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Great Lakes Article:

$1 million to support freshwater studies
Rotary grant gives boost to Northwestern Michigan College
By John Flesher
Associated Press
02/19/04

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 grandchildren’s lifetime, the wars will be over water," said Paul LaPorte, president of one of Traverse City’s 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 studies."

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 erosion.

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 haven’t 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 there’s 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.

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