Making Democracy Work

Make Democracy Work!

The League of Women Voters promotes informed and active participation in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy at the local, state and national levels. The League is nonpartisan and never supports or opposes political parties or candidates, although we do take positions on issues. Membership is open to men and women over the age of 16.
On Wed. Sept. 4, 2019 at noon at the Leelanau Government Center, Lower Level, the League will present: What is Leo Creek Preserve?

Hear founder and caretaker Kate Thornhill talk about the amazing Leo Creek Preserve in Suttons Bay. Kate will present a slide show to introduce you to this little piece of land where she hopes you will want to wander through. After that visual she will be talking about Leo Creek's educational programs that are in process. Her focus will be on climate change and the many changes in our lifestyles we all need to make to take care of this planet, the only planet we will ever have.

Coalition Letter RE_Line 5 Negotiations 4.25.19.pdf

Time for a Reasoned Response to Septic System Risks

On September 28, 2017, the Leelanau/Benzie Co Board of Health recommended that the Leelanau Co Board of Commissioners draft and adopt a countywide septic system ordinance. The time is now to remain vigilant to see that this occurs. Attend board of commission meetings and contact your commissioner on this issue.
Leelanau Co is not alone in Michigan with its lack of inspection requirements once a system has been installed, Michigan is the only state without a uniform code. Why should we care? Several concerns have been documented from respected sources.
In 2015 a Michigan State University study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. MSU scientists using microbial source -tracking tools cautioned that pollution arising from septic system discharges maybe much more severe than previously realized. Its results showed 100% of the 64 major rivers in the lower peninsula tested contained human fecal contamination.
The Tip of the Mit Watershed Council undertook an extensive investigation and in 2016 published, "The Septic Question". Its research found the "reported septic system failures represent only a fraction of the total number of failures statewide and many go undetected or remain unreported for years. Because this important follow up is nonexistent in most places, it creates a threat to public health and water resources"
As of 2013 eleven Michigan counties had "Point of Sale" programs requiring septic systems to be inspected at the time that property is sold. Bridge Magazine reported that in those programs, hundreds of failed septic systems were discovered. Shockingly, 300 homes in Barry and Eaton counties, were found to have no septic systems at all! What would comparable research show for Leelanau County show.
Failing septic systems produce disease outbreaks, algae blooms, and ecosystem damage. The initial design of a septic system, as well as regular maintenance, is essential. The current lack of oversight, after installation, is worthy of further conversation not only in Leelanau but throughout Michigan.
The League of Women Voters Leelanau County and Leelanau Clean Water held a forum on September 13, 2017, at the Leelanau Government Center. Over 100 people attended and heard Tom Fountain, director of Environmental Health at Benzie/Leelanau Co Health Dept; Dr. Nick Fleezanis, President of Lake Leelanau Lake Association; and Joe Williams of Williams and Bay Pumping Service discussed this important issue. The video can be viewed under Video Links.

Protect the Great Lakes from a Catastrophic Oil Spill

Michigan's year-long study of Line 5 alternatives has been released. Now is the time to submit your comment calling for the only way to truly protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill: decommission the Enbridge Line 5 pipelines through the Straits of Mackinac. Deadline for comments is August 4. An on-line form in support of protecting the Great Lakes from a catastrophic oil spill can be found at

The League of Women Voters of Michigan is one of 21 members of the Oil and Water Don't Mix Coalition that sent a letter to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ("MDEQ") and the US Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") on June 29, 2017 regarding Enbridge Oil Company's joint application to the MDEQ and the Corps (No. 2RD-DFDK-Y35G) to install 22 anchor supports on the Line 5 pipelines in the Mackinac Straits. The Coalition members are Michigan organizations dedicated to the protection of Michigan's water, natural resources, public trust in those resources, the environment, communities, and the health, safety and general welfare of citizens.

The Coalition organizations are requesting that MDEQ and the Corps take the following actions with regard to Enbridge's joint application:Hell

1. Reject as incomplete due to its overly narrow scope of review;
2. Require a comprehensive review of Line 5 in the Straits that includes an assessment of adverse environmental impacts, risks, and feasible and prudent alternatives;
3. Temporarily terminate the transport of crude oil in the Line 5 pipelines during this comprehensive review; and
4. Hold a formal public hearing given that Enbridge Line 5 occupies publicly owned waters and bottomlands and the threat of a catastrophic oil pipeline rupture to the Great Lakes are of tremendous controversy and have generated an extraordinary level of public engagement. Read the entire letter here.

Other resources: Under-the-Straits tour of Pipeline 5 (3 min. video)

Area businesses expressing concern about Pipeline 5 (3 min video)

Pipeline 5 Efforts by LWV Leelanau County

Pipeline 5 Efforts by LWV Leelanau County

In February of 2016 the League of Women Voters Leelanau County voted to create a resolution asking local townships and villages to support the closing of the 63-year-old Pipeline that carries natural gas and light crude oil deep under the Straits of Mackinac--23 million gallons of oil each day. This pipeline is known as Pipeline 5.

Leelanau County is a peninsula in northwestern Michigan with 100 miles of shoreline jutting into Lake Michigan. It is about 70 nautical miles from the Straits of Mackinac where the waters of Lakes Michigan and Huron merge in a strong four-to-five-mile-per-hour current. Some days the current races east into Lake Huron; other days it races west into Lake Michigan. During winter it's often under thick ice and snow.

Enbridge, an Alberta-based Canadian oil and gas company, operates a pipeline known as Pipeline 5 across the Upper Peninsula, under the Straits, then across the Lower Peninsula and into Sarnia, Ontario. The pipeline sometimes cracks and spills crude oil on land. At the Straits, Enbridge operates under a bottomland easement, granted by the State of Michigan in 1953. The company acknowledges violating requirements of that easement. At the water's edge, the pipeline is `twinned'--two 20-inch pipes follow the bottomland mounted on trestles just west of the five-mile span of the Mackinac Bridge. Clean up of an underwater spill would be slowed, if not impossible, due to frequent four-five foot waves, ice during winter, and nightfall when response teams cannot work. The company monitors the condition of the underwater pipelines every few years. The latest reports and photos indicate a substantial accumulation of zebra mussels enveloping the pipelines, weakening their surface walls. A University of Michigan study indicates a pipeline rupture could send an oil spill east and/or west covering 700 miles of Michigan's coastline. Forty million people drink water from the Great Lakes. One of every five jobs in Michigan depends on the quality and quantity of the Lakes' fresh water, including billions of tourism dollars.

By the end of August 2016, we had completed our outreach to local government bodies and the results were in. They were mixed. Of 14 jurisdictions we had success in eight. The trustees in the village of Northport and those in the townships of Centerville, Cleveland, and Leelanau passed our resolution. The trustees in the village of Suttons Bay and the townships of Empire and Suttons Bay passed a modified version. The trustees of Elmwood and Solon townships defeated the LWVLC resolution. The trustees of Bingham, Glen Arbor, Kasson and Leland townships refused to take any action.

The LWVMI adopted our request that the state League join the coalition Oil and Water Don't Mix. A member of the LWVLC board will represent the LWVMI at this coalition. The struggle to protect the Great Lakes continues.