Michigan Sea Grant Extension testifies at Senate committee

Michigan Sea Grant Extension (MSGE), represented by Chuck Pistis, Sea Grant Extension program coordinator, and Ron Kinnunen, Sea Grant senior district Extension educator in the Upper Peninsula, was invited to provide testimony at the Senate Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Committee, chaired by Sen. Goeff Hansen.

 The committee convened to better understand what can be done to enhance education and outreach opportunities to Michigan residents and tourists on the dangers of rip and channel currents in Michigan’s Great Lakes. In 2010, rip currents claimed 29 lives in the Great Lakes with many of those occurring in Lake Michigan.

 Ron and Chuck provided testimony, and they also leveraged the partnership we have with the University of Michigan through Michigan Sea Grant to engage other experts. They included Guy Meadows and Heidi Purcell from the Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering faculty at Michigan and Bob Dukesherer from the National Weather Service. Ron and Chuck’s presentation featured the work their team has performed to educate municipalities, agencies, residents and tourists across Michigan coastal counties on rip current awareness and beach-goer safety. They also discussed what actions are needed to enhance education and outreach on this important topic.

 In April, Michigan Sea Grant hosted the Michigan Water Safety Conference, which generated a statewide committee to address the matter of reducing rip current casualties more thoroughly. Members of the Michigan Sea Grant Extension team are now exploring possibilities of rip current warnings accessed through mobile technology and mobile devices.

 Sen. John Proos is seeking to introduce legislation on developing some statewide consistency on how communities communicate beach hazards via a flag system. The statewide committee formed in April at the conference will be utilized to obtain input.

 At the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network Meeting held June 19–22 in Sheboygan, Wis., Ron Kinnunen, along with colleagues from Minnesota Sea Grant and Wisconsin Sea Grant, received the 2011 Dairyland Surf Classic Award for outstanding work in rip current safety in the Great Lakes.

 For more information on rip current safety, please visit http://www.miseagrant.umich.edu/rip/.

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