The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) is dedicated to preserving our natural environment through citizen action and education. Founded in 1980 we are the oldest grassroots environmental organization in the Grand Traverse region. This year we celebrated our 35th anniversary, which is a major accomplishment for an all-volunteer organization. We are working on a number of issues and wanted to share them with you:
OIL & WATER DON’T MIX CAMPAIGN
NMEAC has joined with over 20 environmental organizations in the state to call for a shut down of the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipelines at the Straits of Mackinac. This year we have participated in numerous rallies, handed out yard signs, and worked to raise awareness of one of the biggest environmental issues in Michigan. The coalition has elevated the risk posed by the 62-year-old Line 5 pipelines from obscurity to a top tier state issue. We are proud to be working with our local partners at FLOW (for the love of water), the Groundwork Center and TC-350 on this incredibly important issue to all of us in northern Michigan. Info: oilandwaterdontmix.org
NMEAC SOLAR INITIATIVE
This year NMEAC held four citizen stakeholder meetings to advocate for solar and wind energy in our region. Participants included city commissioners, chamber members, business owners, Traverse City Light and Power, as well as community leaders. Skip Pruss, from 5 Lakes Energy, helped to facilitate these successful meetings. NMEAC continues to advocate for 100% wind and solar energy in our region. We will also hold several events this fall and winter to recognize a number of successful solar projects in the Grand Traverse area.
SPRAWL MAKES A COMEBACK
NMEAC spoke out regarding ill-conceived development along M-72 west at The Moorings and joined with adjacent resident groups in opposing an MDEQ permit to fill wetlands for an access road at this site behind Tom’s West Bay. In addition, we joined with the Watershed Center in expressing concern about huge sediment runoffs into Acme Creek from the sprawling Village at Grand Traverse development along M-72 just east of Acme.
BOARDMAN LAKE SETBACKS
NMEAC joined with the Watershed Center to take legal action in circuit court to reverse a Traverse City Zoning Board of Appeals ruling which granted a setback variance for a developer along the west side of Boardman Lake. Even though city ordinances call for a 50 feet setback from the lake, the city ZBA granted a variance to reduce the setback to 25 feet. The circuit court heard the case and reversed the ZBA ruling. Concerns also remain about the city’s setbacks from the river in the downtown area.
LITTLE BETSIE WETLANDS
Six years ago, NMEAC joined with Interlochen Center for the Arts and adjacent residents near Interlochen to file legal action in circuit court to deny an MDEQ permit to fill wetlands for a road to a small, four-lot development. These important wetlands are near the Little Betsie River. The court heard arguments from long-time NMEAC attorney Jim Olson and, eventually, remanded the permit back to MDEQ. This fall action on the case resumes with a hearing before an administrative law judge in Lansing. The developer must prove there are no prudent and feasible alternatives to his small development in an important wetland area.
HOMESTEAD SEPTAGE ISSUE
Problems with the Homestead Resort’s septage system have been on NMEAC’s agenda since 1991. In recent years the resort has used a spray irrigation system to dispose of its septage on 11 acres of National Park Service land. Local residents and watchdogs calling themselves The Drifters have monitored the spray system and found that spray often drifts beyond the designated area onto adjacent lands that are part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. NMEAC has called for a public hearing on a new MDEQ permit that continues to allow spray drift to reach public lands. We hope the hearing will be held this fall in Glen Arbor.
ENVIRONMENTALIST OF THE YEAR AWARDS & CELEBRATION
This is our biggest event of the year and we are proud to report the 2015 event at the Park Place Dome was our largest in NMEAC history with over 225 people attending last April. We were fortunate to have Skip Pruss, from 5 Lakes Energy, as our guest speaker on climate change and the urgent need to transition to wind and solar energy. NMEAC handed out 17 awards in a wide variety of fields for outstanding environmental work.
We are already in the planning stages for our April 22, 2016 event, which will feature Liz Kirkwood, executive director of FLOW, as our guest speaker. Liz is one of the brightest, shining stars of the environmental community and she will be speaking about efforts to shut down the Line 5 oil pipelines at the Straits as well as water as a public trust.
Beginning January 1 we will be accepting nominations for the 2015 awards.