Sag. Bay Watershed Conf. to Highlight Progress in Improving Water Quality, Focus on Future

The Michigan State University Planning and Zoning Initiative will bring people together to talk about progress in improving water quality of the Saginaw Bay watershed.

By: Lindsay Knake, News

KOCHVILLE TWP. — The Michigan State University Planning and Zoning Initiative will bring people together to talk about progress in improving water quality of the Saginaw Bay watershed.

On Friday, the university group is hosting the 2012 Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference [hosted by the Planning & Zoning Center at MSU] at Saginaw Valley State University to discuss the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, including the The Saginaw River/Bay Area of Concern.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative started in 2009, when President Barack Obama proposed $475 million to restore the Great Lakes and their coastal and river ecosystems. The Environmental Protection Agency gave MSU’s Planning & Zoning Center a $399,000, two-year grant as part of the initiative. MSU’s project is assisting 102 local units of government in three sub-watersheds, Cass, Pigeon/Pinnebog and Rifle River, with master plan and zoning ordinance updates to protect water quality.

MSU Planning and Zoning Center Director Mark Wyckoff said the grant includes funding the 2012 conference. As of Monday afternoon, more than 200 people were registered.

“The conference brings together a larger number of stakeholders during project to share what they are doing, but also to share the fact that there is a lot of action underway to improve and protect and restore water quality in the region,” he said.

The Saginaw Bay watershed includes parts of 22 counties, or 15 percent of Michigan land, with wide variation in land types and uses, Wyckoff said. The Saginaw River/Bay Area of Concern includes all 22 miles of the Saginaw River and the entire Saginaw Bay.

There are small and incremental positive things going on, he said, but the watershed still suffers from problems.

About half of the conference’s 24 speakers are engaged in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded projects, while others are organizations or academic researchers whose work has relevance to the Saginaw Bay Watershed, Wyckoff said.

The speakers range from biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to area government officials to Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality employees. After the keynote address from Cameron Davis, EPA Administrator senior adviser, attendees will choose three of nine breakout sessions to attend.

The registration list includes EPA, DEQ and DNR officials, conservation organization members, university faculty members and students, farm bureau members, American Indian tribe members and about 30 local governmental leaders and elected officials.

Beside the basic knowledge of cleanup and restoration projects, Wyckoff said, he hopes speakers and attendees address three questions: What kind of barriers do we see in progress? What gaps are there in progress? What are ideas no one has yet tackled?

Attendees will have a chance to voice their own concerns and ideas at a panel discussion at the end of the day.

The conference is 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in SVSU’s Curtiss Hall, 7400 Bay in Kochville Township.

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