2010 Grassroots Citizen Advoacate Awards:
Citizen Award—Sandy Bihn, Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association
Organization Award—Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance
What is the first thing you think of when you think of Lake Erie? Walleye, War of 1812, Cedar Point, Cleveland—there are a million possible things that come to mind when thinking of Lake Erie, the smallest, but most biologically productive of the Great Lakes.
At Freshwater Future when we think of Lake Erie the first thing that comes to our minds is Sandy Bihn. Sandy has been involved in protecting Lake Erie and Maumee Bay through her work with the Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association since 1990.
Over that time, no single individual has done more to improve and protect the water quality in western Lake Erie. Freshwater Future is pleased to award the 2010 Grassroots Citizen Advocate Award to Sandy Bihn for her dedication and work to protect Lake Erie.
Sandy is not your typical advocate working to protect water quality in her community. Her accounting background and role as a City Council member often keeps her focused on the numbers. When working to address the fish kills from power plant intakes, Sandy focused on the economic impact of the fish kills by hiring an economist and scientists to look at the impacts. The results of this study are now resulting in modified permits for the power plants. She often asks the tough questions and is not afraid to broach the topics that need to be addressed. This practicality has gotten her far—helping to improve regulations of power plants and reducing pollution to the rivers and Lake Erie from wastewater treatment plants and industry.
Sandy is also Lake Erie’s biggest cheerleader. A typical conversation with Sandy may focus on algae or fish kills that threaten the health of the Lake, but she will always bring the conversation around to discussing what an amazing resource Lake Erie is. Sandy loves to get out on Maumee Bay in her personal watercraft and float down the Maumee River. She is very involved in the Lighthouse group.
We know that there are many challenges facing Lake Erie, but with Sandy Bihn fighting for the Lake, we are confident that Lake Erie will win these challenges, and all of us will benefit. Thanks Sandy for all that you do.
“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
Freshwater Future is proud to present The Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance with a Grassroots Advocate Award. Working to protect nearly 500 acres of sensitive coastal dunes along the southern Lake Michigan coast, they have faced zoning battles and lawsuits. Despite the challenges, the volunteer led Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance has used creativity and strategy to achieve significant wins. In December of 2009, working with several other organizations they helped to get a large grant and raise funds to purchase 171 acres of dunes, held by the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The acquisition of this is a huge step toward protecting the critical dunes in this area. This past May, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Saugatuck Dunes one of 11 most endangered historic places. Receiving the listing from the National Trust, has brought recognition to the need to protect the valuable dunes that contain the ghost town of Singapore, a former port and lumber town that lies buried beneath the dunes. The area has long been known as a place for artists to go, the group captilized on this by creating a coffee table book of art that they sold with proceeds supporting efforts to protect the dunes.
Freshwater Future is proud to present Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance with this award for their ingenuity, perseverance, and group involvement and commitment to protect these special dunes.