million to support freshwater studies
Rotary grant gives boost to Northwestern Michigan College
By John Flesher
TRAVERSE CITY - A $1 million grant from a Rotary Clubs
foundation will give a boost to a new freshwater studies
program at Northwestern Michigan College.
The grant, announced Tuesday, will help fund the Great
Lakes Water Studies Institute, established last year to
promote wise stewardship of the Great Lakes and other
freshwater resources. It will be housed in a new building
on the southern shore of Grand Traverse Bay.
"In our grandchildrenís lifetime, the wars will
be over water," said Paul LaPorte, president of one
of Traverse Cityís two Rotary Clubs. "We need to
protect it, study it, conserve it."
In a recorded message, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said the
grant "has given life to a mission and facility which
has the potential to become the worldwide center for freshwater
A water science course will be offered at the community
college this fall, but the Water Studies Institute is
not envisioned as a new academic department, President
Timothy Nelson said.
Instead, it will be more of a clearinghouse - helping
nonprofit groups, government agencies, schools and others
exchange information and develop research and conservation
projects, Nelson said.
The institute is overseeing the development of a curriculum
about watershed topics that can be used locally in school
science classes. It also will assist area groups working
on problems such as zebra mussel infestation and soil
It is sponsoring an internship program for students working
with natural resource organizations, and will sponsor
conferences and workshops on freshwater issues.
A wetlands conference is scheduled for May 20-22. Also
in the works are a forum on pending federal legislation
to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem and a "water
summit" to develop freshwater use and protection
goals for northwestern Michigan.
By hosting such gatherings, the institute can help seek
common ground in disputes between commercial, property-rights
and conservation interests, Nelson said.
The college could bring together people "who in
the past either havenít wanted to come to the table together
or have come with such a predetermined notion of what
the outcome to an issue should be that thereís really
no conversation," he said.
The institute will have only a small staff, but will
seek affiliations and electronic linkups with freshwater
scientists and programs elsewhere, he said.