Category: News & Events
Coastal Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Plan Approved
| December 3, 2021 | 4:51 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

The Watershed Center is pleased to announce the approval of the Coastal Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Plan by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. This plan is an update to the Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan approved in 2003.

The initial Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Protection Plan has proven to be highly successful, with many organizations utilizing it to shape their restoration activities over the past few decades. Specifically, The Watershed Center has received almost $14 million to implement key portions of the plan that annually prevent 1,726 tons of sediment, 1,482 pounds of phosphorous, and 4,604 pounds of nitrogen from entering Grand Traverse Bay and its waterways.

The Grand Traverse Bay watershed has 9 subwatersheds, most of which are major tributary drainages to the bay and are highly unique with specific assets, issues, and threats. As such, The Watershed Center and local partners decided to write management plans for the 2 largest Grand Traverse Bay subwatersheds – the Elk River Chain of Lakes and the Boardman River. The Coastal Grand Traverse Bay Watershed Plan therefore focuses on water quality recommendations for the other, smaller drainage areas of the watershed, with a specific focus on protecting water quality in the bay.

14 Annual Freshwater Summit Sessions October 20 & 22, 2021
| October 8, 2021 | 12:46 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

Registration Available through The Watershed Center

The Freshwater Roundtable is proud to announce two sessions that make up the 14th Annual Freshwater Summit. Sessions for the Freshwater Summit will be held virtually on October 20th and 22nd from 9:00 – 11:00am.

“We are unable to host an in-person event again this year, but still wanted to provide our community the latest research and information regarding the health of our Great Lakes,” said Christine Crissman, executive director of The Watershed Center. “We have another great lineup of professional speakers and look forward to discussing current challenges and opportunities facing local and regional freshwater efforts.” 

Presentations include wild rice restoration, the underwater mapping efforts of Lakebed 2030, wastewater infrastructure and COVID-19 testing, using qPCR for water quality monitoring, benthic changes in Lake Michigan, nature-based solutions for community resilience, and lightning talks about local initiatives.

“We are honored to offer our continued support of the Freshwater Summit,” said Dennis McCauley, president of the Great Lakes Environmental Center and sponsor of the Summit. “The Freshwater Summit is a highly valued venue that brings environmental professionals, citizens, and businesses up to date on matters that mean the most for the understanding and protection of the Grand Traverse Bay watershed.”

A full agenda for each session and registration information is available online. Registration is free and open to the public.

The Freshwater Summit is a product of the Freshwater Roundtable and is organized by The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, NMC’s Great Lakes Water Studies Institute, Michigan Sea Grant Extension, Great Lakes Environmental Center, Inc., Inland Seas Education Association, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management, Grand Traverse Conservation District, Conservation Resource Alliance, and Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council. The 14th Annual Freshwater Summit is sponsored by the Great Lakes Environmental Center, Inc.

Grand Traverse Region Beach Testing Begins June 16
| June 8, 2021 | 3:40 pm | News & Events | Comments closed


The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay will begin its annual beach testing on June 16, 2021.  Seventeen area beaches in Benzie, Grand Traverse, and Leelanau counties will be tested for harmful E.coli bacteria every Wednesday through September 8. 

Beach test results will be available by noon on Thursdays and posted shortly thereafter on the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) BeachGuard website, The Watershed Center Facebook page, the Grand Traverse County Health Department website, and the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department website and Facebook page. If test results show high bacteria levels, local Health Departments will post advisories at impacted beaches and the beaches will immediately be re-tested until results return to acceptable levels.

Elevated bacteria levels, including E. coli, at beaches pose a threat to public health and cause illness, especially in young children and people with compromised immune systems. The presence of E. coli in surface water indicates fecal contamination is present at the beach, which includes a host of other harmful viruses and bacteria. Beachgoers are encouraged to take simple actions to reduce the risk of E. coli at beaches such as not feeding ducks and other birds, disposing of diapers (including swim diapers) in trash cans, and having young children take frequent bathroom breaks.

“Every year, we are proud to be able to offer this service within the watershed,” said Sarah U’Ren, Program Director at The Watershed Center. “Our weekly testing for E. coli bacteria is an integral piece of our efforts to keep our residents, visitors, and beaches healthy.”

Beach goers are reminded not to swim near storm drains, especially during and immediately after a rain event, as water from the storm drain may contain E. coli and other harmful pathogens from animal feces that are washed into the drains during a storm. The risk of elevated E. coli levels after a rain event decreases as sunlight breaks down the bacteria in open water.

Funding for beach monitoring comes from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency BEACH Act Funds, the City of Traverse City, Acme Township, and the Village of Empire. This year Lake Michigan beaches will mainly be tested due to lack of grant funding for inland lake testing.  Testing will be conducted at the following beaches:

Lake Michigan

  • Empire Beach
  • Frankfort Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – West

  • Bryant Park (Traverse City)
  • Sunset Park (Traverse City)
  • Senior Beach (Traverse City)
  • Clinch Park (Traverse City)
  • Volleyball Beach (Traverse City)
  • West End Beach (Traverse City)
  • Greilickville Harbor Park
  • Suttons Bay South Shore Beach
  • Suttons Bay Marina Park Beach
  • Northport Beach

Grand Traverse Bay – East

  • East Bay Park (Traverse City)
  • Traverse City State Park
  • Acme Bayside Park
  • Sayler Park (Acme)

Inland Beaches

  • South Bar Beach (South Bar Lake)
New Partnership Enhances Protections for Water Resources
| June 3, 2021 | 6:53 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

We are surrounded by precious water resources in northern Michigan. The lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands in this area provide drinking water and wildlife habitat, allow for endless recreational opportunities, and draw residents and thousands of visitors to the region. A desire to better protect northern Michigan’s waters encouraged Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, Huron Pines, The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay, and Conservation Resource Alliance to form a partnership to strengthen protections for our valuable resources.

Although collaborations among the organizations for small-scale projects are common, the groups often work in discrete geographic areas or on separate projects. As The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay Executive Director Christine Crissman noted, the partnership provides opportunities to share resources for water conservation and cover a larger geographic area.

“All of the organizations have their own areas of expertise,” said Crissman. “However, the issues facing our waters are systemic and watershed wide, and some of the projects we want to tackle are too big for one group to accomplish on their own. We want to show Northern Michigan that we’re working collectively to protect clean water and that by collaborating we can accomplish some really big things.”

Gail Gruenwald, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council’s executive director, conceived of the partnership in 2020 and invited the participants to join. The organizations held several virtual meetings last year, facilitated by Parallel Solutions, LLC, to determine how to collaborate on projects while maintaining autonomy. “While this planning effort started with an effort to better coordinate and not duplicate work across the four organizations, the result was an agreement to share opportunities to expand upon the protection Northern Michigan’s waters receive,” says Gruenwald. “We are excited to see where this goes.”

Conservation Resource Alliance Director Amy Beyer said that the long-standing trust among Northern Michigan conservation groups is a unique experience that has led to this new, “advanced” model for the four organizations. “It spells out careful, coordinated project planning, joint fund-seeking, and collaborative communications,” said Beyer. “It’s sort of a 400-level course in doing conservation work through partnerships.”

Huron Pines Executive Director Brad Jensen said that having a strong partnership will benefit all of the organizations involved. For example, Huron Pines covers northeastern Michigan, and doesn’t do as much policy or large-scale monitoring as Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council in the northwest. Being able to use the Watershed Council’s monitoring resources would benefit Huron Pines and Northern Michigan’s waters. The organizations can also bundle grant projects for impacts at a larger scale.

“I would just say that it presents a new opportunity to work more closely together,” said Jensen. “We’re all in it for the good of our watersheds, and this gets us one more step ahead in our efforts.” 

Leelanau Township Public Policy Essays, Volume 2
| May 6, 2021 | 1:35 pm | News & Events | Comments closed

May 2021 – Leelanau Township resident and retired public policy advocate Doug Whitely complied his second essay collection to inform, inspire, encourage discussion, and offer recommendations to the citizens of Leelanau Township to help build a better future for the community. Essays include thought-provoking data and discussions on the local economy, recreational trails, real estate trends, and environmental threats.

The Watershed Center’s Executive Director Christine Crissman authored the essay Clean Water and Septic Inspections: Ensuring the Future of Clean Water and Our Local Environment. Michigan is the only state on the nation without uniform standards for how septic systems are designed, built, installed, and maintained. District health departments have their own sanitary codes that regulate the installation of septic systems, but once the systems are installed they are rarely (if ever) inspected again.

“Currently, there remains a lot of uncertainty regarding effective septic system oversight and a continued lack of acceptance of the human health and water quality implications of undermaintained and/or failing septic systems. The lack of oversight and regulation should not prohibit property owners from taking necessary steps to prevent water quality degradation and human health effects before they happen. It is our responsibility to maintain our septic systems for the health of our neighbors and the protection of our waters.”

Christine Crissman, TWC Executive Director

Read the entire essay collection “A Collection of Public Policy Essays for Leelanau Township, Michigan: Volume Two.”