Hello Fellow Lakers,
I originally wanted to title this article, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” when I first conceived of it last fall, while compiling the water quality data I spent the summer collecting from our little Cass County Lake. I collected the data as part of the Michigan Cooperative Lakes Management Program (CLMP) which is administered by the MI Department of the Environment Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) in partnership with many others, most notably, the Michigan Lakes & Streams Association. The primary purpose of this cooperative program is to help citizen volunteers monitor indicators of water quality in their lake and document changes in lake quality over time. CLMP is the second longest running volunteer monitoring program in the country with over 311 lakes officially enrolled in 2018.
My story begins in the summer of 2018 when a few of my neighbors approached me about the changes they had noticed in the lake. I too had noticed these changes, even mentioning it to my wife just a few days earlier. I knew exactly where to find the expertise we needed and I called the Cass County Conservation District’s “Water Quality Task Force.” After a field visit by their technicians Nor and Erez, I was introduced to the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program and my journey as a CLMP volunteer began.
Being the first year in the program, we selected four parameters for monitoring: spring phosphorous, transparency, summer phosphorous and exotic plant watch. Training was scheduled for early May at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Michigan. But before training, the sampling gear needed to be secured. There were three options to secure the necessary gear: buy it, borrow it or build it. I, of course, chose to build ours.
Building our own sampling equipment turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable task. We not only saved money (less than $11 for two devices) but were able to recycle used, broken, and surplus materials on hand. Working with my hands was not only satisfying but it conjured up memories of my first job with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service where we too had to design and build our own sampling gear to map aquatic vegetation in the Detroit, St Clair and St Mary’s River. This data was needed by the US Army Corps of Engineers for its baseline study to determine if Great Lakes shipping could be kept open year round. In the end, I was tickled to see the simple “weed sampler” we had built back then functioned just as the one used by CLMP today.
I found the training sessions at Crystal Mountain to be inspiring as well. The designated rooms were packed with 80 “official” registrants and dozens of more “walk-in” attendees. I was impressed with how scientific it all was, especially the “Aquatic Plant ID Class.” More memories of the countless hours spent in lab classes past, identifying all sorts of critters from aquatic to zoological. At least there was no graded quiz – one point for the correct ID, one point for the correct Latin spelling.
The 20 week field season went as well as could be expected. The weekly data collection trips were sometimes a chore, with the typical mechanical and weather-related issues. Finding enough volunteers to cover when folks were on vacation was a factor too. Our biggest snafu came right at the beginning of the season when we learned the spring phosphorous sample needed to be taken within 2 weeks of ice out, which for us came March 21st. We were unprepared, as nobody on the lake had yet gotten their boats put in. We will have to plan better for 2020, possibly using a neighbor’s paddle boat, which we did have to use a couple of times in 2019.
My neighbors asked me several times over the summer what I had discovered about the lake’s water quality. My standard answer was always that we were still in the data collection phase and that we would need much more data before it could be analyzed and any conclusions drawn. This made it easy for me to hide the fact that even though I had studied this stuff in college, I had forgotten much of what I learned way back when. I vowed to take some kind of “Limnology” refresher during the coming winter.
The lesson I did learn and will always remember, is that everybody is responsible for degraded water quality and it is up to everybody to improve it. I learned this lesson during my career at USDA working with farmers and other land users helping them implement conservation practices on their land to improve water quality downstream. I learned that successful projects required “Buy In” by the entire community. All the stakeholders needed to be involved, everybody needed to recognize their role in degrading water quality and what they needed to do to help improve it. No blaming the other – everybody needed to do their part.
It takes education to achieve this level of awareness and cooperation. A targeted, comprehensive education effort before, during and after the implementation of improvements is the hallmark of successful water quality projects. That is why I am choosing to support Lake Superior State’s efforts to build its Center for Freshwater Research and Education (CFRE).
I believe CFRE can be a strong leader in this educator role, both during individual implementation projects and more generally to help train the next generation. To inspire those who may choose to work in the water quality field but more importantly, by educating the broader public on the need for everyone to do his or her part to protect water quality. I hope you too will choose to support CFRE and do your part to improve water quality, and help make LSSU the preeminent institution of freshwater research in the upper Great Lakes and beyond.
A brief postscript about my article on the Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program (CLMP). Last October, during all the budget wrangling in Lansing, funding for CLMP was cut and the program has been suspended for 2020. The news was a bit of a blind side and many who are involved with the program were stunned and devastated. The good news is that funding has since been restored for 2021 and beyond. I do not know the back story to all this; for now I am taking it as a good omen that our elected officials can put aside their political differences to support clean water, which is so vital to all of us here in Michigan.
Finally, you can support the LSSU Alumni Association by purchasing a Laker license plate. Your initial $35 then $10 per year thereafter, directly supports LSSU and the work of the Alumni Association. Don’t wait until the State says it’s time to buy a new plate – consider buying an LSSU plate the next time you have to renew your registration. Then you can show your Laker pride wherever you go. An easy way to get an LSSU plate is to join the Alumni Association as a premium member. One of the benefits of membership is that the Alumni Association covers the cost of the LSSU license plate.
Alex Bozymowski, Jr., president
LSSU Alumni Board President
Class of 1975
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