More than 40 protestors assembled on the Detroit Riverwalk Wednesday morning to call on the Canadian government to support Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in seeking to decommission the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac. The Detroit protest—staged near the Canadian consulate—occurred in solidarity with simultaneous demonstrations across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario, as well as in Chicago and Milwaukee. At each protest site, organizers sent Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jars of fresh Great Lakes water as a symbol of what’s at risk if Line 5 continues to operate.
“Without FLOW the Line 5 issue would not be alive in Canada,” says Maude Barlow. “With the help of Liz’s leadership we have been able to put together a coalition here in Canada to start speaking up and start saying ‘It is a pipeline, for heaven sake. We’re against all the other pipelines, why are we being so quiet on this one?’ And this one is triply dangerous because it goes under a portion of the Great Lakes.”
Protection of the submerged lands of the Great Lakes that lie within Michigan’s jurisdiction is part of the state’s public trust duties. This represents a vast area, approximately 38,500 square miles of bottomland beneath four of the Great Lakes. By contrast, the size of the entire state of Indiana is 36,400 square miles.
In Michigan’s state government there are talented professionals who would like to be able to say the same about the messes they try to clean up—the estimated 24,000 known contamination sites that degrade the state’s groundwater, soils, rivers, and lakes and even threaten people in their own homes. Working in what’s called the “Remediation and Redevelopment Division” of Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), they work to pinpoint contamination sources, calculate health and environmental risks, work with (or in conflict with) polluters to resolve issues, and oversee the difficult work of removing toxins from the environment.
In this video testimonial, FLOW executive director Liz Kirkwood reflects on what prompted her to focus on water law, and her childhood memories of fresh water. During 2021, our 10th anniversary year, FLOW staff, supporters and collaborators are sharing reflections on what our work together has meant to them and to the freshwaters of the Great Lakes Basin.
Lynne Heasley’s new book, “The Accidental Reef and Other Ecological Odysseys in the Great Lakes,” is hot off the press. Hailed as “extraordinary,” “immersive,” and “one of the best Great Lakes books of our era,” Heasley’s book is complemented by the vivid, evocative art of Glenn Wolff, who illustrates the book. We interviewed her recently about her new book.
A monster rainstorm on June 26 dumped more than 6 inches of rain on Detroit in about 6 hours. The downpour flooded and closed Interstate-94, stranding motorists in high water, and caused widespread sewage backups in city residences. It is a consequence of climate change and a failure by government to invest in infrastructure, Governor Whitmer declared shortly after the disaster. And she’s right.
Even though Michigan is considered the Great Lake State, bordered by four of the five Great Lakes, and everyone needs freshwater, especially during a global pandemic, some Detroit suburbs like Oak Park and Hazel Park are resuming water shutoff policies after the statewide moratorium expired on March 31.
The passing on July 29 of former U.S. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is a solemn moment that presents an opportunity to honor his work to protect the Great Lakes. The longest-serving U.S. Senator in Michigan’s history, Levin consistently, quietly, and effectively crafted federal legislation and funding to benefit the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem.
The many chemical contaminants in Michigan’s groundwater, coupled with the lack of environmentally sustainable federal and state chemical policies, continue to put Michigan at risk. An example is trichloroethylene (TCE), a cancer-causing manufactured chemical that has contaminated groundwater at more than 300 locations in Michigan. In 2020, Minnesota became the first state in the country to outlaw many remaining uses of TCE. Michigan should follow suit.