Make it Rain
Diane Dupuis is here to help us fund the fight of the Great Lakes' life
By Ross Boissoneau | Nov. 16, 2019
Diane Dupuis is the new development director at FLOW (For Love Of Water), the Traverse City-based organization dedicated to preserving the waters of the Great Lakes basin. She previously spent ten years at Interlochen Center for the Arts in communications and fund-development roles before fundraising for two land conservancies.
She joins FLOW at a propitious time; the organization has been in the forefront of two high-profile legal fights. One concerns the drawing of water by Nestle in Mecosta County, and the other is the dispute over Line 5 running under the Straits of Mackinac.
Northern Express sits down with Dupuis to talk ground water, high water, water justice, and the critical flow that moves — or drains — the people’s fight: money.
What is your background?
I’m the daughter of two Detroit Public Schools educators and social justice activists. I grew up in the Detroit area, attended Kalamazoo College, and worked in Detroit’s publishing sector for the first part of my career. In 2001 my husband, musician Steve Carey, and I relocated to the Traverse City area with our two small children, and I began working at Interlochen Center for the Arts, first in communications and then in fundraising. From there I joined the fund development staff at the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy. When my elderly mom needed looking after downstate, I was able to make that transition by working in development in Ann Arbor, at Legacy Land Conservancy and then the Ann Arbor Art Center. My nonprofit experience also includes service on the boards of Michigan Writers and Washtenaw Literacy, and I currently serve as vice chair of Michigan Audubon. I’m a hiker, cross-country skier, and sea kayaker equally mesmerized by campfires, star-gazing, and rock-strewn beaches.
So why FLOW?
Like many lifelong Michiganians as well as those who embrace Michigan later in life, I feel a fundamental connection to our waters, and along with that a conviction that we all share a responsibility for safeguarding this precious asset. In addition to the beauty and grandeur of our waters, and along with the recreational delights and the wildlife habitat they afford, our water is also crucial to human health. Access to clean drinking water is a universal need, and I can’t think of a more important issue facing us at this time than water justice. In working to keep public water publicly available, FLOW collaborates with many partners throughout the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces from right here in the Grand Traverse region, a water-lover’s paradise. FLOW is the right place for me to roll up my sleeves and live my values, inspired every day amidst a landscape defined by water.
Where does FLOW get its funding? Why does FLOW need a development director?
FLOW is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that depends on charitable donations to fund our work. Financial support comes from individuals, corporate sponsors, and foundations throughout the Great Lakes basin. We also benefit from the time and expertise that volunteers devote to our effort, everything from helping to make our office run smoothly to pro bono legal work. Midwesterners are particularly generous in supporting causes they believe in, and our region is fortunate to sustain a bright constellation of very worthy organizations working to enhance lives. At FLOW, one aspect of my job is to help ensure that everyone who cares about water justice in the Great Lakes can, with their generosity, participate in moving FLOW’s work forward. Another aspect is to help supporters appreciate how their generosity makes a positive difference in protecting public water from private interests. The part of each day that I most look forward to is thanking all the committed and insightful people who pitch in with energy, resources, and hope.
Two of the biggest issues around water and FLOW are Line 5 and Nestle’s continued drawing water. What is the latest on those?
As long as the multinational Enbridge Energy continues to operate Line 5 (a major oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac), a massive area of the Great Lakes is at risk of a catastrophic oil spill. Last spring, Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel ruled that previous laws and agreements with Enbridge were unconstitutional, invalid, and unenforceable. In June, Enbridge filed suit in the Court of Claims in Lansing against the State of Michigan and its departments to resuscitate the oil tunnel deal. FLOW is providing crucial legal and science support to the effort to decommission the Line 5 pipeline by forcing compliance with environmental and public trust laws.
Earlier this fall, the Michigan Court of Claims issued orders accepting FLOW’s and the City of Mackinac Island’s amicus briefs, which reject opposing arguments by Enbridge. The ruling means that vital issues raised by FLOW’s “friend of the court” brief and the city’s brief will be considered by the Michigan Court of Claims, including the public trust rights of citizens to draw drinking water from and otherwise use the Great Lakes, and the soils and bottomlands beneath them, unimpaired by private interests.
Also, the fight to keep public water from being sold for private profit remains a focus for FLOW. Private landowners have a right to reasonable use of water for the benefit of their land. But reasonable use does not mean robbing large volumes of water from the headwaters of our streams, lakes, and wetlands—water taken for free and sold elsewhere for private gain. While Nestle pays $200 a year to extract 210 million gallons of water that belongs to everyone, people in our communities have lost access to clean, affordable drinking water. A multinational water bottler’s excessive profiteering doesn’t sit well when people in Flint reel from the lack of access to water safe from the risk of lead poisoning, or tens of thousands of people in Detroit continue to suffer the indignity and harm to families and health from water shutoffs because they cannot afford the high price of water to meet their basic needs, or communities throughout the state wrestle with groundwater contamination from PFAS and other pollutants.
What water issues are we dealing with (or ignoring) in this region?
Michigan is “The Great Lakes State” but is a failing steward of the sixth Great Lake, the water lying beneath Michigan’s ground. FLOW is calling for state-level reforms to strengthen protection of Michigan’s groundwater. That includes statewide monitoring and replacement of failing septic systems. Michigan prides itself on being an environmental leader, particularly in curbing water pollution. But in one area of water policy, Michigan is dead last among the 50 states: It is the only state in the nation that lacks a uniform sanitary code requiring periodic inspection and maintenance of septic systems – even though 30 percent of Michiganians rely on such systems. An estimated 130,000 septic systems in the state are failing, releasing 5.2 billion gallons of sewage annually into Michigan waters. Numerous Michigan rivers and lakes have detectable levels of human fecal bacteria. Groundwater, too, is contaminated by septic wastes. This issue needs more attention throughout Michigan.
What is the deal with the high water levels? How will this affect us going forward?
Scientists don’t know whether Great Lakes levels will rise or fall in response to climate change, as increases in precipitation may be offset by increased evaporation from higher temperatures and reduced ice cover. Climate science makes clear, though, that the frequency and severity of storm events will increase the potential for unprecedented, rapid changes in Great Lakes levels. We only have to look back six years or so to a time when water levels in 2013 were significantly lower than average, compared to the high levels we see today. This dramatic fluctuation in water levels is yet another sign of the climate crisis that is evidenced by extremes of all kinds: storms, droughts, floods, wildfires, polar melting, record-breaking temperatures, and more.
Is avian botulism still a thing Up North?
Avian botulism kills diving ducks and loons, often as they begin their migratory flight to winter habitat. The numbers are down from a high in 2012 or thereabouts. Of the six or so bird carcasses collected in the Sleeping Bear Dunes area this fall, I’m told that avian botulism was detected in about half.
Where else does FLOW work? Are there other Great Lakes efforts we should be aware of in this area?
Around the Great Lakes, which contain roughly 20 percent of the world’s available surface fresh water, old and failing infrastructure, urbanization, intense agricultural uses, runoff and many more sources are threatening water quality.
For specific localities around the region, “OUR20” is a FLOW initiative that empowers local communities to instill the values of water stewardship in their policies and practices. This grassroots, place-based program is built on the knowledge that water is precious to all, and its stewardship has the potential to unite communities in achieving environmental goals. Any community can adopt the “OUR20” model.
How can people can get involved/take action?
Becoming and staying informed is fundamental, and FLOW’s twice-monthly e-newsletter is a great place to start. It highlights issues and events, and offers information on specific actions that individuals can undertake to increase their involvement and create change. Sign up is easy, at flowforwater.org/get-involved/sign-up-here/. We also encourage citizens to follow us on Facebook to stay abreast of water news on a daily basis. Follow us here: Facebook.com/FlowforWater. FLOW also welcomes volunteers for a range of activities. And, of course, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t mention our website’s donation page: https://flowforwater.org/donate/
Is water the next precious commodity? What does than mean for the Great Lakes?
Nature and ecological systems provide trillions of dollars in annual benefits to humanity. The Great Lakes and their tributary rivers and streams, wetlands, and groundwater – the largest fresh surface water system in the world – are an immense source of natural capital that will become increasingly valuable as the accumulating effects of climate change stress the global environment, and worsening water scarcity draws attention to the water wealth of the Great Lakes region. As populations shift to water-rich regions, infrastructure and water justice will become increasingly critical, as will the imperative to keep public water publicly available.
What's needed most right now? Where should the general public be putting forth their time, energy and money?
Water is at the nexus of food, energy, transportation, the climate crisis, social justice, and the economy. Solutions based on law and science can prevail with public support.
ART, MEET WATER (AND FUNDRAISING SUCCESS)
Part art exhibit, part fundraiser, and all about the water, Higher Art Gallery’s “Source: Artists for FLOW” exhibit recently featured 32 pieces — created by 21 different artists — connected to and/or commentaries on the region’s land and water. Thanks to proceeds from the opening night event and works sold, the gallery raised $4,500 for FLOW.
The event and exhibit were not only one of two fundraisers gallery owner Shanny Brooke creates each year to give back to the community but also proof of how effectively art and water can work together — a foundation FLOW communications coordinator Jacob Wheeler said feeds FLOW’s new Art Meets Water initiative.
“It’s clear that one of the most important ways to connect with water is to connect emotionally,” he said. And art appeals to the emotions. “Literature, music, dance, poetry, and art all come into play. To get people to think more of water and what FLOW does, [art] is a great tool.”
The organization’s new Art Meets Water hub features inspirational tools aplenty: a groundwater video that includes a painting by Glenn Wolff and narration by Anne-Marie Oomen; photos of the artists and their work at Higher Art Gallery; Oomen's "Love Letters to the Lakes," presented to the International Joint Commission this summer; and video of Crispin Campbell and Michael Delp's cello-poetry collaboration at FLOW’s “In Praise of Water” benefit last June at the Cathedral Barn in the Commons.