The health of a lake: Volunteer transitions from oil to environmental work

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Dick Morey is president of the Michigan Lake and Stream Association. He is standing along Magician Lake in Sister Lakes. (Don Campbell | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

Dick Morey’s second career is combating invasive species.

As president of Michigan Lake and Stream Association, Morey helps test water for invasive species and pollutants that have adverse effects on a lake’s ecosystem.

Morey grew up in Niles, but now calls Sister Lakes his home in retirement. Morey has put a lot of time into Magician Lake, a 540-acre lake.

Next month, the Michigan Lake and Stream Association will have its 56th annual conference called “Bridging the Resource Gaps: Enhancing the Ability of Lakefront Communities to Prevent and Manage Aquatic Invasive Species.”

Morey has been spreading the word of the event and is looking for more volunteers to get involved with the organization. The conference is April 21 and 22 at the Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, Mich.

Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski sat down with Morey to discuss how he got involved with the environmental association and what keeps him interested in clean lakes.

What did you used to do for a living?

I worked for Amoco Oil Company for 30 years.

What did you do after graduating from Niles High School? Where did you go next?

I went to Michigan State University. After graduation I joined Amoco Oil. At that time it was Standard Oil. Then it became Amoco, and after I retired it became BP.

Wow. So you’re telling me you stuck with the same company that entire time?

Yup. People don’t normally do that. All my buddies that I’ve met along the way have been with Amoco from college until retirement.

What did you study at MSU?

Marketing.

Hmm, how did you go from marketing to working for an oil company?

Well, when I was hired in to Amoco, I was a salesman. We sold to gas stations, including things like motor oil, tires and batteries and all the accessories that the dealers needed. That was the ground level job.

OK, so after that, you retired and became president of this environmental organization?

I got involved about 15 years ago because most lakes have volunteer people who do water testing. I started testing on our lake and going to conferences. Our association helps lakes and other large bodies of water alleviate invasive species and helping educate the public in doing so.

I was just curious how you got involved with both Amoco and this environmental organization. Most people don’t tend to put them in the same sentence.

I was concerned about our lake (Magician Lake) and keeping it the way it was. The only people that are going to do that are the people who live near it. At that time, I went to a conference like the one that is coming up in April, and found out about what can be done at these lakes.

All the volunteers that do their water testing, all the data and findings goes to Michigan State for analysis. All the lakes are compared and put into one publication.

During these tests, did you ever find anything that was out of the ordinary?

No, not really. It’s been pretty consistent. The reason we’re testing is because there isn’t money budgeted by the state to come out and monitor all these lakes. We look out for any invasive species that get transported into lakes.

Usually, they are brought in by boats that have been in a lake with assorted invasive species that get wrapped around a propeller or something. Then they come into another lake and it starts to spread. Our lake gets those species through its public access. You have to stay on top of it.

Sounds like a lot of work.

It is, but it’s worth it.

After the first year of treating, we went from 100 acres of invasive species in our lake, to just a couple little pods that are no more than 1 to 2 acres in the whole lake.

You said you’ve been doing this for 15 years now. How much longer do you see yourself doing this for?

As long as I stay healthy. I’ve got a couple younger retirees that help me if I need it. They can always take over.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 27, 2017)

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