into perpetuity. There can be no more important governmental responsibility than preserving the natural security supporting health, wealth and life itself.

The Ontario Bill of Rights commitments are not unlike the public trust doctrine as it has evolved in the United States and has been increasingly recognized in Canada. Public trust principles can be traced from Rome to the present, through both civil law systems, like those in France and Spain, and common law systems, like those in Canada and the United States. As a result, generally the waters of the Great Lakes are held in the public domain in the name of the Crown in Canada, and in the sovereign state in the United States, in trust for the benefit and welfare of its citizens.

Today, the courts in all eight Great Lakes states have recognized the public trust doctrine, either expressly by naming the Great Lakes and the connecting or tributary waters subject to a public trust, or though application of the public’s paramount right and use of public or navigable waters. More recently, the Canadian courts have begun to recognize the potential of public trust principles, and several Canadian water law and policy experts have urged the adoption of public trust principles by the courts or the provincial governments. And, while not labelled public trust, Canadian courts have consistently recognized that the Great Lakes are subject to a paramount right of the public to navigate, fish, boat and otherwise enjoy these waters. This means the governments hold the waters in trust to prevent a subordination or interference with this fundamental public right.

Under these principles, governments have a continuing duty to determine that there will be no significant impairment or harm to the flows, levels, quality and integrity of public trust waters, uses and ecosystems before they approve or deny a governmental private action. This duty requires the collection of data and information necessary for long-term planning sufficient to satisfy the solemn and perpetual trust responsibility, and affected interests and citizens as beneficiaries can institute administrative or judicial actions, as a last resort, to enforce public trust duties or apply public trust limitations that protect the integrity of the whole.7 If this duty is honoured by government and citizens, there will be instant consideration of the whole of the systemic threats facing the Great Lakes in every government decision that may impact these waters, their uses, and ecosystem. This would bring about instant accountability while the policy and initiatives called or by Bill 6 are developed and implemented.

Public trust (or public rights) principles could be introduced into Bill 6 by including:

  1. A general recognition of the interconnected or single hydrological relationship of the waters of the Ontario portion of the Great Lakes Basin with other portions of the Basin waters, including tributary groundwater and surface waters.
  2. A general recognition that these waters are held by the Crown in common and in public trust as recognized by decisions of the courts in Ontario and the Supreme Court of Canada.
  3. A recognition that, along with First Nation interests, each citizen has a right as a member of the public to use and enjoy the waters and the bed of the Great Lakes and connecting and tributary navigable waters for boating, swimming, navigation and other water dependent public needs.
  4. A provision that such public right to use and enjoy these waters shall not be subordinated to primary private purposes or otherwise materially interfered with or impaired.
  5. A provision that any initiatives, decisions and instruments made or proposed under this Act shall conform to these public rights in navigable waters.

Endnotes
1. Ralph Pentland is Acting Chair of the Canadian Water Issues Council at the University of Toronto. He resides in Ottawa, Ontario
2. James Olson is Chairman of FLOW U.S. (for the Love of Water). He resides in Traverse City, Michigan
3. Bill 6, Great Lakes Protection Act 2013
4. Ralph Pentland and Chris Wood, Down the Drain: How We Are Failing to Protect Our Water Resources, Greystone Books, 2013
5. Gord Miller, Engaging Solutions: Annual Report 2010/2011, November 2011
6. Chapters 7 and 8 of Down the Drain (see 4 above)
7. James Olson and Elizabeth Kirkwood, Submission to the International Joint Commission, Comments on the Lake Erie Ecosystem Integrity (LEEP) Report, Scientific Findings and Policy Recommendations to Reduce Nutrient Loadings and Harmful Algal Blooms

FLOW Marks First Two Protective Ordinance Packages

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Liz Kirkwoood, Executive Director
231 944 1568 or liz@flowforwater.org

FLOW Marks First Two Protective Ordinance Packages:
Addresses Fracking Impacts for Two Michigan Townships

TRAVERSE CITY, MI — In late November, FLOW—the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center—will roll out two Protective Ordinance Packages for two separate townships in Michigan. The Protective Ordinance Packages are designed to protect the townships’ water, land, and air resources from impacts of the high volume hydraulic fracturing (HVHF) method for extracting oil and natural gas from deep shale reserves, commonly known as “fracking.”

Gun Plain Charter Township in Allegan County and Cannon Township in Kent County are the first two townships to participate in FLOW’s Local Government Ordinance Program. This participatory workshop series for citizens and local township and planning officials culminates in a tailor-made Protective Ordinance Package developed by FLOW to address community concerns and improve local regulations.

“Our goal was to educate our people and identify specific things we can do to alleviate the potential impacts and risks of fracking,” says Gun Plain Charter Township Supervisor Mike VanDenBerg. Gun Plain Charter Township partnered with FLOW in May to participate in the Local Government Ordinance Program.

The Program is unique because it enables communities to chart their own future, strengthen their existing local regulations, and preserve their rural and agricultural character. In a two-part workshop series, the program:

  • engages and educates local government official and residents about the risks and impacts of fracking and specific legal strategies for communities to consider;
  • identifies community priorities and related oil and gas activities to regulate (e.g., water withdrawals, chemical disclosure, roads/truck traffic impacts, pipelines, etc.); and
  • recommends optimal strategies for integrating and amending the community’s existing master plans, zoning and police power ordinances, and franchise agreements in the Protective Ordinance Package.

The local planning commission and township board then use the Protective Ordinance Package as the foundation for drafting and adopting substantive ordinances protecting water, air, and land from fracking impacts and preserving their community.

Based on the past months’ workshops and community input, the Gun Plain Charter Township Protective Ordinance Package identifies the following seven fracking related activities for the Township to regulate:

  1. truck traffic and routes,
  2. franchise agreements and consent to use roads,
  3. chemical disclosure for hauling and emergency response plans,
  4. surface water contamination,
  5. noise and dust nuisance,
  6. trout stream protections, groundwater conflicts, and the study of hydrogeologic impacts, and
  7. contamination issues for first responders in case of emergency.

Similarly, the Cannon Township Protective Ordinance Package identifies nine areas, including:

  1. high-volume water removal, on-site pumps, tanks, and handling facilities,
  2. chemical disclosure and use, mixing tanks, and air emissions,
  3. disclosure and consideration of impacts before permit approval,
  4. incompatible ancillary industrial-type land uses and facilities, such as production and sweetening facilities, mixing tanks, pump stations, and pipelines,
  5. access roads, truck traffic, and safety,
  6. road use, truck routes, indemnity and bonds for spills, wear and tear of roads,
  7. nuisance impacts, including noise, dust, light pollution, hours of operation, vibrations, and odors,
  8. flow lines, gathering lines, and pipelines, and
  9. accident prevention plans, fire and emergency response to chemical releases or related accidents.

“FLOW developed this program to both inform communities about the impacts and potential threats of fracking, and to provide local governments with solutions within the scope of their existing legal authority,” says FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood.

“We get dozens of calls from township and county government leaders who want to address fracking threats but are concerned that it might be illegal to regulate all activities related to fracking.” she says, “Townships and counties do have the authority to regulate ancillary fracking activities, and FLOW’s program zeros in on these important local legal solutions in developing our Protective Ordinance Packages.”

After the several public meetings held in each township, FLOW evaluated the townships’ respective master plans, zoning and police power ordinances, and franchise agreements. Then FLOW considered the priorities identified by the community and leaders, and drafted the Protective Ordinance Package as a menu of recommendations for amending the existing laws and adopting new ordinances.

These Protective Ordinance Packages come at a time when both Gun Plain Charter Township and Cannon Township are in the process of their five-year review of their townships’ master plans.

Gun Plain Charter Township and Cannon Township first approached FLOW about participating in the program in March and April 2013, respectively.

FLOW President and Chair of the Board of Directors, Jim Olson, gave a presentation to a group of Supervisors in Allegan County back in March, speaking to the risks and impacts of fracking and the legal strategies and tools available to citizens and leaders. This is where Gun Plain Charter Township officials first learned of and showed interest in FLOW’s program.

Combined, FLOW staff Olson and Kirkwood have delivered this informative legal strategies and tools presentation to more than ten communities across Michigan in the past ten months, reaching hundreds of community leaders and citizens. FLOW has also partnered with land-use planner and hydrogeologist, Dr. Christopher Grobbel in making presentations and evaluating optimal ordinance strategies.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook,” says Kirkwood, “and the interest in our informational presentation and Local Government Ordinance Program continues to grow. People are really concerned about what is going to happen to their community’s natural resources after a fracking permit gets approved and they need solutions before this stage.”

Since 2010, the nature of fracking operations in Michigan have changed dramatically in terms of land-use impact and water used to fracture and release natural gas in the tight shale formations. For example, the Pioneer well in Missaukee County used 6.7 millions gallons of water, and now pending permit applications plan to use up to 35 million gallons of water forever lost to the water cycle.

“Regulating the industrial related impacts of fracking is just like regulating any other industrial activity at the local level.” observes Kirkwood, “Imagine if local governments allowed sand and gravel pits, shopping malls, cell towers and other industrial uses to come into their communities and do business unregulated.”

FLOW’s program is designed to protect the rural and agricultural character of the communities in Michigan that are most vulnerable to the negative spillover effects of fracking happening on adjacent state land or neighboring private land.

The package, program, and presentation all stem from FLOW’s November 2012 report: Horizontal Fracturing for Oil and Gas in Michigan: Legal Strategies and Tools for Communities and Citizens.

Early on, FLOW recognized the growing and urgent need to develop sound legal strategies and policies for local governments to safeguard their communities against the unprecedented, huge, and cumulative impacts of fracking.

Fracking occurs in the context of little to no regulatory oversight; the natural gas and oil industry is largely exempt from key federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act.

The industry is also largely exempt from key water statutes like Michigan’s codification of the Great Lakes Compact. Furthermore, under Michigan’s Zoning Enabling Act, local governments also are prohibited from enacting or enforcing an ordinance that regulates permit issues related to the location, drilling, operation, completion, or abandonment of oil and gas wells. Despite the Zoning Enabling Act’s prohibition to regulate oil and gas wells or operations, townships do maintain some zoning authority to regulate related oil and gas activities.

The two principal statutes delegating local government legal authority to address oil and gas development like hydraulic fracturing and related processes include the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act of 2006 and the
Township Ordinance Act of 1945.

The Township Ordinance Act authorizes a township to adopt police power ordinances, which are distinct from zoning ordinances, because they can only regulate harms and activities rather than land uses.

Thus, townships can adopt police power ordinances that reasonably relate to the transport, disposal, and transfer, diversion, use, or handling of “produced” water and chemical mixing for fracking.

After producing the legal report, it made sense for FLOW to produce a presentation of the findings and share it with concerned local government leaders.

“The overwhelming response we got to the first few presentations was that of ‘What can WE do?’ from citizens and officials alike,” says Olson. “That’s when we started to develop the program and work directly with townships to help them take the leap and take positive action,” he says.

For more information about FLOW’s work on legal strategies for addressing fracking at the local, state, and federal level, please visit flowforwater.org/fracking.

FLOW Chair Jim Olson, left, addresses Cannon Township Supervisors and citizens in June. Photo credit (c) Liz Kirkwood/FLOW 2013

FLOW Chair Jim Olson, left, addresses Cannon Township Supervisors and citizens in June. Photo credit (c) Liz Kirkwood/FLOW 2013

Rochester groups are Protecting the Great Lakes Forever

Guest Blogger and FLOW Board Member Emma Lui is the Water Campaign Director for the Council of Canadians. She shared her recent blog post with us about Maude Barlow’s speaking engagement in Rochester, NY.

I just got home from an incredible event in Rochester, New York, the fourth Great Lakes tour stop. Maude Barlow, National Chairperson for the Council of Canadians, has been touring around the Great Lakes speaking out about threats to the Great Lakes and what we need to do to stop them once and for all. We began the Great Lakes tour last year where we visited eight cities and continued the tour this year with events already in Duluth, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids.

Wayne Howard, Linda Isaacson Fedele, Kate Kremer and Peter Debes of Rochester Sierra Club, Eric and Jim Olson from FLOW for water along with the support of Cool Rochester, Monroe Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology, did an incredible job organizing an thought-provoking and inspiring event.

On Thursday night Maude gave a riveting talk to a captivated audience of 300 about the serious threats plaguing the Great Lakes including fracking, pollution, low water levels and inequitable extraction. Recognizing the amazing work that groups have been doing to protect the lakes for decades, she outlined a needed shift in decision and policy making around the Great Lakes and outlined a framework on how to effectively address the threats to Great Lakes, so we’re not simply fighting one fight after another.

maude barlow photo from Rochester, NY

Barlow addresses the audience in Rochester, NY

Maude put forward a vision of the Great Lakes that protects a community’s right to say ‘no’ to projects harmful to water sources, incorporates community input into decision making and prioritize communities’ rights to water over private interests. These ideas form the basis of the notion that the Great Lakes are a commons and public trust. The notion of the commons, a very old concept, states that certain resources – such and air and water – are shared resources which people within a community have the collective obligation to protect. The public trust doctrine outlines governments’ obligations to protect these shared resources for community use from private exploitation.

After Maude’s talk, she was joined by Jim Olson from FLOW, Roger Downs from Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter and David Klein from the Nature Conservancy for an engaging panel discussion and to answer the audience’s questions. Jim Olson, an expert in the public trust doctrine, stressed that private rights cannot subordinate public rights.

Rochester was an important community to host a tour stop because of the water issues they’re facing. There are plans to ship fresh water by train from the region for fracking projects in Pennsylvania. Mountain Glacier, a subsidary of Nestle, is bottling water from Lake Hemlock as well as the municipality’s water. Similar to what happened in Niagara Falls, there is talk about the possibility of Monroe County, which Rochester is a part of, treating fracking wastewater.

Activists share knowledge and ideas

New York anti-fracking activists share knowledge and ideas at the NY forum

Communities in New York state are incredibly active in the fight to protect water sources, public health and the environment against fracking. With approximately 200 municipal resolutions, New York state has by far the most resolutions on fracking in the US. Community groups and fracking coalitions have been successful in keeping a moratorium on fracking in New York state where delays in a health study are stalling Governor Cuomo’s already delayed decision on whether to lift or continue the moratorium. There have been recent calls for the environmental impact assessment to be scrapped because of Ecology and Environment and other consultations links to the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.

Yesterday morning Maude and Jim outlined the principles of the commons and public trust respectively and set the context for the day-long workshop where 50 engaged participants applied them to local issues. I gave short presentation of examples of our work on the commons and public trust. An ongoing case with Nestle, of which we’re parties to, is an exciting opportunity for the public trust doctrine to be recognized by the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal. I also talked about two municipal resolutions in Burnaby and Niagara-on-the-Lake that respectively recognize water as a commons and the Great Lakes are a shared commons and public trust.

I am heartened and inspired by the enthusiasm and openness of the people we met in Rochester to embrace the needed shift in the framework governing the Great Lakes, one that will rightfully prioritize the protection of the lakes above all else. With many governments failing to protect community watersheds, the commons and public trust principles are crucial to changing people’s relationships to water to one of responsibility and stewardship and holding our governments to account so they protect water sources for today’s and future generations. People within communities like Rochester are the catalysts for this change and it is them that I place my faith and hope that we will save the Great Lakes.

LivingstonDaily.com: ‘A lot at stake’ for locals regarding fracking rules

Click here to read the article on LivingstonDaily.com

‘A lot at stake’ for locals regarding fracking rules

Environmental group discusses options at Fowlerville meeting

A note from FLOW Chair Jim Olson to clarify – At the meeting, FLOW did say townships could undertake a ban, however we specified that it would be difficult to defend a ban, although you cannot preclude some circumstances where it may well be proper, because there is no place suitable where it could occur. But it is more likely, and better, that these issues and concerns are based on a case-by-case review through a zoning special use permit or other similar proceeding under the zoning or a police power ordinance.

By Christopher Behnan

February 6, 2014

FOWLERVILLE, MI – Local governments can use existing law and amend their own rules to regulate — if not outright ban — hydraulic fracturing in their backyards, For Love of Water representatives told local officials Thursday.

For Love of Water, or FLOW, was hired by Conway Township to discuss local rights after a Texas oil giant was permitted to inject 3 million gallons of water, sand and chemicals to maximize the potential recovery of natural gas at a local farm property.

FLOW Chairman Jim Olson said Michigan’s Zoning Enabling Act — which does not allow prohibition of drilling projects — empowers local governments to regulate everything from noise, hazardous materials and air pollution, to chemical mixing, storage and pumping activities at drilling sites.

Jim Olson, chairman of For Love of Water, explains the possible legal approaches that might be taken to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking,' Thursday evening at the Alverson Center for Performing Arts at Fowlerville High School. / ALAN WARD/DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

Jim Olson, chairman of For Love of Water, explains the possible legal approaches that might be taken to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ Thursday evening at the Alverson Center for Performing Arts at Fowlerville High School. / ALAN WARD/DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

Olson said local governments also can require environmental-impact statements and bonding for some activities, and address concerns such as lighting and dust control on local roads.

“Local communities have a lot at stake, and the question we started asking about a year-and-a-half ago was, ‘What can local units do?’ ” Olson explained.

“This is all basic stuff to address what is coming,” he added.

Local governments, in defending the public’s health and safety, could have legal standing to ban or place moratoriums on fracking but would face much bigger legal challenges, Olson added.

Just over 100 people attended Thursday’s session, which was intended to educate local leaders on high-volume hydraulic fracturing and their legal ability to regulate drilling-related activities in their communities.

FLOW will ultimately deliver a legal analysis based on Conway Township’s concerns, then leave it to the township attorney to draft ordinances.

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood said the Conway site is one of 52 permitted projects that allow high-volume fracturing to tap oil or natural gas reserves.

Kirkwood said large volumes of local water usage for projects and hauling of “flowback” water from wells should be of top concern to local leaders.

“This is just another industrial use that is coming to your town,” Kirkwood said.

Cohoctah Township resident Arnie Nowicki asks a question about water quality during Thursday evening's meeting in Fowlerville. / ALAN WARD/DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

Cohoctah Township resident Arnie Nowicki asks a question about water quality during Thursday evening’s meeting in Fowlerville. / ALAN WARD/DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

John Simaz, a spokesman for the oil and gas industry, accused FLOW of using “backdoor” methods to attack a decades-old, environmentally safe practice that creates jobs and boosts the economy.

Olson noted that high-volume projects only emerged in Michigan a few years ago.

About 20 wells have been drilled in Michigan using high-volume hydraulic fracturing over the past few years.

Texas-based GeoSouthern Energy Corp. in September was issued the high-volume drilling permit in Conway.

GeoSouthern’s permit allows the company to drill about 4,400 feet into the ground and about 1 mile horizontally into a geological formation known as A-1 carbonate starting on resident Jack Sherwood’s farm property off Fowlerville Road.

Sherwood has said he doesn’t expect the process to yield much. His farm property has been drilled three other times over the past 30 years, and in all cases, the drills came up dry.

GeoSouthern to date has drilled an exploratory well and is awaiting results of rock samples that will determine whether there is enough product to justify the expense of hydraulic fracturing.

Results of the samples aren’t expected for at least another three weeks.

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Christopher Behnan at 517-548-7108 or at cbehnan@gannett.com. Follow him @LCLansingGuy on Twitter.

Enbridge Under the Bridge: What We Do and Don’t Know about the Underwater Oil Pipeline in the Great Lakes

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood

FLOW Executive Director Liz Kirkwood

FLOW and a number of organizations have come together over the last year to rally the public and raise awareness about the Canadian energy company Enbridge and their Line 5 pipeline, a 61-year-old pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac in the Great Lakes which has increased in flow and pipeline pressure and poses a great risk to our common water. On February 5, I carpooled up to St. Ignace, Michigan to attend a public meeting wherein Enbridge delivered a presentation to Mackinac County officials (and a packed room full of concerned citizens) to assuage growing concerns about the Line 5 pipeline expansion. My companions Jim Dulzo from Michigan Land Use Institute, FLOW intern Jonathan Aylward and I didn’t know what to expect, but we certainly all had a lot of questions that remained unanswered.

Background: The issue captured our attention after a critical 2012 report from National Wildlife Federation (NWF) titled Sunken Hazardpublished the scary facts: if Line 5 were to leak, then in the eight minutes that it takes for Enbridge to shut off the pipeline about 1.5 million gallons of oil would release, along with catastrophic impacts and dispersion across both Lakes Michigan and Huron. However, this is not even the “worse case discharge” given that it took the same company, Enbridge, 17 hours to respond to the worse inland oil pipeline spill in U.S. history along the Kalamazoo River just 3 years ago.  In short, the Great Lakes have never been more at risk and yet the public is largely uninformed.

Why FLOW is concerned:

  1. We know that Enbridge has “upgraded” Line 5 with new pump stations but we don’t know for sure what “product” (light or heavy, sweet or sour, dilbit, etc) is being transported 640 miles from Superior, Wisconsin through the Straits of Mackinac to Sarnia, Ontario;
  2. Heavy tar sands is the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy on earth and a spill would destroy our shared international waters and way of life;
  3. This “upgraded” pipeline is 61-years-old and is submerged under water in the heart of the Great Lakes that contains 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water;
  4. Enbridge has a dismal pipeline safety record, underscored by the two recent heavy tar sands disasters in Marshall, Michigan along the Kalamazoo River (1 million gallons spilled in 2010) and Grand Marsh, Wisconsin (50,000 gallons spilled in 2012);
  5. Federal pipeline regulations do not provide for public disclosure in the event of a product change from light crude oil to heavy crude oil for example; and
  6. An unsettling feeling of lack of transparency and public disclosure about the safety of Line 5 for the Great Lakes.

The Enbridge “side of the story”

At 2 pm at Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace, Mackinac County Planning Commission (“the Commission”) Chairman Dean Reid stood before 175 people, amazed at the turnout, and explained the rationale for this special meeting. The fact of the matter was that the Commission “wanted to hear Enbridge’s side of the story” after receiving NWF’s Sunken Hazard, and video footage of the submerged Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. Interestingly, though, I learned from Beth Wallace at NWF who co-authored the report that the Commission did not invite NWF to participate as a panelist to publically present both points of view.

Commission officials and the audience listen to the Enbridge representatives' presentation.

Commission officials and the audience listen to the Enbridge representatives’ presentation.

Chairman Reid laid out the agenda, calling for Enbridge to address the integrity of their Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac, the frequency of their testing, and emergency procedures in the event of a pipeline rupture. Recognizing the potential regional impact a spill would have in the Straits, the Commission invited other local units of government and organizations to attend this meeting. No public comments were allowed, but Enbridge panelists read and answer cards with written questions.

Next came Enbridge Community Relations Director Jackie Guthrie who described herself as a mom but also as a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. She gave the audience a succinct and compelling PR presentation on Enbridge’s overall operations. “Think of Enbridge as the ‘Fed-Ex’ of the oil and gas industry,” she cleverly described, “Enbridge delivers 2.5 billion barrels of crude and liquid petroleum, 5 billion cubic/feet of natural gas, and 1,600 MW of renewable energy a day.” Her numbers underscored the amazing recent growth of this billion-dollar company coinciding with North America’s energy boom. For example, in the last seven years, Enbridge had doubled its employees to 11,000. Guthrie concluded her overview by noting that Enbridge was recognized as one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World.

This last claim got me thinking: if Enbridge can get that level of praise despite its shocking track record of 800 pipeline spills in the U.S. and Canada between 1999 and 2010, leaking 6.8 million gallons of oil and causing the largest inland heavy tar sands rupture in U.S. history, I wonder what the other energy companies are like.

Guthrie described the Line 5 as a 650-mile pipeline originating in Superior, Wisconsin traveling across the Upper Peninsula across the Straits of Michigan and down to Sarnia, Ontario. Line 5 is a 30-inch pipeline, except across the Straits where it divides into two 20-inch pipelines. Guthrie emphasized that Line 5 was carrying “light crude oil” which has “the consistency of skim milk.”

The view driving across the Mackinac Bridge: the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline is submerged beneath the same Straits of Mackinac that the Bridge traverses.

The view driving across the Mackinac Bridge: the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline is submerged beneath the same Straits of Mackinac that the Bridge traverses.

Blake Olson, Enbridge’s Escanaba Area Manager for over 400 miles of Line 5, followed with a presentation on the integrity of the Line 5 pipeline. He described Line 5 in the Straits as a one-inch thick seamless steel pipe, build with such a robust design that they just don’t build pipelines like this anymore. In fact, Olson commented that Line 5 at the Straits is the thickest pipeline in North America. Since 2012, Enbridge had increased the flow or volume of the product by 10 percent. Then he made the case that Enbridge had made a number of significant upgrades in their leak detection system within the last couple of years, including:

  • automatic shut-off valves at both sides of the Straits,
  • replacement of St. Ignace Valve Yard (2011) and Valve Yard containment system (2012),
  • the on-going installation of emergence flow restriction devices,
  • a back-up electric generator installed in 2013, and
  • a thermally imaging leak detection system to be installed this year.

In addition, Olson described Enbridge’s integrity protective system along Line 5, which included corrosion prevention with coal tar coating and cathodic protection, anchor strike prevention and brackets every 50 feet (coming this summer), monitoring with internal and external pipeline inspections, lighted shore signage and nautical charts stating DO NOT ANCHOR.

Too little, too late?

This was an impressive list to the casual listener/observer, but what troubled me was that a lot of these basic safety protections to ensure pipeline protection were recently instituted and this pipeline was 61-years-old. For example, in the 61 years of this pipeline’s history, the U.S. Coast Guard did not have nautical charts informing vessels about the very location of Line 5 until January 2014.  This change only happened because a number of concerned Michigan groups met with the Governor’s office to discuss Line 5’s safety in December 2013.

Olson assured the audience that Enbridge’s integrity program demonstrated that Line 5 under the Straits was “fit for service” with no dents or anomalies and met all federal pipeline regulations.

Before the Q&A session, Enbridge invited its contractor Bill Hazel from Marine Pollution Control to provide an overview of the emergency response measures set in place in the event of catastrophic spill on Line 5 under the Lakes. Hazel pointed to a number of simulated winter emergency response drills that Enbridge had participated in or serves as the lead in 2008, 2012, 2013, and this year. What became crystal clear was how catastrophic a Line 5 rupture would be especially during the wintertime. One follow-up question captured our imagination of this seemingly impossible mission: ‘May day, May day, May day!  It’s January 21, 2014 and it’s -9 °F and the wind chill is -25 °F, the Straits of Mackinac are frozen over, the ice four feet deep, and Line 5 has ruptured under the ice.  What are you going to do about it?’

Left to right: Jim Dulzo, MLUI; Jonathan Aylward, FLOW; Lee Sprague, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; Anne Zukowski, Don't Frack Michigan; Jannan Cornstalk, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Left to right: Jim Dulzo, MLUI; Jonathan Aylward, FLOW; Lee Sprague, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians; Anne Zukowski, Don’t Frack Michigan; Jannan Cornstalk, Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Enbridge answers (some) public questions

Following a final word from the local emergency manager in Mackinac, Guthrie gathered the 5×7 questions cards, proceeded to sort them into piles, and distributed them to the appropriate Enbridge representative for answers at the podium. Several illuminating points came out:

  1. Line 5 only transports light crude oil, the consistency of skim milk.
  2. Line 5’s light crude oil currently comes the Bakken oil fields.
  3. There are no plans to pump heavy crude oil through Line 5.
  4. Seamless pipe wasn’t really a seamless pipe as Enbridge had described previously, rather Line 5’s two 20-inch pipelines are seamless only up to the joints that repeat every 40 feet along the 4-mile stretch along the bottomlands of the Straits.
  5. A wintertime spill would present unprecedented challenges in mounting an emergency response.
  6. If a rupture occurred and the automatic shut-off valves turned off in a 3-minute period, 5,500 barrels would be released and disperse over an area 25-square-miles wide.  This number was down considerably from 15,000 barrels before Enbridge installed the automatic shut-off valves.

The last question was: ‘If tar sands were being transported through Line 5, what pipeline changes would Enbridge have to make?’ Enbridge’s Guthrie pulled the card aside and said, “let me hold off on this question because it is complex.”  But time was on Guthrie’s side as the meeting ended sharply at 3:30 pm and she never had to answer this telling question.

The composed Midwestern temperament of the room quickly changed as audience members shouted out that their questions had not been answered.  But it was clear that the meeting was over.

The bottom line for the bottomlands

I walked out into the 12 °F air, looked out over the Straits and felt an urgent need for additional public forums in Mackinac and the Great Lakes to further educate and inform all walks of life who live here about Line 5. Enbridge had attempted to calm the public’s concerns about Line 5, but they hadn’t been entirely forthright and it bothered me. Without public transparency, we will need to engage the State of Michigan to assert its authority as trustee of the waters and bottomlands of the Great Lakes for the benefit of the public.

What I’m talking about is the public trust doctrine, which legally requires Governor Snyder and both the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Environmental Quality, as state trustees, to ensure that Enbridge’s Line 5 under the Straits will not impair the public waters of the Great Lakes. This means that the State must demand full transparency and disclosure of all Enbridge’s activities not only for the people within range of a potential catastrophic spill, but for all residents of Michigan. Thus, if and when Enbridge decided to transport any type of heavy tar sands oil through Line 5, Enbridge has a duty to inform the state and the public and secure proper authorization under the Great Lands Submerged Lands Act. That’s FLOW’s take on the issue, and it’s what you will be hearing more about in the weeks and months to come. Stay tuned.

MLive: Cannon Township group gathers to discuss anti-fracking ordinance

Read the article on MLive here.

May 22, 2013 at 12:45 PM, updated May 22, 2013 at 1:06 PM

ROCKFORD, MI – A group of 15 citizens and township leaders gathered at the Cannon Township Hall on Wednesday, May 22, to create regulations that may limit hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” if an oil or gas well is ever drilled in the township.

Jim Olson, a Traverse City lawyer and founder of FLOW (For Love of Water) of Michigan said the session is the first of three he will lead with the goal of developing a zoning ordinance that would limit hydraulic fracturing in the township, located east of Rockford in northeastern Kent County.

Jim Olson, founder of FLOW (For Love Of Water) of Michigan, leads a meeting with citizens at at meeting in Cannon Township on Wednesday, May 22

Jim Olson, founder of FLOW (For Love Of Water) of Michigan, leads a meeting with citizens at at meeting in Cannon Township on Wednesday, May 22. (c) Jim Harger | MLive

“We will develop a package that is ready to turn over to your planner and your attorney,” Olson told the group at the outset of the two-hour meeting.

Earlier this month, the township’s board adopted a six-month moratorium on any “fracking” related activities while the board studies possible restrictions on “ancillary” activities.

Currently, there are no applications to drill oil and gas wells in the township or Kent County, according to the DEQ. Some private and public lands have been leased by oil and gas exploration companies.

“Fracking” pumps high volumes of water, sand and chemicals into oil and gas wells in an attempt to improve their flow.

Though “fracking” has been used on Michigan oil and gas wells for 60 years, environmentalists are concerned because “fracking” on modern horizontally drilled oil wells use millions of gallons of groundwater.

Olson told the group federal and state environmental laws exempt “fracking” activities while local governments are restricted from regulating the practice.

“We don’t take a position on whether fracking is good or bad,” he said. Banning the practice is not legal but local governments can take action to protect their water and air quality.

Banning the practice, Olson said, “is a difficult path to go down.” In fact, the state law says local groups are barred from regulating oil and gas drilling, he said.

But townships can govern “ancillary activities” such as water wells, trucking access roads, “sweetening facilities” that process the oil or gas, chemical and mixing stations and transfer stations, Olson said.

Olson said a special use permit could be developed “to at least let your citizens know what’s coming.”

Cannon Township resident Mary Reusch said she attended the meeting because she and her husband are worried about the possibility of losing the trees in the Cannonsburg State Game Area, which lies next to their home.

“It would break my heart to see those trees come down,” said Reusch, who said her husband walks through the forested area almost daily.

Reusch said she also is worried about the impact “fracking” could have on Meandering Creek, which runs through the 10-acre parcel on which they have lived for the past 13 years.

Cannon Township resident Shirley Kallio said she attended the meeting because a parcel of farmland near her home has been leased for oil and gas exploration.

FLOW leaders also are meeting with citizens in Muskegon County’s Montague Township and Kalkaska this week to discuss similar actions.
Olson, who plans to meet with the group again on June 19, gave the group “homework,” asking them to develop a rational for protecting their resources.

In the greater Grand Rapids area, the only oil and gas well that has permission to “frack” is located in Ionia County’s Ionia Township.

The well, which was drilled last fall on a farm north of I-96 by Texas-based Rosetta Resources, has not yet been “fracked” or completed, according to Bill Mitchell, a geologist with the Department of Environmental Quality.

Why I Volunteer for FLOW

Hello Great Lakes lovers.

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

Here I am (at top center) helping out on the Great Lakes Society campaign along with Mattias Johnson (bottom right) Allison Voglesong (center) and Eliza Somsel (left)

My name is Justin Sterk and I have recently begun volunteering at FLOW, in downtown Traverse City, Michigan.  As a native of Traverse City, the Great Lakes hold special importance to me and my family, and it is a great thrill for me to be able to begin contributing to the protection of our region’s greatest resource.

As for me, I graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 2007, the University of Michigan in 2012 and am currently serving a year-long AmeriCorps term in Traverse City before starting law school at Wayne State University in August.  I am very interested in legal strategies that can be used to conserve and protect our planet’s natural resources.  My plan is to make a career out of the type of work FLOW does, which is another great benefit of being around the office, learning from FLOW’s incredible staff.

I’ve been here for about a month and a half and have been working on a couple different projects.  One has been the early stages of a program that complements the work of Council of Canadians, a partner of FLOW, and their Blue Communities Program.  A Council of Canadians Blue Community is one that adopts resolutions that

  1. Recognize water as a human right,
  2. Ban bottled water in public places and at municipal events, and
  3. Promote publicly financed, owned and operated water and wastewater services.

A blue community is one that makes a commitment to sustainable water use and resists the ever increasing trend of water privatization.  It is our hope that a Blue Communities type of program can be implemented as part of a package of pragmatic water conservation best practices to assist communities in conserving water in many different areas.

The other research I have just recently begun working on relates to the connection between food production and water health.  FLOW’s goal is to provide information about water’s inextricable linkage to food production, especially as it relates to phosphorous runoff—a major cause of harmful algal blooms—which affected Lake Erie on a massive scale in 2011.  Further, we hope to promote awareness of how climate change increases the impacts on this food and water linkage.

I will try to update everyone on the work I am doing throughout the summer and to provide insight into the kind of work a FLOW volunteer can do.  Have a great day and enjoy our beautiful Great Lakes region.

FLOW Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Click here to view and download the full press release PDF

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 27, 2013

Flow Featured on UpNorth TV’s Volunteer Northwest Michigan Program in July

Volunteer NW MITRAVERSE CITY, MI – FLOW, the Great Lakes Basin’s only public trust policy and education center, will be featured on UpNorth TV, channel 2, throughout the month of July, every Sunday and Wednesday evening from 8pm-9pm, and every Friday morning from 9am-10am. Hosted by United Way of Northwest Michigan, the Volunteer Northwest Michigan show highlights FLOW’s innovative programs to ensure the waters of the Great Lakes are protected now and for future generations. UpNorth TV’s feature on FLOW will also be available online.

Steven Wade, United Way’s Executive Director of Northwest Michigan, interviews FLOW’s Chair and President, Jim Olson, Executive Director, Liz Kirkwood, and Communications Designer, Allison Voglesong, about how locals can volunteer with FLOW and take part in protecting our beloved Great Lakes.

FLOW has several upcoming volunteer opportunities. On July 5th, FLOW will participate in DTE Energy’s Green Day during Cherry Festival. Volunteers will assist members of the FLOW staff educate the community about threats to the Great Lakes with a fun and interactive game. Additionally, volunteer positions are available for Blissfest on July 12, 13, and 14; Friday Night Live on August 9; and our Annual Celebration on August 17. Sign up here to volunteer.

Additionally, this TV segment discusses FLOW’s programs, including the public trust education program, water levels program, local government “fracking” ordinance program, and water-energy-food-climate change nexus program. Additionally, Jim Olson, environmental attorney, who has been practicing environmental and water law for more than 40 years, gives an in depth history of water law in Michigan and tells the story of how FLOW evolved from a coalition to a policy and education center.

FLOW’s approach to policy and education for preserving and protecting the Great Lakes centers on the ancient principle of the public trust. The public trust is a key principle that enables citizens and governments to protect our waters as a commons, owned and shared by the public for the use and enjoyment of all. The public trust doctrine is the legal foundation for protecting and maintaining resources such as beaches, navigable waterways and harbors, wetlands and wildlife, tributary streams, and groundwater. Additionally, it protects public uses including navigation, commerce, fishing, boating, swimming, other recreational purposes, and drinking water.

Fishers, boaters, swimmers, beach-goers, and other water-lovers of all ages should tune in to UpNorth TV in July to learn more about how they can work with FLOW to ensure that the Great Lakes are protected for our favorite activities now and for future generations.

The segment will air on Charter Cable’s analog channel, 97, and digital channels, 2 and 992, throughout Northwestern Lower Michigan from Manistee to Cheboygan.

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FLOW is the Great Lakes Basin’s only 501(c)(3) nonprofit public trust policy and education center. Our mission is to deeply educate communities and leaders about the public trust as a solution for sharing and preserving our common waters.