In May, Tribal law expert and educator JoAnne Cook joined FLOW’s Board of Directors.
JoAnne, who lives in Northport, is a former Council member, Vice Chair and Acting Chair of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. She also served as Chief Judge of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. She is well known in northwest Michigan for classes on tribal history and culture taught to non-tribal audiences.
What is your personal connection to water?
I grew up in Northern Michigan surrounded by water and have enjoyed the benefits of having the great lakes in our backyard. As an Anishinaabe kwe, I also have a spiritual connection to water as we understand water is a living being that provides life to all things. Our teachings describe and provide how we work with the water.
What motivated you to serve on FLOW’s board?
I am in awe of the knowledge and effort of those involved with FLOW. The public education regarding the Great Lakes is such an important piece as well as the effort being made to educate those involved in the decision making process such as Line 5 or the withdrawal of water from the natural springs. This philosophy fits well with the work of the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes.
You have done a great job teaching the history of the Odawa Anishinabek people from the Grand Traverse Region to non-tribal communities. What observations do you have about the level of awareness in those communities and their readiness to learn?
Most people that attend come in a level of awareness but it comes from a textbook or historical record and not from the native perspective. Each class learns something about our culture or way of life, which opens a new level of understanding. My goal is to share our true history and in a way that allows them to understand who we truly are and that our way of life was structured and adept.
What do you see as the major water challenges of our region, and on a broader scale?
One major water challenge is Line 5 and the safety of the water in the Straits. We all know the catastrophic result to all aspects of the water including the plants, animals, humans, and the economic impact to the state.
On a broader scale, water is not a commodity, it is a right. We all need water to live, to eat, and to sustain life as we know it. The question is, how do we come together to have clean water for all?
Do you see reasons for hope that we will successfully address these challenges and if so, how?
Yes, there is hope. There are many people around the world who are sharing ideas, concepts, and coming together through symposiums, Facebook, etc. to discuss and share ideas about clean water and providing water to all. We have seen demonstrations, proposed legislation, and rallies regarding positive change toward water. If there is continued dialogue and the sharing of information, there is hope for change.
If you can’t find me at my desk at FLOW headquarters, you will usually find me somewhere on the water. I am a fan of pretty much any water activity you can think of. However, kayaking has become one of my favorite ways to get out on the water.
I started seriously paddling a few years ago when I began working at Backcountry North, a local outfitter in downtown Traverse City. With the help of then-owner Sandy Graham, I learned the ins and outs of paddle strokes, boat position, and of course all the pre-trip planning that goes into having a great day on the water. With this knowledge, I have been able to participate in multi-day sea kayaking excursions on the Great Lakes, and have spent a considerable amount of time paddling the whitewater rapids scattered across Northern Michigan.
Kayaking is a great way to get out and enjoy the freshwater that makes Northern Michigan so special. Whether it be floating down the Boardman River, or paddling next to the 450-foot-tall Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan, the perspective from a kayak is truly one of a kind. This unique perspective shows how incredible the fresh water in Northern Michigan truly is and how fortunate we are to have it at our fingertips.
It always amazes me that when I am sitting in my kayak out in Grand Traverse Bay that I am sitting in the Great Lakes system, which makes up approximately one-fifth of the surface freshwater around the world. However, as insignificant as I might feel in that moment, I also try to remind myself that the Great Lakes are still dependent upon each and every one of us to make the right decisions for their future. Whether that’s by saying NO to Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac or making sure that we leave no trace when spending the day on the water, we all play a part in the future of the Great Lakes.
This summer, I am thrilled not only to be back on the water, but also to be able to spread my knowledge and passion about kayaking and the freshwater resources here in Northern Michigan. Backcountry North is offering kayak demos throughout the summer, and I am fortunate to be working with them in helping others get out and experience the joys of kayaking. If you have any interest in participating in a kayak demo, please contact Backcountry North for further details at (231) 941-1100. I hope all of you get the chance to experience a day of paddling in Northern Michigan, and I look forward to seeing many of you out on the water this summer!
When you think of Nevada (and that’s ne-va-da, not ne-vah-duh), I bet a clear picture forms in your mind: Las Vegas and its neon lights, slot machines, Elvis, quick divorces and UFO sightings (among other things). Those are all part of it, yes. But did you know Nevada is an outdoor-lover’s paradise? My husband and I moved there in 2014, for this reason. We get about 350 days of sunshine a year. There are mountains, valleys, canyons, hot springs and old-growth forests to hike, bike, camp and explore, year-round, and much of it is pristine due to federal land management, which prevents development. In the summer, it’s warm during the day but cools down at night. Winters are full of skiing and snowboarding. The sunsets are always out of this world.
Notice how I didn’t mention anything that had to do with water? Water is not the same here. Nevada is an alpine desert, and we get the good and bad that comes with it. Water is scarce, both on the ground and coming from the skies. In Reno, where I live, I can count on two hands how many days it rained last year. Summer is hot and dry. I’ve adjusted to this climate without even realizing it; I always carry lotion and chapstick for dry skin, my yard only has native, low water plants and I stick to my designated water use days religiously.
And it’s not like we don’t have water at all – there’s the Truckee River to fish, kayak and float, and Lake Tahoe is only 40 minutes south. Tahoe is a saving grace for sure; a true oasis in the desert and it’s been a vacation spot of Californians for generations. But over the years the lake has become increasingly inaccessible (and less fun) due to overcrowding and overdevelopment. Tahoe’s water is also pure snowmelt, and combined with the depth means the lake never warms over 50 degrees, making it un-swimable for babies like myself.
Skiing in Nevada (after a particularly good storm) with Lake Tahoe in the background.
Northern Nevada, like much of California, is dependent on snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains for our water. Nevada has been experiencing different stages of drought for a while now, thanks to climate change. Some parts of the state are worse than others, and it always seems like some not-too-far-away city is under the threat of actually running out of water if there’s no rainfall. The storm predictions always start in the fall, and we all hope for storms with lots of snow for a good ski and snowboard season, but also to create a good snowpack that will melt and fill our reservoirs. The drought the past few years has been rough. But even our recent “Miracle March” wasn’t enough to erase the snow drought from last season, which hadn’t erased it from the year before… and so on. This seems to be the new normal. Storms bring precipitation, but we’re always playing catch-up from the last storm or two that didn’t bring enough. At least Reno is more fortunate than most of Nevada; we have more water resources to pull from and our proximity to the mountains and higher elevation give us a rain and snowfall advantage when compared with a city like Las Vegas. Our reservoirs are currently full and the outlook for this drought year is optimistic.
That’s why Michigan is so unique. Water is everywhere. It’s part of the culture, and people are connected to it. We all have a water here, whether it’s the Traverse Bay, the Boardman River, Lake Michigan, or for me, Birch Lake- we feel a connection to some body of water for one reason or another. It took moving away and living in a dry climate for me to truly appreciate how lucky this region is to have such an abundant resource, and how intertwined it is with our lives. And don’t get me wrong; I love living in Nevada. There are too many beautiful, serene places to count, and I love the culture. But no matter where I live, I will always miss the waterways of Michigan. A day on Lake Tahoe is never wasted, but a part of me will always wish that when I reach my hand over the side of the boat into the cool depths, I were instead feeling the warm waters of Michigan.
Kirsten Nolet is assisting FLOW this summer as part of a Patagonia-sponsored environmental internship. She was born in the area and lived here until 2004, and tries to get back as often as she can. She is currently employed by Patagonia as a stockroom manager and lives in Reno, Nevada.
The waters of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the state as a shared public commons for the benefit of citizens for navigation, boating, fishing, health and sustenance. The courts of all eight Great Lakes states have recognized this principle, which means the states must manage these waters as a trustee for the benefit of all citizens to prevent interference with these public purposes – a duty of stewardship.
Net-pen fish-farming in the Great Lakes poses a major interference with existing protected riparian and public uses of these hallowed waters – landowners, fishermen, boaters, tourists, and citizens. Private fish farming would displace and interfere with the public trust in these waters.
Nestlé has been aiming to pump more water out of Michigan. Near Evart, the company is attempting to expand and greatly increase the withdrawal amount to 400 gallons per minute, which equates to 576,000 gallons per day.Michael Jackman, from the Detroit Metro Times, writes that there may be “rough water ahead” for Nestlé. Many people are unhappy with their actions. Read more here.
Nestlé has revived plans to more than double its pumping in Osceola County.
What’s At Stake
There’s a big fight brewing over water worldwide. From drought-stricken California, to Canada, to Germany and beyond, the Nestlé corporation is one of the key players in a worldwide effort to privatize our finite water resources and then sell it back to us in plastic bottles in and outside the Great Lakes Basin.
In 2009, Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation (MCWC) ended a 10-year battle with Nestlé/Ice Mountain and won by reducing the amount of water being pumped so that nearby wetlands and streams would not be harmed in Mecosta County. The facts in the MCWC litigation demonstrate how Nestlé underestimated the harm aquifer over-pumping causes to adjacent surface waters, wetlands, fish, and aquatic life. FLOW’s founder and president, Jim Olson, represented MCWC as the lead litigator in this critical battle to safeguard our waters from privatization.
Since 2001, Swiss-owned Nestlé has removed more than 4 billion gallons of groundwater from its three Michigan wells in the Muskegon River watershed for a paltry $200 annual fee per well, according to MDEQ statistics.
Nestlé has now revived plans to more than double its pumping from 150 gallons per minute (gpm) to 400 gpm or 576,000 gallons per day (gpd) in Osceola County just north of Evart, Michigan. Production Well PWB101, White Pine Springs Site, as it is known, is located between two cold water Muskegon River tributary creeks, Twin and Chippewa Creeks. Last winter, when Nestlé applied for this pumping increase using the state’s computer water withdrawal assessment tool, it failed. Nestle then requested and obtained a site specific review by DEQ staff that showed that only minimal declines in water levels in the summer of 2016.
If approved without full disclosure and public review, Nestlé would only create 20 new jobs, but would legally be entitled to bottle and sell nearly 500 million gallons per year of Michigan water at the Ice Mountain bottling facility in Stanwood, Michigan.
Urge the DEQ to oppose Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to increase its allowed pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101), Osceola County, Michigan.
Demand the DEQ to set aside its January 2016 site-specific review for lack of public notice and comment;
Demand the DEQ complete an entirely new site specific review;
Demand the DEQ conduct site specific review on all permits issued to date to avoid incremental steps and registrations by Nestlé (this is in addition to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA);
Demand full disclosure and transparency to the public for informed decision-making.
Demand sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement in Nestlé’s recent request.
Demand the State to apply the legal standards and requirements set forth in the Water Withdrawal Assessment Tool, riparian reasonable use law, public trust law, Great Lakes Compact, and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.
Request multiple public hearings in the following locations: Evart, Detroit, Flint, Muskegon, and Traverse City.
For your reference, we have included a template letter for you to use and craft your own letter.
If you live outside Michigan, we all know that what one state does in the Great Lakes Basin, affects all. As residents in the region, we cannot afford to allow significant increases in water withdrawals without sufficient time for independent analysis and public involvement.
If you live in one of the eight Great Lakes states or the provinces of Quebec and Montreal, we urge you to write your governor/premier. Ask that diversions of Great Lakes water in containers less than 5.7 gallons be added to the 2008 Great Lakes Compact.
Please think twice about drinking bottled water. Instead, insist all elected officials make clean, safe drinking water a priority. We can live without a lot of things but water is not one of them.
Governor Rick Snyder
P.O. Box 30013
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Attorney General Bill Schuette
G. Mennen Williams Building, 7th Floor
525 West Ottawa Street
P.O. Box 30212
Lansing, Michigan 48909
Director Heidi Grether
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI 48909-7741
Division Director Bryce Feighner
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI 48909-7741
Supervisor Matt Gamble
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ)
Source Water Unit
P.O. Box 30241
Lansing, MI 48909-7741
Dear Governor, Attorney General, DEQ Director Grether, Division Director Feighner, and Supervisor Gamble:
I urge the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) to reject Nestlé/Ice Mountain’s current permit application to more than double its allowed groundwater pumping from 150 to 400 gallons per minute (gpm) from White Pine Springs Well (PW-101) in Osceola County, Michigan.
By law, Nestlé’s proposed groundwater withdrawal must result in no “individual or cumulative adverse resource impacts,” and must be “in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal laws as well as all legally binding regional interstate and international agreements.” Based on the following legal and technical deficiencies outlined below, the Nestlé application must be denied:
Nestlé has not submitted sufficient critical information on which the DEQ can make a “reasonable determination” in accordance with the standards set forth in the applicable water laws of Michigan.
The application is technically deficient because:
(a) The information and evaluation of groundwater, wetlands, springs, and streams is based on an unreliable, manipulated computer model that looks narrowly at the proposed 150 gpm pumping level increase, and not the cumulative 400 gallons-per-minute;
(b) The application fails to rely on observed existing hydrology, soils, environment, and other conditions, in violation of Michigan’s water withdrawal law, which mandates evaluation of existing conditions;
(c) Nestlé’s consultants failed to collect or use real conditions to compare to its unfounded, computer modeling predictions of no effects; and
(d) The model assumes more water in the natural system than exists, assumes more rain and snowfall gets into groundwater than actually occurs, used only selective monitoring for 2001-2002, and left out monitoring data from 2003 to present because it would show more negative impact to streams, wetlands, and wildlife.
Nestlé has not filed its existing pumping records, and its pumping to date has violated Michigan law because it has pumped and transported water without authorizations required by Section 17 of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the applicable Section 32723 of the state’s water law.
Four hundred (400) gpm will diminish the twin creeks and wetlands, which in turn will impair and harm the water, aquatic resources, and public trust in those natural resources, contrary to Michigan law.
Despite a supplemental information request to Nestlé in February, the MDEQ still do not have sufficient information from Nestlé related to the groundwater modeling, streamflow data, fish, macroinvertebrates, and aquatic habitat data, as well as the company’s compliance with Michigan’s reasonable use doctrine and related water laws. Accordingly, the application as it stands now must be denied for failure to show that its proposed pumping will not harm the creeks, wetlands, streams, species, and ecosystem. In addition, Nestlé’s deficient record raises questions as to whether the company received proper authorization in 2015 to increase its pumping from 150 to 250 gpm.
Nestlé’s proposed 167 percent expansion increase request continues to put our public waters at risk. Remember that Michigan’s 12,000 year old glacial sand, gravel and clay and ancient groundwater is recharged by only 8 or 9 inches a year of precipitation – about 30 percent of an average of 32 inches a year in the form of snowfall and rain during the rainy season. The rest of the year is dry with frequent drought in the summer months such that these headwater streams and creeks simply cannot survive; pumping at Nestlé’s proposed rate is simply not sustainable, and the MDEQ should deny this request outright.
Water is public. Water is also our most precious finite resource that is the lifeblood of our economy, our health, and our way of life here in the Great Lakes Basin. Privatizing our waters for profit and export outside our watersheds is a legally-defined harm. As public trustee of our waters, the State of Michigan is legally bound, on behalf of current citizens and future generations, to protect this resource from impairment, harm, or privatization for solely private purposes. This is the law.
The nonprofit, FLOW (For Love of Water), intends to submit additional substantive technical and legal comments to the MDEQ related to this permit application. Based on Nestlé’s legally and technical deficient application, I urge the State of Michigan to deny this permit and to impose a statewide moratorium on any new high volume wells near headwater creeks or for bottled water until these issues are addressed.
Thank you for fulfilling your public trust obligations to safeguard our most precious resource – water.
— Mike Delp, “Mad Angler Speaks Truth to Power,” from Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler. (Wayne State University Press, 2016).
Mike Delp, the water poet, has shared his poems at readings and on the electronic pages of our webpages in support of FLOW’s work “For Love of Water.” His poems are a testament to water, life, soul, his own personal search over for meaning through a lifetime of waking, fishing, and floating the currents of rivers. It is an honor to acclaim the release of his new book of poems published this past Spring by Wayne State University’s Press Michigan Writers Series. The title of the work is itself enough to provoke anyone to pick up the book and start reading: Lying in the River’s Dark Bed: The Confluence of the Deadman and the Mad Angler.
If you haven’t already met the Mad Angler or Deadman at one of Mike Delp’s readings, you are in for a ride, as if he’s talking to you from behind as you sit in front watching King Fisher or Blue Heron take flight or a fish rise and disappear in front of you while he guides the float boat down the river. If you have heard him read or read one of these poems rising out of mudflats and riffles in the past several years, this collection is your chance to do so. Let these poems skew your compass and shake loose the sediments in your heart and mind. Here are a few lines from just a few of the poems in this new collection.
“You pray for a second coming, the sky to open,
for people to be carried off, raptured.
I pray each morning for entire counties to vanish,
the boardrooms of Big Water and Big Oil to warp out of existence.”
–” Psalms of the Mad Angler”
“Deadman treats words like road kill,
runs them down, stops,
rolls backward and forward,
over and over.
After he flattens thousands of words,
he thinks he has invented a new language.
He writes a book,
‘Here read this
it will kill you.'”
— “Deadman as Writer”
“I trust only the sweet smell of rotting cedar,
the scent of mudbanks festering with nymphs,
rivers rising in my blood like an illness,
a fever sent by the god of desire to make his presence known,
something jolting through the veins to replace
the done deal, the raise with the corner office,
the soul trader you most likely have become.”
— “The Mad Angler’s Manifesto”
Take the plunge, float the rapids, swirl in the eddy, join the confluence where Deadman meets the Mad Angler in this collection of poems.
Attorney, Olson, Bzdok & Howard, P.C., Traverse City
When I look back over the past year, I can’t help but feel hope in the common goodness of people and communities.
I say this not without heart felt and serious concern about events in the world that point in the opposite direction – despair: increasing violence from guns, war, and sweeping droughts and floods, causing death and dislocation of millions of people and children, global warming and the push-back from unprecedented storms and extreme weather that compound drought, floods, landslides, which in turn destabilize countries like Syria fomenting conflict and conditions for ISIS. To paraphrase Circle of Blue senior journalist Keith Schneider, “The earth is angry and she’s fighting back.”
Closer to home, Detroit water shut-offs continue despite the devastating impact on the poor who can’t afford to pay a normal water bill, let alone the $100 a month or more claimed by the Detroit Water Board. State leaders finally stop denying the Flint water-crisis more than a year after residents demanded help, that its children and residents were exposed to high levels of lead from the city’s public water system. The problem is more endemic than Detroit or Flint, since both crises grew out of the unbridled power of Governor Snyder’s emergency manager law to usurp the power of city assets and revenues to pay debts regardless of the impacts to citizens. Flint’s emergency manager thought only of economic expediency in turning off water supplied from Detroit, and tapping into the filthy, polluted Flint River. Then there is the continual threat from the flow of oil in the aging, nearly 63-year old Line 5 pipeline under the Straits; the harm from a release or leak would be so catastrophic, the risk is unacceptable to everyone; yet the flow of oil continues without immediate temporary measures while state officials continue to study it as if it was an “issue,” and not the clear and imminent endangerment of the Great Lakes and the Straits of Mackinac – the fact is there is enough capacity within the pipeline system in the Great Lakes without Line 5 endangering the Straits.
So why the hope? Other events have happened this past year that point to a new way of understanding and, perhaps, solving many of the threats that we face in the world and our communities.
First, Pope Francis issued his encyclical on climate change and the environment, connecting the reality of our excessive consumptive materialism, global inequality, poverty, ecological and community devastation, and violence that follows. He carefully documented that our way of seeing and doing, our post-modern god of the law of free markets and legally justified greed, our fragmented attempts at dishing out money to help the poor are not working. He says this because we are living a material, market place illusion, and not in harmony with the reality that the earth is our “common home,” and that if we do not share its gifts and respect its inherent natural limits, earth’s water, weather, soil, and the biological diversity on which all life depends will continue to worsen to even greater extremes. He points to a new paradigm, a framework in which we work and live with the understanding that a body of water, whether ocean, Grand Traverse Bay, or Lake Chad, are a commons, part of the gift of earth as commons to all. If we do this, not only with water, but the ridge lines and forests, the beauty and land that are home to our relationships, our cities, the neighborhoods within our towns, the soils beneath our feet, the air we breathe, then we will begin to reshape our life around truth and the given limits of nature, and this will guide our living, our way of life, or economy, full and rich with newly directed creative and sustainable opportunities and entrepreneur ship.
Second, amidst a world of conflicts, from Syria to the Ukraine, from our own cities, to Nigeria, Sudan, and Afghanistan, and in the aftermath of the mass murders from extreme terrorists in Parrs, the nations of the world cooperated: leaders of large and small, developed and developing, or undeveloped countries, recognized the responsibility to each other, agreed to something, the world temperature will not rise more 2 degrees, and maybe less. While it is not law yet, if taken implemented, it will help stave off global calamity greater than two world wars last century, by reducing the irreparable damage we face from climate change and global warming. There is hope in the agreement that we stop denying and see the mounting harm and set a goal that through hard-work and common sacrifice offers a way out of an unthinkable alternative for people everywhere.
Third, we witnessed the bridging of differences by our Supreme Court in precedent setting cases that demand human dignity for marriage between two people, human rights to housing and water for the poor without access, as wells as the genuine search for a common goal to address wasteful and harmful water rights in the middle of the historical California droughts.
Fourth, our political debate heating up even before the 2016 presidential election has pointed to something more than the old, increasingly polarized beliefs in market economy, through money at wars and problems, rather than considering the root of the problem might be the way we are looking at them. Regardless of my own or others’ political persuasion, there is a fresh voice in Bernie Sanders, laying out the case for a community based on sharing of wealth, taking care of neighbors, and our neighborhood, what Pope Francis calls our “common home,” and at the same time helping with services to the poor, respecting and honoring diversity, and encouraging new business innovation. We have been trapped in this country in a red and blue, right and left, straight-jacket of false ideology, rather than identifying those things that are essential to every one of us and providing for them as principle of our country—the common good.
Fifth, then Michael Moore comes out with his latest film Where to Invade Next? Good God, here we have the message that we here in the USA had the idea, come up with the ideas, of common good, yet go in the opposite direction of individualized competition based on a law of the jungle called free markets. Everything is about profit and money and bottom line. The world is not a corporation, it is a commons in which corporations organizations are simply a means, not an end.
Do we really have a choice? Our common home and communities are simultaneously local and global. It’s not just act locally, think globally, or act globally, think locally. It’s all of this and more. If we don’t act, for example, on climate change, or understand that climate change is not just an energy issue but about water and food, if we don’t move toward a renewable economy within a few years, small island countries will literally disappear, rainforests and biodiversity will disappear, coastal cities and other areas will increasingly flood and fail from even more extreme storm events or the day-to-day failure to change, adapt and embrace resilient cooperation—the common good. All one has to do is read through “4 Degrees Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts, and the Case for Resilience,” a report published by renown scientists and even sponsored by the more conservative World Bank. The picture is not pretty, and it would it is ignorant, even immoral, at this time in history not to act, even out of self-interest, for this common good.
So I end this year and start the next with hope. At FLOW, the Great Lakes and Water Policy Center, here in Traverse City, and other organizations throughout the region, we have chosen as a mission and goal to protect the waters of the Great Lakes basin as a commons with principles, known as the public trust doctrine, that require government as trustee and people as beneficiaries, to work together to respect and protect water and community that depend on it from impairment. Private control of public waters and other public commons has always been prohibited; this is because some things essential to all of us are common to all of us. If we don’t protect the commons, we undermine the air, water, community and neighborhoods where we live. To work and live toward the common good is to work for the commons and at the same time work for yourself, family and friends. To not work for the common good, is to continue the long, slow, or perhaps not so slow, disintegration that leads to destruction of the earth, water, air, community, people, and leads to a world violent and unsafe.
It is hopeful and reassuring to see positive events pointing toward this new way of seeing, understanding and doing – living and working for the protection and sustainability of our common home and the common good. They are one and the same. Here’s to another hopeful New Year.
The Great Lakes are no safer from an oil pipeline spill today despite yesterday’s release of the State of Michigan Pipeline Task Force’s 80-page report and recommendations.
The Task Force report included four recommendations directed at Enbridge’s twin 62-year-old petroleum pipelines located on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac: (1) Ban transportation of heavy crude oil through the Straits pipelines; (2) Require an independent risk analysis and full insurance coverage for the pipelines; (3) Require an independent analysis of alternatives to the existing pipelines; (4) Obtain more inspection data from Enbridge relating to the pipelines.
Yet, oil still flows through Line 5. The Task Force rejected shutting down Line 5 while gathering additional information on the basis that they had “inadequate information at this time to fully evaluate the risks presented by the Straits Pipelines.” (P. 57)
Impose Emergency Measures Immediately
At a minimum, however, the Task Force should impose immediate emergency measures on the pipeline given (1) potential violations of the 1953 Easement related to Enbridge’s inability to demonstrate that it has adequate liability coverage to cover all damages from an oil spill; (2) the Coast Guard’s admission that it is inadequately prepared to clean up an open water spill in freshwater let alone under frozen winter conditions; (3) Enbridge’s failure to disclose inspection, maintenance, and repair records to document internal and external corrosion rates under the Straits and inherent limitations related to inline inspection tools.
The question remains: how much more information do we need to unveil before our trustee – the State – takes swift protective action that prioritizes the paramount interests of citizens over private corporations?
The Task Force and the public have rejected the idea that the Straits Pipelines can last indefinitely. In fact, the Attorney General Bill Schuette has declared that “the days of letting two controversial oil pipelines operate under the Straits of Mackinac are numbered.” This is hopeful news, but every day counts, and until we have specific measures in place that prevent a catastrophic spill, the State of Michigan is placing the Great Lakes at risk.
A great article from the Blade, a Toledo newspaper, was just published which supports the need for a strong “waters of the US” rule under the Clean Water Act. This rule would insure that wetlands and tributary waters of the Great Lakes are not diminished, impaired, and the Great Lakes ecosystem and waters are not damaged. The article reminds us all that we share in the stewardship of the lakes, and that we should all strive to secure a safe and healthy future for our waters. Read more here.
In the spring, the U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers issued a rule to clarify Clean Water Act Protections to wetlands and streams. The rule, also known as the Waters of the United States rule, has not yet been finalized. Since the EPA introduced the rule last spring it has been under attack from many sources, including the Farm Bureau. The rule is needed to clarify the extent of the Clean Water Act, helping to protect small waterways and streams whose protection is currently uncertain.