Scholarship Award for 2017: James Robinson

For the past three years, the Benzie Community Water Council has provided a scholarship to Benzie Central High School alum James Robinson (class of 2015), who is attending the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. He wrote up an update for us, so we can follow his studies: check it out below.

Great work, Jamie, we’re very proud of you!!!

Benzie Water Festival scholarship James Robinson Jamie Robinson Great Lakes Water Studies Institute Northwestern Michigan College NMC Traverse City Benzie Central High School Benzie Community Water Council

For the past three years, the Benzie Community Water Council has provided a scholarship to Benzie Central High School alum James Robinson (class of 2015), who is attending the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College.

Freshwater Studies – Fall 2018 Update
James Robinson

It’s been a while since my last update, and a lot has happened since then. I thought I’d catch you up on a few of the highlights.

During the Spring 2018 semester, I wrapped up my last semester at Northwestern Michigan College. I served as Editor-in-Chief for the White Pine Press and, with the help of my staff, successfully published seven, high-quality issues of the student newspaper. I also had the opportunity to visit New York City with a group of White Pine Press writers, designers, and photographers to attend the spring convention of the College Media Association. Some of the highlights of this trip included
walking in Times Square, exploring the New York Public Library, and visiting the World Trade Center Memorial. We even won an award – 3rd Place for Best Two-Year College Newspaper! Most importantly, I finished the last few courses required for my associate’s degree and graduated [with an Associate's Degree] this past May with highest honors!

I’m now working on completing my Western Michigan University coursework through NMC University Center. Over the summer, I participated in two classes for my WMU degree: “Human Impacts on the Great Lakes” and “Freshwater Ecology.” For my Human Impacts class, we voyaged out into West Grand Traverse Bay on NMC’s research vessel, the RV Northwestern, and piloted a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to observe the impact of round gobies and zebra mussels on the lake bottom. For my Freshwater Ecology class, we spent a lot of time out in the field, collecting lake chemistry data and macroinvertebrate samples from regional lakes and streams to assist with the Leelanau Conservancy’s water quality monitoring program. I will be taking four more classes this fall: “Environmental Systems and Cycles,” “Environmental Policy,” “Sustainability Marketing,” and “Sustainability Operations.”

Along with my summer coursework, I’ve been busy working as an intern for the Aquatic Invasive Species Pathways Project at the Benzie Conservation District. Over the past three months, I’ve worked with AIS coordinator, Jane Perrino, and AIS educator, Jodi Monteith, providing educational boat decontamination with our mobile boat washing unit at a variety of locations in Benzie, Leelanau, and Manistee counties. I’ve assisted with several special events, including landing blitzes at Lake Leelanau and Crystal Lake boat launches and paddle tours on Little Platte and Bass Lakes. I even got to march in the Frankfort and Beulah 4th of July parades!

Additionally, I’ve helped develop curriculum for various AIS activities. One of these activities included tracing and outlining a huge map of the Great Lakes basin onto a large drop cloth so students could trace the route of invasive species entering the Great Lakes. I assisted with the implementation of this and other activities at two educational events at the Congregational Summer Assembly.

Because I’m so thankful for the support I’ve received from the Benzie Community Water Council, I am glad I was able to give back to the Benzie community. The past few months have been a blast, and I’m excited to see what comes next!

Scholarship Award for 2016: James Robinson

For the past two years, the Benzie Community Water Council has provided a scholarship to Benzie Central High School alum James Robinson (class of 2015), who is attending the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College. He wrote up an update for us, so we can follow his studies: check it out below! (Also, he plans to attend our Winter Potluck Series, Topic: MI Water event, so you can meet him and ask about his studies there!)

Benzie Water Festival scholarship James Robinson Jamie Robinson Great Lakes Water Studies Institute Northwestern Michigan College NMC Traverse City Benzie Central High School Benzie Community Water Council

For the past two years, the Benzie Community Water Council has provided a scholarship to Benzie Central High School alum James Robinson (class of 2015), who is attending the Great Lakes Water Studies Institute at Northwestern Michigan College.

Freshwater Studies Winter/Spring 2017 Update
James Robinson

My third semester at Northwestern Michigan College went very well. I took four courses this past semester — English Composition; Probability and Statistics; Meteorology and Climatology; and Introduction to GIS. The most interesting of these courses was Introduction to GIS (Geographic Informational Systems). This class taught me to use ArcGIS software to make maps of spatial data. Among other things, I learned how to connect data tables to spatial elements in the map (i.e. points, line, or polygons), how to symbolize features in a map, and how to create and print a map layout. I managed to sustain a 3.5 or better in all of my courses, with an overall GPA of 3.92 for all three semesters.

Along with my academics, I continued a successful career as a staff writer with the White Pine Press. This year, I had the privilege of traveling with a few other student journalists to the ACP National College Media Convention in Washington, DC! We spent four days at the Grand Hyatt, attending various workshops to enhance our skills as college journalists. We also attended several high-profile keynotes from Donna Brazile, Bob Woodward, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Edward Snowden! When we weren’t in workshops or attending keynotes, we explored the museums and monuments of Washington, DC. It was a fantastic trip. I plan to continue my involvement in the White Pine Press during the Spring 2017 semester. I also plan to get more involved in Phi Theta Kappa and possibly the NMC Green Team or the Grand Traverse Freshwater Society (two other NMC student groups).

This semester, I will be taking three courses — Principles of Microeconomics; Water Policy and Sustainability; and Genetics, Evolution, and Animal Biology. I’m very close to finishing my Associate’s degree at NMC and have already begun the transfer application process to Western Michigan University, where I will complete a Bachelor’s degree in Freshwater Science and Sustainability. I plan to finish my NMC courses in the Fall 2017 semester and begin taking one or two WMU courses that same semester. I’m also currently applying for summer internships related to water-quality monitoring and environmental education, such as water-quality monitoring at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore or shipboard environmental education for Inland Seas Education Association.

I’m thankful for the two $1,000 scholarships that I received from the Benzie Community Water Council. I was very surprised and happy to receive this award a second time! I’ve been very lucky so far with paying for college, since I haven’t had to ask my parents for money or take out a college loan. Thanks in part to the scholarships I received from the Benzie Community Water Council, I was able to focus on excelling in my classes instead of worrying about paying for college. I look forward to continuing my educational journey at Northwestern Michigan College and Western Michigan University.

P.S. – If you ever need volunteers, let me know! I’d be more than willing to help.

Water Everywhere: Benzie County Water Festival hopes to impart important messages about water issues, but have fun too.

Originally published in the Grand Traverse Insider.

By Colin Merry
Contributing Writer

Education, motivation, and family fun are the goals of the Benzie Community Water Council’s inaugural Benzie County Water Festival this upcoming weekend.

The festival will be held in the City of Frankfort, with water-related activities — ranging from live music and kids games to rain-garden workshops and discussions about invasive species — taking place on the 18, 19, and 20 of March.

“We want to bring up issues about the area’s water resources, like pollution and privatization,” said Josh Stoltz, member of the Benzie County Water Council. “But we wanted to do it in a way that people have a good time too.”

Stoltz said that the council also hopes to bring together multiple demographics to show that water issues don’t just affect one group of people; they affect everybody in the county in all endeavors, from the sports industry to the hospitality industry.

The Festival kicks off Friday, with the Great Lakes documentary Waterlife, which will be shown at The Garden Theater in Frankfort at 6 p.m. The Sub-Prim Blues Band will also be hosting a pre-festival performance at The Cabbage Shed at 9 p.m.

On Saturday, the 19, Water Fest activities will take place throughout the day. Discussing water-related issues will be Derek Bailey, tribal chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; Robert Karner, watershed biologist and biology teacher; Valerie Strassberg, director of the Water Resource Management for Energy Conservation; Carolyne Thayer; Carol Navarro, education director of the Benzie Conservation District; Cindi Roper, director of Clean Water Action; Hans Van Sumeren, director of the Northwstern Michigan College Water Studies Institute; and Thomas Kelly, executive director and captain of the Inland Seas Education Association.

Topics discussed in workshops will range from water quality and the possibility of an Asian carp invasion to responsible water use and the construction of rain gardens.

Musicians May Erlewine & Seth Bernard, along with Kirby Snively and Airborne or Aquatic, will provide the musical entertainment for the event.

Art exhibits, recycling workshops, and kids games, such as a snowman competition and story hours, will also take place at various locations throughout Frankfort.

Homemade soups, created from local ingredients, will be available for purchase.

Stoltz said the Water Council began planning the festival nearly a year ago, when the organization formed.

“This is our first major event,” he said. “It is the goal of the council to provide events throughout the year, bringing attention to water in and out of Benzie.”

The Benzie festival follows a long history of water festivals throughout Michigan. According to Stoltz, one of the first water festivals was held in Mackinaw City in 2006. A full bull of local musicians drew people to this first festival, which showcased all things water, from kayaking to workshops and seminars on water-related issues, similar to the events which will be seen in Frankfort. This first festival claimed a crowd of about 500 people.

Other city’s followed suit each year, including Kalamazoo, Marquette, and Grand Rapids, which held a festival boasting attendance of 1,500. Traverse City held a winter water festival several years ago.

Stoltz said a common tie between each festival was the involvement of Earthwork Music Collective, particularly musicians Seth Bernard and May Erlewine.

“They’ve been behind each one,” Stoltz said. “But it really depends on the community and the support they get.”

So far, Stoltz said Benzie County citizens and organizations have been very supportive of the festival. Several non-profit organizations have stepped forward to help make the inaugural event successful.

For more information on the Benzie County Water Festival, including the full schedule of events, visit the festival website at

The First Wave: Festival focusing on local, regional, and global water issues soon hits Frankfort

Originally published in the Grand Traverse Insider.

By Colin Merry
Contributing Writer

Frankfort will soon play host to the inaugural Benzie County Water Festival; an event designed to celebrate one of the county’s most precious resources.

The festival will be held on Saturday, March 19, with entertaining and educational events taking place all day throughout Frankfort and the surrounding area. Jordan Bates, co-chair of the Benzie Community Water Council, said the festival will feature events such as performances from world-class local musicians and speeches given by area authorities on water-related issues.

“We want to bring people together to celebrate water,” Bates said. “We also want to let people know what kind of issues our water resources are facing and why these issues are important.”

Aside from bringing water issues to the forefront of the minds of area residents and visitors, bringing the community closer together is another goal of the festival.

Musical guests appearing at the festival include the duo of May Erlewine and Seth Bernard, artists who both have impressive solo careers, as well. Additionally, folk artist Kirby Snively will be performing songs from his recently released album; Kirby for Kids and Childish Adults.

“May Erlewine and Seth Bernard have been great; they’ve been involved with other water festivals in Michigan,” Bates said. “They’ve really worked to help strengthen communities.”

Issues affecting local, regional, and global waters will be discussed at the festival during a three-part speaker series, featuring Thomas Kelly, executive director and captain of the Inland Seas Education Association; Derek Bailey, tribal chairman of The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians; and Hans Van Sumeren, director of Northwestern Michigan College’s Water Studies Institute.

Other activities will be available, as well, according to Bates, including interactive multi-media projects, workshops, art displays, children’s activities, an ice-fishing contest, and an “after” party.

Food will also be available, including a “soup station” at the Frankfort-Elberta Elementary School from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., featuring homemade soups using local ingredients.

“The exact schedule is still up in the air,” Bates said of the festival line-up. “We’re still deciding when to have some events and possibly adding others, depending on the weather.”

Inspiration for this Frankfort first came from several different sources — Bates said the Benzie Water Festival drew from what other water festivals held across Michigan have done.

“We’re inspired by water; it’s all around us and our community depends on it for a lot of things,” he said.

The multitude of volunteers who work hard during the summer months on other area festivals and activities are another inspiration.

“A lot of people who volunteer are so busy during the summer, so they don’t get the time to actually go to any festivals or events,” Bates said. “By having it during the area’s slower season, we’re hoping more people get to go.”

Of course, the festival also hopes to draw visitors to the area to not only enjoy the family friendly events, but also to fill the city’s restaurants and other businesses for a day.

While the Water Festival has received grants from several organizations to help cover the cost of the event, Bates said that he and other organizers hope to make the festival as self-sustaining as possible.

“We want to be able to pay for the venues we use, like The Garden Theater,” he said. “We want to be able to raise enough money to cover our costs.”

So far, several fundraisers are planned. The first will be the Benzie County Water Festival pre-party, which will be held at the Cabbage Shed on Saturday, January 22, starting at 9 p.m. The Sub-Prime Blues Band will be performing, and party-goers will get to meet other people who are looking forward to the festival. A $5 cover charge will go toward the operation of the festival.

A soup-cooking class, followed by a soup supper, will be held at the Trinity Lutheran Church on Saturday, January 29, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Proceeds from the Hearty Winter Soups workshop, which costs $10 to attend, will be donated to the Benzie County Water Festival.

If all goes well with the initial festival, Bates said that he hopes to continue having the event every year, or possibly bring in speakers throughout the year.

“It would be cool to bring in speakers every other month or so, or host other water-related activities to keep water on people’s minds,” he said.

The Benzie County Water Festival is a production of the Benzie Community Water Council, which works to promote not only water-related issues but a closer community through the Community Connections program. For more information on the festival, visit the website at For more information on the Hearty Winter Soups class or the supper, contact Suz McLaughlin at 231-352-7669.

‘Ban Fracking in Michigan’ Ballot Initiative Begins Collecting Signatures and Sets Kick-off Events for April

By Peggy Case

Thompsonville, Michigan — The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a citizen-led ballot initiative group seeking to ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, begins collecting signatures on Friday, April 12, 2013, for a six-month period to qualify for the 2014 ballot. Starting this week, the Committee announces its campaign kick-off events in communities around the state, including a Traverse City event on Tuesday, April 2, from 7 to 8 p.m. in the lower level of Horizon Books on Front Street and a Manistee event on Saturday, April 13, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 164 Harrison Street.

The kick-off events are for volunteers and people interested in volunteering for the campaign who want to obtain petitions and campaign literature, learn about the ballot initiative process and how to circulate petitions, and begin organizing in their community.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan changed its petition from a constitutional amendment proposal to a “legislative proposal” earlier this year. The legislative proposal would amend the state statute — not the state constitution — and requires 258,088 signatures. When the signatures are validated, the proposal goes first to the legislature, which must pass or reject it with no changes. If both the House and Senate vote ‘no’ or take no action within 40 days, the proposal automatically goes to a vote of the people in the November 2014 election. If Michigan voters approve the ban, the new law cannot be vetoed, however, the legislature could amend it, but only with a three-quarter vote in both houses.

“In Michigan, we have the constitutional power to write our own laws through a ballot initiative and put them before the voters,” said LuAnne Kozma, campaign director, in a press release.

The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is part of a worldwide movement to ban fracking. France and Bulgaria have banned fracking, as have numerous communities in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Colorado. Vermont became the first state to ban fracking in 2012, and Michigan’s citizen effort has the support of Vermont legislators Tony Klein (D) and Peter Peltz (D) who sponsored the Vermont ban bill.

“It was clear in Vermont the dangers of fracking to our natural resources. In Vermont, our natural resources are our number one priority, so it was not a difficult thing to prohibit fracking forever. It passed overwhelmingly,” Klein said in the Committee To Ban Fracking’s press release. “We encourage all states, when they have the chance to do so, to ban this dangerous technique.”

Michigan is already being horizontally fracked by the gas industry, with three wells currently in operation, 27 sites that are being prepared for drilling, and 52 wells permitted so far, according to Paul Brady from Respect My Planet. Toxic chemicals — many of them known carcinogens — sand, and millions of gallons of water are used in the process to fracture the targeted rock formations, permanently destroying millions of gallons of water by turning them into fracking waste. And it should be noted that companies can get a site ready and do initial drilling before a permit is granted for water usage.
“Drilling and fracking create a tremendous amount of solid, liquid, and gaseous wastes, polluting the land, water, and air. Wastes and pollution are integral to the process, not an accident or a possibility, but a surety,” said Kozma.

When it comes to disposal, drill cutting and muds are solidified on site or are brought to landfills. Between 10 and 70 percent of the millions of gallons of water that are pumped into the ground flow back to the surface — the rest of the wastewater remains in the fracked well, transforming it into its own toxic waste well — and this ‘flowback water’ brings with it any naturally occurring heavy metals and salts that were picked up underground, in addition to the chemicals that were used in the fracking fluid. Flowback wastewater is brought to injection wells and once again pumped deep under ground, a process which has caused small earthquakes in Arkansas, Ohio, and Texas.

But it’s not just underground where there are problems. Just last month, a new study reports that in Pennsylvania, where most of the wasterwater is trucked to treatment facilities rather than injection wells, there are increased levels of chloride, one of the elements found in flowback water that is difficult to remove. The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that, on average, an additional 1.5 treatment plants in a watershed led to an increase in chloride levels by 10 percent downstream. Additionally, the study found that the adding 18 well pads in a watershed increased the concentration of total suspended solids (TSS) — essentially the particulate in the water that makes it murky — by 5 percent.

Here in Michigan, flowback wastes from a fracked well in one county can be brought to injection wells in other locations. For example, some fracking wastes generated in Kalkaska County are brought to an injection well in Grand Traverse County. Michigan has more than 1,000 injection wells, and more are being proposed and approved.

When it comes to water use, the fracking industry is using more groundwater per well in Michigan than in any other state. In Excelsior Township of Kalkaska County, one well by Encana is using 21 million gallons per frack, and the two other wells there are using 21 million gallons between them. Of the company’s newest applications, also in Kalkaska County, two propose to use more than 18.9 million gallons each and three would use 31 million gallons each per frack. This is a total water usage of 174.5 million gallons for eight wells, or about 21 million gallons each. In other states, the average is between 2 million to 9 million gallons per frack.

Higher amounts of water used per well means that Michigan is also creating much more fracking waste. Michigan depends on clean ground water for drinking, with more private wells than any other state. Michigan is also connected to four of the Great Lakes, and its water flows directly into them.

In addition to banning horizontal hydraulic fracturing, the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan’s ballot proposal would ban fracking wastes and eliminate the state’s policy, codified into current law “fostering” the oil-gas industry and “maximizing production” —“frack, baby, frack” language that provides the fossil fuel industry with uncommon special interest protection.

“It is a dire situation, but there is something we can do,” noted Kozma. “As a grassroots movement of people, building signature by signature, circulator by circulator, we are the largest, on-the-ground force in the state working to ban fracking. Committee to Ban Fracking volunteers are devoted to making change, getting onto public sidewalks, in parks, at farmers’ markets, and other public gatherings to raise awareness face-to-face, voter-to-voter, while collecting signatures for a ban on fracking.”

Only a ban can protect us from the significant harms of fracking. The language in our current law favoring the fossil fuel industry makes it inevitable that Michigan contributes mercilessly to global climate change and serious pollution of the Great Lakes, which make up20 percent of the world’s available fresh water. It is urgent that we move to alternative forms of energy to protect future generations.

The entire Lower Peninsula now stands to be fracked. Encana is drilling the Utica-Collingwood Shale in state forests and on private land and plans to drill and frack 500 to 1,700 sites. Densely populated areas such as Ann Arbor, Oakland County, and the Grand Rapids region — communities historically not affected by oil and gas drilling within their borders — are now facing the threat, too. There have been two mineral-rights auctions, and more are likely. All the state land in Benzie County and most other counties have been auctioned off for gas and oil leases by the State of Michigan. The drilling is mostly on state land, which is supposed to be land for the people. But as it stands now, Benzie is wide open for drilling, as are Leelanau and Grand Traverse counties.

This article is part of a series called The Water Column, as an on-going part of the third annual Benzie County Water Festival, taking place Friday, April 12, at Benzie Central High School. Peggy Case is one of two panelists who will be taking the stage at 5:30 to talk about fracking. Case, president of Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, is a member of the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, and she will be collecting signatures at the Water Festival. For a schedule of Water Festival events and more information — or if you’d like to learn how you can become a contributor to The Water Column — go to or email

To Frack Or Not? Let’s Ask The Right Question

By Keith Schneider

BENZONIA, Michigan — It’s apparent why a great number of Benzie residents wonder about the risks of fracking and whether the state and the federal government ought to shut the technology down. The industrial breakthrough that now enables developers to recover oil and natural gas from hydrocarbon-rich shales 6,000 to 10,000 feet beneath the surface is potentially fraught with danger.

No new technology comes without assorted risks, though, especially one as environmentally significant and economically powerful as fracking. But along with the risks come benefits. The question is whether the United States has the capacity to significantly reduce the threats through regulatory safeguards, or is there one or more aspects of the technology that are so inherently dangerous that fracking should not be allowed at all?

Answering the question involves distinguishing the difference between “potential” and “actual” risks and benefits.

On the potential side of the discussion, the risks seem fearsome. The fracking process blasts millions of gallons of water mixed with chemicals down a well at ultra-high pressure to shatter the shale rock and release the natural gas trapped within. Anecdotal evidence, and several instances of contamination confirmed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, point to a risk that fracking can contaminate freshwater aquifers much closer to the surface. It’s not clear yet how significant that risk is, though the EPA is studying the issue and preparing to issue a definitive report next year.

Likewise, public health authorities in Pennsylvania are starting to study the consequences of fracking to human health, and they’re also focusing on air pollution. Big diesel engines operate at the well sites, and it takes roughly 2,000 truck trips to transport water, fuel, and equipment to each well. Vehicular collisions, moreover, have taken the lives of dozens of truck drivers and motorists in both Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

Disposal of wastewater and fluids from the process has led to spills in Wyoming and North Dakota. Pumping the wastes down deep disposal wells also has caused small earthquakes in Arkansas, Ohio, and Texas. The concentration of wells in a region — all tied together by new roads, pipeline corridors, and assorted processing and pumping stations — has significant implications for the uses of land, particularly if the development occurs in a forested area like northern Michigan.

But when weighing the hazards, it’s just as crucial with this technology to consider how fracking is producing a mountain of environmental and economic gifts as well. The capacity to literally cause liquid and gaseous fuel to flow from solid rock has made this nation self-sufficient in natural gas production, dramatically lowered our oil imports, and helped reduce climate-changing emissions in the United States to the lowest levels since the early 1990s.

Natural gas has half the carbon emissions per unit of energy as coal. Burning it does not produce mercury, sulfur, and other air pollutants that pour from a coal-fired power plant. Shale gas is apparently abundant enough to drive prices so low that gas-fired electrical generating stations now account for more than one-third of the nation’s electricity, and these plants are being built on much smaller parcels of land than what’s required for coal plants. Reason: gas-fired plants don’t need extra room for big piles of coal that pollute groundwater and rivers after heavy rains. A new gas-fired generating station also uses 60 percent less water per kilowatt-hour than a coal-fired plant. It takes 800 to 3,000 gallons of water to extract, transport, store, process, and dispose of one ton of coal, and it takes 25 tons of coal and an additional 12 million gallons of water to run an average coal plant for an hour.

In the environmental and economic contest between fracked gas and mined coal as a source of energy, it’s not terribly close. Coal is the dirtiest and most dangerous source of fuel at every step of the production and combustion cycle. It’s deadly to mine and causes extensive surface and groundwater contamination from acid mine drainage. In Appalachia, coal companies are blowing the tops off mountains to gain access to veins of coal. Coal-fired plants account for 40 percent of U.S. climate-changing emissions, and they’re responsible for much of the mercury that ends up in fish in Michigan and across the northern tier of states.

Here in northern Michigan, oil and gas development has been well understood since the 1970s when the mile-deep Niagaran Formation was developed. In the 1990s, drillers pursued the much shallower Antrim Shale, prompting a civic pushback due to the potential disruption from roads, pipelines, and processing stations installed in the area’s forests. Now the Collingwood Shale, two miles deep and running up the center of Michigan’s northern peninsula like a spine, is summoning the interest of energy companies.

People are justifiably nervous. Does that merit shutting down development here? No. It does mean understanding the risks and taking regulatory steps to minimize them.

This article is part of a series called The Water Column, as an on-going part of the third annual Benzie County Water Festival, taking place Friday, April 12, at Benzie Central High School. Keith Schneider is one of two panelists who will be taking the stage at 5:30 to talk about fracking. Schneider, a Benzonia resident, is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Yale360, Grist, and other prominent news organizations. The majority of Keith’s time is spent directing the news desk for Circle of Blue, a Traverse City-based news organization reporting the global water crisis, where he is the senior editor, having reporting on emerging trends in water and energy from four continents. For a schedule of Water Festival events and more information — or if you’d like to learn how you can become a contributor to The Water Column — go to or email .