Care. Share. Enjoy

- News & Updates -

Friends Celebrate River Champions and Set Ambitious Agenda for 2016

If you wanted to revel in all the good things happening on the Shiawassee River, the place to be was the Wrought Iron Grill in Owosso this past Tuesday night. The Friends welcomed new staff and board member, celebrated exceptional volunteers and their 20 year history of Caring, Sharing and Enjoying the Shiawassee River.


The Friends welcomed Lance Omer to the board and introduced Lauri Elbing, our new executive director, and Sarah Baker, our new Stream Team Coordinator, to the membership.  We also welcomed Tiffany Cooper, a digital media design intern from Baker College.  The Friends are building the necessary capacity to strengthen and expand the reach of the programs and the mission that has guided us for these past 20 years.  

Two board members stepped down, but pledged to stay involved with the Friends: Larry Johnson of Owosso and Nancy Krause of Chesaning. For each of us it is a labor of love, and we are grateful for their dedication and service to the Friends and to our watershed.

Five volunteers were honored for all their time, talent and treasure each donated to support the Friends’ activities as well as the heath and enjoyment of our Shiawassee River: Mayor Chuck and Donna Kerridge, Dianne King, Anita Moliterno, and Bob Dumond.  The Friends also thanked Mike Schomber, the hunter who spotted the Thanksgiving Day oils spill in the county drain and for quickly reporting it before it reached the Shiawassee River.  

Barbara Nelson-Jameson of the National Park Service, the keynote speaker, engaged an overflowing crowd to think big. She congratulated the Friends and the other groups for the years of hard work already invested to that gained our own Shiawassee River the distinction of being voted into the top 11 rivers to kayak or canoe in Michigan.  She then challenged everyone to think about the benefits and requirements of achieving the National Water Trail designation for our Shiawassee River.   

The Friends of the Shiawassee River efforts to meet the critical challenges facing our watershed today depend almost solely on the volunteerism and financial support of our donors.  Members, sponsors and volunteers help the Friends achieve lasting results for water quality, wildlife habitat and quality of life in our communities.  

Thank you to the hundreds of volunteers, donors, funders and supporters who have stood with the Friends and made the health and enjoyment of our Shiawassee River a priority over the last 20 years.  

 2015 was a Year of Changes, Progress, and Great Fun

(12/08/15) Are you a member of the Friends in good standing? If so, you should have received your copy of the latest edition of The River View in the mail last week.  If you're a member and didn't receive yours, please get in touch with us so we can correct the oversight.

We have much to celebrate as we reflect back on the many accomplishments of 2015 and the tremendous opportunities ahead of us in 2016. The Fall 2015 edition of The River View shares the good news and extends our hearty and heart felt thanks to all of our Friends, donors, sponsors and partners. We couldn't do any of this without each one of you.


In 2021, when the Friends celebrate our 25th Anniversary, 2015 may be the year that stands out. We built foundations this past year: more Stream Teams in more places, more relationships with old and new Friends, and the realization of several goals from our strategic plan that have made us financially stronger, more organized, and better able to work with communities throughout the watershed. This has us all looking forward to great things in 2016.

The Friends continue to host impactful events, like our 18th River Cleanup this year and annual Wine-Tasting celebration. We have gotten better at raising funds, and held our first very successful kayak raffle. And we received grants to restore the river at old dam sites, to support Stream Team volunteers, and do other good work. But this year, we also worked on building what we need to be successful in the long run: an engaged board, committed donors, and a clear plan.

We were fortunate this past year to have two great staff leaders. Devin Gill completed two years of service with the Friends leaving a legacy of an active program of volunteer water quality monitoring (our Stream Teams). We wish her well on her new graduate school adventure. In September, Lauri Elbing became our new Executive Director, bringing deep experience, vibrant commitment, and new ideas to the Friends.

We can’t wait for the coming year as we work to get more people to care, share, and enjoy the Shiawassee River. Please join us, again or anew.

 Oil Spill Update

(12/03/15) The US Environmental Protection Agency has been working diligently to clean up the Thanksgiving Day oil spill in the Shiawassee watershed (see previous post below). The size of the "Wade Road Oil Spill" is now estimated to be between 500-1000 gallons (up from an initial estimate of 300 gallons of oil).  The source of the spill has been identified and the responsible party has assumed all costs for the emergency response and cleanup. As of Thursday, December 3rd, these costs are more than $80,000.  The the US Department of Environmental Protection is overseeing the cleanup, which will continue until they determine it to be complete.


A contract crew of 25 people have been cleaning up about 3 miles of the Miner Drain in Owosso Township between Mason and King Roads. The waterway connects to the State Road Drain and then the Shiawassee River; however the oil was contained before it reached the River.  Clean-up has consisted of using absorbent booms and a vacuum truck to remove oil from the waterway, as well as an excavator to remove contaminated soil. Oiled vegetation has been removed by equipment and hand from several miles of the drain.  

The Friends of the Shiawassee River thank all the workers who given up their holiday weekend to protect the Shiawassee River.  We extend our appreciation to the local, state, and federal officials who have worked to contain this spill, learn about the source of the pollution to prevent a reoccurrence, and restore this portion of the Shiawassee watershed.


The Friends Commend Quick Action by Local Hunter to Report Oil Spill in Shiawassee County Drain and Prompt Response by Local, State and Federal Government to Contain and Cleanup the Spill

A Thanksgiving Day oil spill has been contained and clean-up is now underway. An estimated 300 gallons of oil were found by a hunter in the State Road Drain above Wilkinson Road west of Owosso. Michigan Department of Environmental Quality authorities were notified and Owosso Township Fire Department with help from Shiawassee County Emergency Management were able to stop the flow of oil before it reached the Shiawassee River. The US Environmental Protection Agency is now completing a clean-up. The source of the spill has not yet been identified. The Friends regularly survey the State Road drain below the site of the spill; the most recent Stream Team sampling gave the quality of the tributary an "excellent" rating. Thank you to the observant hunter and the many public officials who worked, and continue to work, to protect the environment of the Shiawassee River. 

Early reporting led to the successful response to contain the oil before it got very far downstream. We commend and encourage such vigilance to protect our resources. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality "PEAS" (Pollution Emergency Alert System) is a 24 hour hotline for reporting spills or polluting releases.  In case of environmental emergency you can call 800-292-4706 and help protect our Shiawassee River. 



September 22, 2015, Owosso, MI – On a sunny day – the last day of summer - the Friends of the Shiawassee River (Friends) gathered along our river in downtown Owosso to announce a new initiative that will help ramp up and sustain the Friends’ efforts to clean and monitor stretches of our waterway as well as promote all the fun to be had out on our river. The Adopt-A-River program garners sponsorships from local businesses and organizations in the form of funding and volunteer opportunities.  Neighborhood Cinema Group Cinema (NCG), a chain of movie theaters founded and headquartered in Owosso, Michigan, made the first commitment to the Adopt-a-River program.

"I’m so glad Brad Kirkland approached me to be a part of the Adopt-A-River program.  I was born and raised here in Owosso, and grew up fishing and kayaking on this river, playing football down that way, going to the Curwood Festival," said Jeff Geiger, president of NCG Cinemas. "We are proud to be able to be a part of this program and help the Friends.  The hard work is done by all the people involved in this organization and we’re happy to help support that work."

Josh Adams, director of Owosso Main Street and a Friends of the Shiawassee River board member, thanked NCG Cinemas and the Geiger family for stepping up and leading the way on the Adopt-A-River program. “Sometimes the river gets overlooked, but a clean river is a key component to a vital downtown,” said Adams.  “Not only for the sights and sounds, but for the recreational opportunities it offers residents and visitors.  At Main Street we have a saying, ‘Together we can do more’ and I think that is the important part of the Adopt-A-River Program. It creates an opportunity for the community to come together around one of our community’s treasures.”

“On behalf of the Friends of the Shiawassee board and membership, I want to thank Jeff Geiger and the whole NCG family for this generous gift,” said Lauri Elbing, executive director of the Friends of the Shiawassee River. “Building on the Friends’ suite of education, cleanup, and water quality monitoring programs, as well as promotion of fishing and kayaking, NCG’s commitment -- and the others that follow -- will help unleash the potential of our mission and activities.  Our Shiawassee River is a little piece of up-north right here in our back yard.”

Business can become an Adopt-A-River sponsor for a commitment of $2,000 for two years ($4,000 total).  Non-profit organizations or service clubs can also become a sponsor for $1,000 for two years ($2,000 total) with a commitment to help maintain their stretch. 

For more information about the Friends of the Shiawassee River or the Adopt-A-River, contact the Friends’ Executive Director Lauri Elbing at (989)723-9062,  You can also visit to sign up for our newsletters and LIKE the Friends on Facebook.  You may also invite Lauri Elbing to be a guest speaker at your event to help Care, Share and Enjoy our Shiawassee River.


2015.09.08.Lauri_with_Tom_on_her_first_day_of_work_at_the_Friends.JPGLauri Elbing has taken on the role of Executive Director of the Friends of the Shiawassee River. Lauri brings significant experience in nonprofits and environmental policy to her role as staff leader of the Friends. She served most recently as the Communications Director at the Flint River Watershed Council.  Previously, she worked for The Nature Conservancy, the National Wildlife Federation in Michigan, and on the staff of Congressman John Dingell.  Lauri, of Flushing, has received training in volunteer water quality sampling and co-authored several publications on fisheries and water quality topics. In her free time, she is an avid kayaker, angler, and birder; she also enjoys a round of skeet when the opportunity presents itself.

Lauri succeeds Owosso native Devin Gill who began a graduate program in 2015 at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources.   Devin's excellent work with volunteers and local governments left a strong foundation for the future growth of the Friends.


New Canoe/Kayak Launch in Byron

The Village of Byron's Downtown Development Authority has embraced the Shiawassee River as a recreational and economic asset.  With the help of the Friends of the Shiawassee River, and with funding from the Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network (WIN), a canoe/kayak launch has been built adjacent to downtown Byron.IMG_7076web.jpg

The Shiawassee River gains size as it flow through Byron, where the south branch joins the main stem just upstream from the Village. The stretch from Byron to the Walnut Hills Campground is one of the more wild and beautiful sections of the river. Recently volunteers cleared downed trees from this area of the river, further improving access and use of this natural resource.

The new launch is just south of the Maple Street (Bath Road) bridge and is tucked away behind several ball diamonds.  The land was donated by the Byron Area School District, which has also recognized the value of the Shiawassee River.  A nature trail has been developed near the new launch site, and the Friends of the Shiawassee River has been working with local classes to conduct volunteer water quality sampling.

The launch was built by several volunteers, most notably Rob Vandermark and Ric Crawford who donated their time and use of equipment.  Friends member Phil Hathaway led up the effort, using a design that has been successfully installed in several other public parks in Shiawassee County. “We’re excited that the Village of Byron is working with these great partners to formalize this site along the beautiful Shiawassee River”, said Mike Kelly of the Conservation Fund, the coordinator of Saginaw Bay WIN, the project funder.

Become a Member VOLUNTEER JOIN the FUN


get updates