October/November 2013


Sustainable Communities and Clean Marinas

What makes a coastal community vibrant? The formula is complex, but one piece is simple: clean water. Marina owners, industry representatives and interested citizens from around the Great Lakes recently joined Michigan Sea Grant for a Clean Marina and Sustainable Coastal Communities workshop. Certified Clean Marinas are public and private marinas that have pledged to implement best management practices in an effort to sustain cleaner waterways.

Currently certified marina leaders discussed the benefits of becoming certified, as well as some of the challenges of seeking certification. Additional speakers addressed an array of related issues — from the importance of maintaining coastal habitats and how that helps build community and economy, to a report on the state of Clean Marina programs around the country.

Steve Remias, President of MacRay Harbor in Harrison Township on Lake St. Clair, provided a historical perspective and spoke about the early days of the Michigan Clean Marina Program. No so long ago, he said, the perception was that boaters and marina operators were not environmentally conscious and didn’t practice sound environmental behavior. “It’s not one that I necessarily agree with, but it was a perception,” he said. While many were operating responsibly, Remias said the industry recognized there was room for improvement.

“From a marina’s perspective, this is a great selling point,” he said. “It’s our lead slide when showing a presentation to our clients or prospective clients. There is high public value in knowing that you are trying to do things right.”

Remias said joining the program has benefits — not just to the marina that pledges to become certified, but also the environment and the community.

Brian Kelley with Sundog Marine on the Clinton River in Harrison Township spoke about those benefits and the process of becoming certified.

“Last year, I became the 41st recipient of the Michigan Clean Marina certification program,” said Kelley. “My decision to become a certified Clean Marina was personal. I feel a responsibility to protect and promote clean water. I boat and swim on Lake St. Clair. The Clean Marina Program helps raise awareness of water issues — and it’s proactive.”

Kelley said he worked through the Clean Marina Classroom in the winter during the marina down time. It was easier to work through the certification program than he expected.

“It’s really not that tough. The first step is deciding to do it. There’s no reason not to,” he said.

He went on to say that although there is a slight cost to the program, he recouped the cost pretty quickly. When he spoke to his marina’s insurance agent, he asked: what’s the value of a Clean Marina Certification? The answer was: 10 percent reduction in insurance costs.

“To give you an idea, our insurance cost is about $15,000 a year, so that’s a discount of $1500, which means I’ve more than recouped the costs in one year alone,” said Kelley.

Sundog Marina now recycles beer and pop cans, which used to fill their trashcans after each weekend. They raised more than $500 by collecting the cans and were able to use the proceeds to throw a fall party at the end of last season.

“We have a beautiful resource here — I encourage everybody to support clean water,” he said. “Boaters have noticed and appreciated the cleaner grounds and cleaner water — the atmosphere has improved. Our occupancy is currently at more than 90 percent. Three years ago, it was at about 50 percent; I’m not sure of the correlation between becoming a Clean Marina, but something is working.”

Anna Townshend, Marina Dock Age editor, reported on a survey they performed about Clean Marina programs throughout the country. The results of the survey were published in the April 2013 edition of the magazine. The overall assessment of the Clean Marina 20-year report card was that the Michigan program and programs throughout the Great Lakes region were doing well. In that issue, Neil Ross, the founder of the International Marina Institute, lauded the Michigan Clean Marina Program as one of the best in the United States.

“The most effective programs are those where the industry has an active role,” he wrote, in the April 2013 edition of the magazine. “Another success factor is Sea Grant participation because it brings good leaders, science, neutral views, educational skill, and often outside funding into the process. Some of the best Clean Marina programs, in my view, are in Texas, Florida, Michigan and Maryland.

During the event, Townshend agreed the region’s programs are ahead of the curve.

“The Great Lakes are doing really well,” she said. “A lot of movement is coming out of there. You guys are doing a great job.”

Many others spoke about different aspects of the program during the workshop, including:

  • Josh Gunn, Michigan Sea Grant, facilitator
  • Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant
  • Sarah Orlando, Ohio Sea Grant
  • Amy Samples, Michigan Sea Grant
  • Gerard Santoro, Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development
  • Jeff Spencer, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
  • Scott Stevenson, 31st Street Harbor, Chicago


Related News

Keeping the Great Lakes Clean through Regional Marina Education and Outreach

The Green Marina Education and Outreach Project, supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, has resulted in 69 Clean Marina certifications, and more than 2,170 individuals participating in Clean Marina workshops. Additionally, marinas across the Great Lakes have joined a network to share ideas and promote education about protecting our water for swimming, fishing and boating.

See: News Release




Renaissance along the River

Construction on a new dock and fishing pier in the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is set to begin in October. The dock will be used as the launching and landing point for Summer Discovery and Great Lakes Education Program (GLEP) cruises. The new structures will be installed just north of Humbug Marsh in Trenton.

As part of the master plan for the Refuge Gateway, the boat dock and fishing pier will provide accessible, shore-based fishing opportunities on the Detroit River. The project also includes a boardwalk, restroom facilities, seating areas, shade structures and interpretive signs.

John Hartig, the Refuge’s manager, was the special guest presenter for a recent Detroit River Revival Summer Discovery Cruise. During the cruise, Hartig talked about the construction and shared insights on the incredible revival of the Detroit River, including its habitats, wildlife and fishery resources.

Michigan Sea Grant has supported the International Wildlife Refuge and participated in the renaissance of the Detroit River, since 1995. Sea Grant and partners paved the way to establish the Detroit River as an American Heritage River in 1998. Today, Sea Grant is working with EPA, USGS, NOAA, USFWS, SEMCOG, MDNR, MDEQ, the Great Lakes Commission, Ducks Unlimited, and the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority on many restoration efforts within the Huron-Erie Corridor.

U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-15th District) has been a long time supporter of the International Wildlife Refuge. Other supporters include the Erb Family Foundation, corporations, businesses and individuals.

Michigan Sea Grant, Michigan State University and the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority operate the Summer Discovery Cruises and the Great Lakes Education Program.



Summer Discovery Cruise, Fish Tales, Lake Erie and Detroit RiverLooking for Our Next Extension Program Leader

Do you love the Great Lakes? Do you have experience working in Great Lakes extension, research and outreach? You may be interested in the Extension Specialist position at Michigan Sea Grant. Review of applications begins November 8.

The primary responsibility of this Extension Specialist position (75%) is to serve as the Extension Program Coordinator for Michigan Sea Grant, overseeing the administration of the network of Michigan Sea Grant Extension Educators across the state.

The other 25 percent of effort will be spent facilitating, developing and implementing a research program on applied human dimensions in support of Michigan Sea Grant, with an additional focus on Great Lakes aquatic resource policy and management.

See: Job Posting


jet_ski_IMG_2689Summer Discovery Cruise to the Rescue – Literally

While the passengers along for the Bob-Lo Island themed Summer Discovery Cruise were taken back in time, reminiscing about simple days past, a mayday distress call brought the ship back to the present.

In August, the Clinton, the boat used for Summer Discovery Cruises and Great Lakes Education Program, received a mayday distress call regarding a jet ski going in circles out in Lake Erie.

During the return trip of the cruise, after the boat re-entered Lake Erie, the captain spotted two people clinging to a buoy. The father and son, who were both wearing personal flotation devices, were in the water for an estimated 45 minutes. The Clinton crew helped the son aboard, while the Canadian Coast Guard came to secure the father.

The son was also transferred to the Coast Guard vessel, and the cruise went on as scheduled. The crew later reflected on how well their drills had prepared them to respond quickly and calmly in such situations — a reflection that was confirmed when one participant commented on a post-cruise evaluation form: “We especially enjoyed the rescue re-enactment — well done!”

See: Rescue

Also, see related story: Hypothermia – It’s not just for winter




Research Corner

What’s going on with Michigan Sea Grant research? Check out these updates on our current Integrated Assessment research projects. The projects are funded by MSG, and led by researchers at universities around the state.

Expanding Michigan’s Aquaculture into a Sustainable Seafood Industry

Project overview: Michigan has the potential to support a vibrant aquaculture industry. However, commercial aquaculture development in Michigan has been stagnant since 1991. This project team is working to assess Michigan’s current underdeveloped aquaculture industry.

Project update: The project team has been meeting with stakeholders, including industry professionals, organizations, policy makers and practitioners in Michigan and beyond. The researchers have been gathering information to help form a strategic plan that will provide an overall assessment and potential means of bolstering the future of aquaculture in Michigan. The plan will be drafted over the coming months, with a final draft expected in early 2014.

See: Website

Torch_Lake_IA_DSC_0376Assessing the Torch Lake Area of Concern

Project overview: Torch Lake, located in the Keweenaw area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, was impacted by copper mining from the mid-1800s to the late 1960s. But do contamination issues continue? The Integrated Assessment research team is working to engage stakeholders and develop material used to help remediate the site where needed.

Project update: The project team has been using a variety of approaches to identify remaining sources of PCBs, copper and mercury. They have been pouring through archived documents, interviewing former employees and mapping the sites of old buildings. A variety of evidence indicates additional, undocumented sources of contaminants to Torch Lake remain. The project leader has been working closely with contacts at EPA and DEQ and the local advisory committee. These groups have different views on whether or not the lake is ready for delisting from the Area of Concern and Superfund site lists, which is a unique situation. The team has also been talking with other local stakeholders, including a local advisory committee, school groups, residents and former mining employees.

See: Website

Evaluating How Climate Change Could Impact Grand Traverse Bay

Project overview: It is unclear how climate change is likely to affect people and the environment in specific locations or how communities should best prepare. This team of researchers is using interactive workshops and technical assessments to explore local climate change impacts and adaptation strategies for the Grand Traverse Bay region.

Project update: The project team organized their first stakeholder workshop on May 21, which was well attended. Participants identified changes already occurring in the region, such as more erratic snow cover, longer summer droughts, more large-rain events and changes in planting zones. Top climate-related concerns included water quality, water levels, stormwater runoff, and specifically how the region might adapt to these challenges. The research team is using stakeholder input to compile data and modify models to help answer locally important questions, such as how will climate change impact streams and groundwater? Stakeholder engagement has been high thus far — 95 percent of workshop participants indicated interest in attending future project events.

See: Website


Featured Publications

Check out one of these great rock pickers guides to aid your rocky quests along the beach. Also, don’t forget about our whitefish cookbook — featuring recipes from chefs around the Great Lakes region!

MICHU-08-503-2TLake Superior Rock Picker’s Guide
“The earth, quite by accident, has written its own autobiography. Each stone is part of that autobiography with its own story to tell.” This guidebook helps unfold the story and history of the Lakes, rock by rock.

See: Lake Superior Guide


MICHU-08-504-2TLake Michigan Rock Picker’s Guide
“The Great Lakes have more color and variety of stones than anywhere else on the planet. All of this variety and color helps create the charm of Lake Michigan.” This identification guide helps translate what the beaches of Lake Michigan are made of. Using color pictures, illustrations and a step-by-step process, this book helps identify rock type, where they’re found and how to tell similar rocks apart.

See: Lake Michigan Guide


MICHU-11-502-2TLake Huron Rock Picker’s Guide
This guide to Lake Huron provides specific information on the types of rocks, fossils and minerals a collector may come across while traversing the shores. It also helps identify areas pickers are likely to find more unique kinds of rocks, the history and guidelines on park rules when it comes to collecting.

See: Lake Huron Guide


MICHU-10-502-2TWild Caught and Close to Home: Selecting and Preparing Great Lakes Whitefish
One taste and you’ll be hooked! The Wild Caught and Close to Home cookbook celebrates the Great Lakes whitefish with recipes, cooking techniques and chef insights.

See: Whitefish Cookbook