Northern MI ‘Water First’ initiative launched

A coalition of local community foundations—including the Charlevoix County Community Foundation—has recently launched Water First, an effort to support communities in protecting the region’s fresh water resources.

The Community Foundation coalition includes the Charlevoix County Community Foundation, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation, Leelanau Township Community Foundation, Manistee County Community Foundation, and Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation.

This initiative, which is envisioned to leverage at least $500,000 toward the effort, will focus on the development of innovative water policies and green infrastructure in the eight counties served by the participating community foundations.

“Our work is part of a larger Great Lakes One Water Partnership supported by the Council of Michigan Foundations and the Great Lakes Protection Fund,” said Steve Wade, Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation vice-president of gift planning. “After an initial planning process last year, our coalition has developed a proposed action plan to support emphasizing water as a first priority in local decision-making.”

The community foundation coalition has engaged regional partner Networks Northwest to design, seek feedback on, and deliver a program to support communities in efforts to implement green infrastructure policies, practices, and projects.

“Water First is proposing to support the creation of Water First Action Teams to build engagement and participation from local governments and other water partners in four of the region’s watersheds,” said Sarah Lucas, who’s helping to coordinate the initiative on behalf of Networks Northwest. “These teams will identify watershed-wide priorities for action, using adopted watershed management plans as a foundation.”

Lucas added that the initiative is proposing to support the Action Teams through:

–       planning support to help communities develop local policies that provide increased water quality protections and green infrastructure

–       fundraising support to help communities find, access, and leverage financial resources that can support priorities

–       action grants that provide financial support for implementation of high-priority green infrastructure projects

The community foundation coalition is currently seeking input on the proposed initiative design.

“We are inviting interested water resource stakeholders, as well as members of the public, to share their thoughts on local needs and on the direction of Water First,” said Wade.

Feedback is being captured in an online questionnaire available here: surveymonkey.com/r/waterfirst1

The Great Lakes One Water Partnership is a multi-year initiative focused on engaging shoreline community foundations to advance a new era of water management to benefit people and businesses in the Great Lakes Basin. A project team, led by the Council of Michigan Foundations, is partnering with coalitions of community foundations throughout the Great Lakes basin over a four-year period to inject financial and intellectual capital, drive technology innovation, and create a shared, basin-wide communications strategy for the Great Lakes that will build the public will for support and advancement of new solutions.

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