Protecting Water Quality Was Focus of the 2014 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference at SVSU

John Austin declared that Blue is the New Green when it comes to economic development during his plenary address at the 2014 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference on June 12, 2014, at Saginaw Valley State University.

Shiawassee River, courtesy of the Friends of the Shiawassee River

John Austin declared that “Blue is the New Green” when it comes to economic development during his plenary address at the 2014 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference on June 12, 2014, at Saginaw Valley State University. Austin, the director of the Michigan Economic Center at Prima Civitas, spoke to more than 170 individuals in attendance about the importance of Michigan’s water assets and how they can be utilized for the purposes of local and statewide economic development.

“Cities are starting to turn back towards water rather than turning their backs to it,” Austin said. “Grand Rapids is putting the ‘rapids’ back in Grand Rapids.”

Austin was one of three plenary speakers at the conference. The others were Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, who spoke about “A New Paradigm for the Great Lakes,” and Jon Allan of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, who addressed “The Values of Michigan’s Water.” His presentation inspired the audience to think and act to responsibly use and protect our water resources.

The event was hosted by LPI’s Planning & Zoning Center (PZC) at MSU, and was co-sponsored by 14 other local organizations and statewide agencies concerned with the health of the Saginaw Bay and Great Lakes water quality. Topics discussed include the renewed Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement; the new Michigan Water Strategy; policy issues impacting water quality; stormwater and nutrients; and local tools and technologies that can help improve water quality.

The purpose of the conference was to expose stakeholders to the breadth of research and work being done to improve water quality in the Saginaw Basin in hopes of increasing collaboration to expedite positive results. This event is part of a second round of funding that the PZC received from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative targeted to two watersheds in the Saginaw Bay: the Flint River and Shiawassee Watersheds.

“Water quality protection is a regional and national goal that cannot be achieved in isolation,” said Mark Wyckoff, director of the MSU Planning and Zoning Center. “This is a contemporary problem that we need to work together to solve. By educating each other on the wide range of activities under way in the Saginaw Bay Watershed to prevent future pollution and restore areas damaged by past activities, we hope that this conference is yet another step towards the improvement of water quality in the Saginaw Bay.”

The conference featured 12 breakout sessions, with 24 speakers who addressed regional issues related to the new Farm Bill and water quality protection, stakeholder engagement in urban and rural communities, fishing and dam removal or remediation, outdoor recreation, and sustainability and conservation in farming practices.

All the presentations and the final agenda for the conference can be found online at 2014 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference.

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