Letters

Letters 09-15-2014

Stop The Games On Campus

Four head coaches – two at U of M and two at MSU – get a total of $13 million of your taxpayer dollars each year. Their staffs get another $11 million...

The Truth About Fatbikes

While we appreciate the fatbike trail coverage, the quote from the article below is exactly what we demonstrated not to be true in most cases last season...

Man Has Environmental Responsibility

I tend to agree with Thomas Kachadurian (“Playing God,” Sept. 8) that we should not interfere with the power of nature by deciding what is “native” and what is not. Man usually does what is better for man (or so we believe), hence the survival and population growth of our species...

The Bush & Obama Facts

Don Turner’s letter to the editor on 8/25/14 stated that there has never been a more corrupt, dishonest, etc. set of politicians in the White House. He states no facts, but here are a few...

Ban Pesticides

I grew up downstate in a neighborhood without pesticides. I was always very healthy. Living here, I have become ill. So I did my research and found out a lot about these poison agents called pesticides (herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, etc) that are being spread throughout this community, accumulating in our air, water and soil...

Respect for Presidents?

Recently we read the Letter to the Editor that encouraged us to stop characterizing President Obama as anything other than an upstanding, moral, inspiring “first Black President”. The author would have us think that the rancor in the press, media and public is misguided. And, believe it or not, this rancor is a “glaring exception to … unwritten patriotic rule” of historically supporting all previous presidents...


Home · Articles · News · Features · Baywatch
. . . .

Baywatch

Sandra Serra Bradshaw - June 15th, 2006
Beautiful Grand Traverse Bay draws many of us to this region. Yet, the bay’s ecosystem is changing because of population growth and development. Monitoring these changes has become increasingly important and the summer of 2006 will prove no exception.
“In ten years Grand Traverse Bay will not even be recognizable,” said Robert “Bobby” F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, in an interview a few years ago for the Northern Express. Those words stung. Locally, growth brings with it man-made necessities including concrete, blacktop, roofing, fertilizer - each contributing to contaminants and pollutants flowing from the watershed into the bay. 
The need for waterkeepers to protect America’s waterways was first mentioned in a book by Robert H. Boyle in 1969 about the Hudson River’s contamination. The first riverkeeper, John Cronin, was established on the Hudson in 1983. Kennedy joined the group in 1984, which eventually grew into the present-day Waterkeeper Alliance, active in over 130 locations around the world. 
The Watershed Center of Grand Traverse Bay appointed baykeeper John Nelson in 2002 when the center joined the Waterkeeper Alliance. Nelson oversees 973 square miles of watershed in Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Antrim and Kalkaska counties, along with portions of Otsego and Charlevoix counties. Included are nine major drainage basins: Elk River Chain of Lakes, the Boardman River, Mitchell Creek, Acme Creek, Ptebego Creek, Yuba Creek, the East Bay shoreline, the West Bay shoreline and Old Mission Peninsula.

SPAWL CONSEQUENCES
Nelson, an Annapolis Naval Academy graduate and retired science teacher, is passionate about protecting the bay.
“I grew up here. It is hurtful for me to see the natural environment being harmed,” he said.  “One issue that is of deep concern is the increasing algae along the near shore beaches. From 1991-1998 the algae beds - called macrophyte beds – have doubled in number. A lot of this is due to use of fertilizers.
“If you get up in an airplane for an aerial view - it’s not very pretty,” Nelson continued.
“The many shopping malls -- all the pavement -- are adding to the problem. Take Mitchell Creek and Kids Creek - they have been compromised by the growth and are just a few miles from the bay. All the sediment flows right into it. Stream management is becoming a huge issue.
“The more impervious structures we make, the more sediment and nutrient run-off end up in the bay. All of that sediment - a nutrient overload - raises the temperature of what were once cold- water streams that were great for fishing. Look what happens. Now the temperature has been raised and there are far fewer fish. Mitchell and Kids Creek were once popular places to fish – not any more,
“Wastewater is another big concern, and Suttons Bay is a perfect example. Its population has doubled in size and its wastewater - rather than a periodic discharge - continuously discharges right into the bay, as will the new one (water treatment plant) being built. The bay will suffer. For one-and-a-half million dollars more (of the $4.2 million budget), this could be remedied. Look at the bay - is that not worth it?”

DIFFERENT STROKES
Traverse City area residents took a different approach to protect West Grand Traverse Bay. The city’s Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant serves over 45,000 persons in Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties. 
“It was a $31 million project to address plant capacity as well as quality effluent discharge,” said the treatment plant project manager Scott Blair, who works under Operations Management International based in Denver. Instead of a second-best effort, Blair notes that the community constructed a plant that offers the cleanest possible discharge of treated water back into the bay.
Water clarity in the bay is another issue that has come under scrutiny. While many think clear water is advantageous - it is not. Zebra mussels (which filter water to a crystal clarity) have destroyed many of the tiny organisms that feed many fish in the bay.
Other species are also a problem.
“Exotic species, such as Quagga mussels seem to be getting the most attention now,” said Tom Kelly, director of the Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay.
“The Quagga mussels seem to have replaced the Zebra mussels. They are more aggressive because they are able to use a wider area for habitation such as clinging to the sand rather than just hard objects as Zebra mussels do,” said Kelly. 
Quagga mussels were first discovered in 1991 in Lake Ontario, having been transported in (freighters) ballast water from Eurasia.  Zebra mussels, also from Eurasia by the same method of transport, were first identified in1988 in Lake St. Clair.

CHANGING SHORELINES
Another problem besides the exotics is the lower water levels. Though higher than the last few years’ record low’s, shorelines have changed, and where waterfront owners once had sandy beaches, now many are concerned with the new vegetative growth building up.  This growth, however, acts as a protection to help keep sediment from entering into the bay.
Leaving this vegetative shoreline has become a political issue with many waterfront owners - here and throughout the state - by the Save Our Shoreline association (SOS).  Members of the group wish to be able to remove the plant growth and restore their beaches, despite a DEQ ruling that shore grooming is illegal. 
So, if the bay is clean, why worry about it?
Anne Brasie, executive director of The Watershed Center, hears that question often and has a response.
“It’s true, according to the numbers everything is still within state guidelines, but you have to remember that our bay is already cleaner than many of the waters of the state that these guidelines are based on,” Brasie said. “Do we really want to only meet those numbers? We are seeing subtle and not so subtle changes to the ecosystem. The increase in algae washing up on our beaches is a good example. None of us knows which day in the influx of nutrients or toxic chemicals will tip the scale into the unhealthy zone. Aren’t we better off staying as far away from that possibility as we can?”
She adds that she and Nelson attend the national Waterkeeper Alliance meetings each year to represent Grand Traverse Bay and the waters of Lake Michigan. “We spend five days surrounded by some of the most inspired and talented people out there - all working to keep our waters clean.
“We get to look out at that bay and enjoy all our wonderful lakes and streams and know that we do one of the best jobs around. How can you find a cause more relevant to our quality of life in this region? The health of our economy is so dependent on the health of our natural resources.”

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay is located at 232 E. Front Street Traverse City, MI 49684 231-935-1514 (ph); 231-935-3829 (fax). Internet:
www.gtbay.org


 
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