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Friends of Middle Grand River & Monitoring

Announcing new group - Friends of the Middle Grand River

A brand new group has begun to meet in Lansing to talk about ways to coordinate work on the middle stretch of Michigan’s longest river.  The working name of the loosely-knit group is the Friends of the Middle Grand River.  Many of the participants met during the Drawdown Clean Up in summer of 2007 (see related story below).  The first meeting of this new group was March 24, 2008, at Gone Wired in Lansing.  

If you’d like to be added to our email list to be notified of upcoming meetings and activities, contact Conservation Director Anne Woiwode.

Citizens Organize Drawdown Cleanup, Get 30 Tons of Junk out of Lansing’s Grand River!

Yvonne LeFave took her kayak down the Grand River in spring 2007 after water levels were lowered for a dam inspection.  She was so bugged by the amount of junk that was exposed, she needed to do something about it.  She and co-conspirator Julann Vittone started making calls, to the Mayor’s office, the Lansing City Council and other local officials, to restaurants, trash haulers, recyclers, and their friends. They wrote letters to the editor, recruited a planning committee, and even did fundraising.  The trick was to get it all arranged and accomplished before the water levels were raised again – only 8 weeks away.  No problem!
How We Cleaned Up the Grand
We all helped scout out the trash before cleanup day.  Because there were extra-large and very heavy items that needed to be removed, like an old saturated couch and recliner, a complete scaffold, old 20’ long chunks of iron pipe, and tons of other junk, Yvonne and Julann prepared by using Google Maps to section the 2-mile stretch of river into 200 foot sections.  They mapped the junk that required equipment to pull it out, and put it all onto a website.

On August 18, over 200 volunteers, including Sierra Club Water Sentinels, worked 8 hours and more to remove 30 tons of trash from the river bed, filling up two trash dumpsters plus 3 dumpsters of metal junk for recycling, plus additional containers used to recycle glass and tires.  Even Water Sentinels Program Manager Scott Dye and David Roberts came to Michigan all the way from Missouri to help with the dirty and heavy lifting, something that Yvonne and Julann, and the whole planning crew, appreciated very much!

The Sierra Club Water Sentinels joined in early to help out, providing help to keep track of both donations and bills, plus offered tips on organizing volunteers, and on necessary cleanup resources.  Using our email lists, newsletters, and Lansing Old Town connection, we helped get the word out.  The best advertising came by way of the incredible amount of media coverage garnered by this community effort.  I was very happy the Sierra Club was part of it all – and the attention it brought to the Grand River bodes well for our future work to improve the river. 

In our efforts, we learned that though there are watershed planning efforts in both the Upper and Lower Grand River, there are no such activities in the stretch that flows through Lansing.  Future plans include more advocacy for the middle Grand (see related story) and advance planning for a possible 2009 river cleanup when dam repair work will necessitate another water level drawdown. 

Middle Grand River water quality monitoring launched May 2007 at Sierra Club office

Coinciding with the Drawdown Cleanup, the Sierra Club Water Sentinels launched a new monthly water monitoring project on the Grand River in Lansing, just down the street from the Michigan Chapter office in Lansing.  Chief volunteer Dave Erickson has assisted every month using the HACH kit to test for phosphorus, ammonia nitrogen, water and air temperature, plus the dissolved oxygen meter, and a pH meter.  In the fall, we got a “hit” on the ammonia, finding it much higher than usual (it’s usually zero) just a few feet downstream from a discharge pipe coming out from under the Grand River Avenue bridge that is over the Grand River.  An email and phone call to DEQ revealed that the pipe is permitted to discharge treated water from the Motor Wheel Superfund Site in North Lansing, and they’re allowed to increase their ammonia at certain times of the year (the level was still within Michigan’s water quality standards for ammonia.)  Over 2008, the sampling program will grow when we add additional sites along the Middle Grand, and expand our use of Google Maps to display our monitoring data.  Click here to see the prototype.  Later this year we hope to help coordinate a “Snapshot of the Grand River Day” along with the Friends of the Middle Grand and other Grand River groups, when we all would participate in water quality monitoring on the same day.  We’ll use Google Maps to display the data gathered all the way from the headwaters south of Jackson some 260 miles to Lake Michigan.  Contact Conservation Director Anne Woiwode and check back often to learn more. 


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