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December 28, 2023

SVSU to construct first university environmental research station on Lake Huron, following state budget approval

pontoon boat

Saginaw Valley State University will build a $10 million environmental science research station along the Saginaw River, near the river mouth with Saginaw Bay, following approval of $7.5 million in capital outlay funding approved by the State of Michigan and signed into law by Gov. Whitmer on Monday, Dec. 18.

SVSU has a long history of partnering with the Bay County Health Department and other agencies to test water quality at public beaches. Federal agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and state agencies such as the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy are also partners with SVSU in studying and improving the watershed through the Saginaw Bay Monitoring Consortium.

“We are thrilled to construct the first university environmental research facility on Lake Huron and to build upon our relationships in the region that are contributing to improved public health and a better ecological understanding of our Saginaw Bay watershed,” said George Grant Jr, SVSU president.

“This facility will provide a standout learning laboratory for our students and faculty, and our partner agencies throughout the community. I would like to thank our regional legislative delegation for seeing the value of this project and supporting it through the capital outlay process.”

Grant mentioned state senators John Cherry, Kevin Daley, Roger Hauck and Kristen McDonald Rivet, as well as state representatives Brian BeGole, Timmy Beson, Matthew Bierlein, Graham Filler, Phil Green, Jasper Martus, Amos O’Neal, and Bill G. Schuette as among those who advocated for SVSU’s capital outlay request.

“When one of our state universities has the chance to attract top scientists, expand research capabilities, and benefit students at all levels, it’s smart to make that investment,” said State Senator Kristen McDonald Rivet, Joint Capital Outlay Chair. “Funding approved for this new facility will help make SVSU a leader in environmental science and studies, spurring important collaborations, hands-on educational programs, and greater interest in the freshwater ecosystems that are so important to our local economy.”

The research station will be built in Bangor Township on the west side of the Saginaw River, south of the Department of Natural Resources boat launch, on property owned by Dow, opening opportunities for students from SVSU and surrounding K-12 schools.

“The supplemental bills will help uplift our students while strengthening SVSU’s environmental science programs. These investments will create more facilities for increased freshwater research, which will help to transpire a better understanding of our iconic Great Lakes,” said State Representative Amos O’Neal. “Today is a great day to be a Cardinal!”

 Through its collaboration with the Saginaw Bay Monitoring Consortium, SVSU works alongside The Nature Conservancy, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, Central Michigan University, and private industry, including the Michigan-based firm LimnoTech.

 SVSU also operates a mobile laboratory that travels to parks, K-12 schools and other venues to introduce science opportunities to young people. The lab has hosted around 19,000 visitors since it was introduced in 2016.

“The enhanced access to Saginaw Bay will enable us to drastically scale up our K-12 outreach through the Dow Science and Sustainability Education Center at SVSU, and the improved experiential learning opportunities will better prepare our undergraduate students for employment and research positions upon graduation,” said Dave Karpovich, H.H. Dow Endowed Professor of Chemistry and director of the Saginaw Bay Environmental Science Institute at SVSU.

Community leaders expressed enthusiasm for the project and its potential to enhance recreation, commerce, and quality of life.

“This project is exciting! The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world,” said Magen Samyn, president and CEO of the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. “Having a world-class research station with direct access to Lake Huron will create a positive economic impact on our region and can serve as a catalyst for more advancements.

“Bringing together research, education, outreach and collaboration, the research station will create more opportunities for all to explore right here in the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

SVSU will use $2.5 million in existing capital reserve funds to cover its portion of the project cost. Construction of the 10,000 square foot facility is expected to begin in the fall of 2025.