Riverkeepers anointed 

From Lake Huron to Lake Erie, efforts to protect southeast Michigan’s waterways have gained new muscle with the creation of the Greater Detroit Riverkeeper program.

Think of it as one sprawling network of clean-water activists coming together under one big umbrella group, which in turn is linked to the Waterkeeper Alliance, an affiliation of 89 programs in North and Central America. The entire effort is the equivalent of a neighborhood watch program for the environment, with participants protecting their local waters and the communities that depend upon them.

Receiving official recognition from Waterkeepers is a big deal. Or, as Riverkeeper program director Jim Moran says, “It’s a ratification of our goal.”

That ratification came this summer, but the big public kickoff will come later this month when Waterkeepers founder Robert F. Kennedy Jr. flies in for two days of events.

The Detroit Riverkeepers are charged with protecting an area that includes the Detroit, Rouge, Huron, Ottawa, Raisin and Clinton rivers; as well as the Canard and Little rivers, and Turkey and Big creeks in Canada.

“Networking is one of our biggest functions,” explains Moran. “We see ourselves as the glue that holds together lots of other programs.”

Although that may sound bureaucratic, Moran says the local Riverkeeper program, like its brethren elsewhere, intends to be a hands-on group of activists, with boats on the water keeping close watch on all things aqua.

“We will be out there on the river, talking to people,” explains Moran. “The Riverkeeper’s job is to be a first-hand advocate for the river, checking into things, so we can tell on a day-to-day basis what’s changing.”

While in the area on Oct. 25 and 26, Kennedy will have a busy agenda. Plans for his first day here include a speech in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan. The following day begins with a breakfast hosted by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle followed later in the day with a VIP boat ride on the lower Detroit River.

The full schedule of events can be found on the Web at www.detroitriver.org. You can also phone for info at 734-327-0019.

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