February 2022 MEC

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February 2022


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications


Building Vibrant Communities Grants

DIY Efficiency Projects

Discover The CommandIQ Mobile App


Saving is believing.

Think you can’t afford a geothermal heat pump? After a closer look, you may be surprised at its overall affordability. Tax rebates can quickly bring down the initial costs of purchase and installation. And a geothermal heat pump is much cheaper to run than the most efficient furnaces and air conditioners. In fact, your energy bills can be cut by as much as 70%. As a result, many geothermal homeowners see a return on investment of 10-20% over the life of their system. When you crunch the numbers, you’ll see WaterFurnace is the money-saving choice. To learn more, contact your local WaterFurnace dealer today. Geothermal is the only renewable that provides reliable operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your Local WaterFurnace Dealers Allendale Allendale Clg & Htg (855) 206-5457 Allendaleheating.com

Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com

Bad Axe/Ubly Cutting Edge Clg & Htg (989) 551-0986

Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com

Berrien Springs WaterFurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmich geothermal.com Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com

Indian River M & M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com Lansing Condor Mechanical (517) 920-0890 candormechanical.com

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 topnotchheatandair.com Michigan Center Comfort 1/Aire Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 aireserv.com/ southern-michigan Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 waltonheating.com

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com

Traverse City D & W Mechanical (231) 941-1215 dwgeothermal.com Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000 watergeofurnace.com

Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

visit us at waterfurnace.com

The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Contents countrylines.com

February 2022 Vol. 42, No. 2



6 SUNKEN TREASURE How Jennifer Dowker found a message in a bottle and a new life. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Sweet Treats: Simple desserts that do the trick.

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

14 HATCHING A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE Stocking trout into the Great Lakes is a team effort for the Jordan River National Fish Hatchery.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey

18 GUEST COLUMN Honoring My Grandfather: Darren Bettinger reflects on his grandfather's service in World War II.


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Be featured! Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


A pop of color to brighten your day. @chelseaolkowski.photo (Chelsea Olkowski)

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community



Win a $50 bill credit!

Win $150 for stories published!

Up Next: On The Grill, due March 1; Tomatoes, due April 1

Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community.

Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.






Electric Bill Is More Than The Energy



Robert Hance, President/CEO

teammidwest.com /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 teammidwest.com Email: info@teammidwest.com BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233 Clarence.Barth@teammidwest.com

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ben.Russell@teammidwest.com Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 Ron.Armstrong@teammidwest.com John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 John.Green@teammidwest.com Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007 Dan.Bodette@teammidwest.com

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164 Gerry.Bundle@teammidwest.com

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868 Jim.Dickerson@teammidwest.com


ou probably don’t think too much about what happens when you turn on a light in your home. But when you do, you’re tapping into a very complex interconnected system where electricity travels thousands of miles from its point of origin to that switch on your wall. As your electric provider, our job is to ensure that you have safe, reliable electric, and doing so means being part of that interconnected system in ways we don’t often talk about. For starters, we don’t make electricity at MEC; we deliver it. Our power comes from another Michigan cooperative, Wolverine Power Cooperative (WPC). Wolverine provides wholesale power supply and transmission services for seven member-owners: Cherryland Electric Cooperative, Great Lakes Energy, HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative, Midwest Energy & Communications, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, Spartan Renewable Energy, and Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative. It owns seven natural gas generation facilities; has partial ownership in three coal-fired power plants; and maintains 46 transmission stations, 146 distribution substations, 1,600 miles of transmission lines, and a renewable energy portfolio. Part of that renewable portfolio is solar, and Wolverine recently partnered with Clenera to develop a 1,000-acre solar array in Jefferson Township, adjacent to M-60, between M-62 and Dailey Road. Known as Gemstone Solar, this farm will provide 150 MW of solar capacity and will be included in Wolverine’s overall fuel mix for all of its members for the next 20 years. Being the tight-knit community that we are, we know there has been talk and some confusion about our relationship to the array. Clenera owns the array, and Wolverine will buy 100% of the energy generated for the length of their Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). We are not directly involved in that relationship or in the construction of the project itself. As a member of Wolverine, MEC will benefit from this project, as it enhances our low carbon and affordable power supply for the long term. We are supportive of the expansion of Wolverine’s renewable portfolio for the benefit of our customers. They expect to launch the project in 2022, with commercial operations starting at the end of 2023. The construction process will bring roughly 350 jobs at its peak, and Cass County will receive $18 million in property taxes over the life of the project. If you’re interested in learning more, please visit wolverinepowercooperative.com/gemstone-solar.

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com

Regardless of what happens with solar arrays, fuel mixes, and more, you can take comfort in knowing that our dedicated family of linemen, dispatchers, customer care reps, and more is here 24/7/365 to keep your lights on. And we will continue to ensure that all of our partners have the same commitment to our mission as we do.


“ Regardless of what happens with solar arrays, fuel mixes, and more, you can take comfort in knowing that our dedicated family of linemen, dispatchers, customer care reps, and more is here 24/7/365 to keep your lights on.”

Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762 Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com


Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.


MEC NEWS OF NOTE Accepting Applications for Building Vibrant Communities Grants We strive to create vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities. To support our vision, we offer our Building Vibrant Communities Grant Program, providing support to local, nonprofit organizations serving individuals in our electric cooperative service territory. National/ international organizations and their local chapters are not eligible. Qualified organizations may apply for a grant of up to $5,000 to help fund projects and initiatives that support the mission of the organization. Some examples of past awards include funds for roof repair, a service dog program, technology for telehealth, and foul weather safety gear. We are accepting applications for our current cycle until June 30. Please visit teammidwest.com/ vibrant-communities for more information and application requirements.

LET’S TALK INTERNET Interested in learning about our internet service and want to speak one on one with a solutions agent? Sign up for a 30-minute phone call or in-person meeting at our Cassopolis or Adrian Solutions Center on most Thursdays through March from 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (with a break during lunch). Visit teammidwest.com/events to register and see available times and dates.

How Americans Use Electricity The latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows the combined use of clothes washers and dryers, computers, dishwashers, small appliances, and other electrical equipment (noted as “all other uses” below) accounts for nearly 40% of electricity consumption in American homes.

15.8% Space Cooling

39.0%2 All other uses


Water Heating




Space Heating

Source: EIA, Annual Energy Outlook 2020 1

Includes consumption for heat and operating furnace fans and boiler pumps.


Includes miscellaneous appliances, clothes washers and dryers, computers and related equipment, stoves, dishwashers, heating elements, and motors.


TVs & related equipment


Refrigerators & Freezers


t was on a volunteer trip to Jamaica that Jennifer Dowker saw her first glassbottom boat. Aside from being captivated by floating above sea life and catching a glimpse at a different world, the boat captivated Dowker’s imagination, and she caught a glimpse at a different life for herself. Dowker was at a crossroads, a single mom to three boys. Getting her captain’s license, buying a glass-bottom boat, and starting a business may not have looked like the most prudent way to support her family. “I’d pitched the idea at Invest Cheboygan, like a 'Shark Tank' for small towns,” said Dowker. “Ultimately, I didn’t win and started thinking maybe I need to do something more practical.” However, two days later, Dowker received a phone call from someone who had been in the audience and seen her pitch. He told her he thought she had what it took to make her dream a viable business. With his help, Dowker secured a loan, and Nautical North Family Adventures was born.

SUNKEN TREASURE How Jennifer Dowker Found A Message In A Bottle And A New Life By Emily Haines Lloyd



“I’d been homeschooling my boys and together, we’d put together a 38-page business plan as one of their projects,” said Dowker. “I had the foundation and thought—‘someday.’” However, the fuel of the venture came more quickly than Dowker anticipated and was ignited by the passing of Dowker’s brother, Rick, who battled cancer for five months before ultimately succumbing. “All of a sudden, ‘someday’ gained a whole new level of urgency,” said Dowker. “Before we knew it, we were taking people out on the Yankee Sunshine. My sons were all involved—helping in the office or welcoming and checking in guests. We were all coming alive.”

"The biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that even when you feel lost or broken, go a little further. Push just that little bit more.” The message was from a young man named George Morrow, and after Dowker posted about it on Facebook, the power of the internet took over, and she was finally connected with George Morrow’s daughter—Michelle. Morrow had passed in 1995, but the message in the bottle brought wonderful memories back to his daughter just in time for Father’s Day. “I love that I have had an opportunity to connect with people, to share the water I love, and to share this beautiful experience with my boys as well,” said Dowker. “But the biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that even when you feel lost or broken, go a little further. Push just that little bit more.”

Michelle Primeau and her cousin Larry, whom she was reunited with thanks to the bottle.

Nautical North Family Adventures offers shipwreck cruises with their glass-bottom boat, the aforementioned Yankee Sunshine, as well as lighthouse and river tours, scuba diving, kayak rentals, and other water-based adventures. Dowker will go out as many as five times a day and has already racked up over 900 hours on her boat. It’s a busy and rigorous schedule, but hard work never scared Dowker off.

Take it from Jennifer Dowker—there is treasure all around you, but there’s even more inside of you.

Jennifer Dowker, the moment after plucking the bottle off the bottom of Lake Huron.

“My mom always said, ‘I don’t care what other people are doing, you work harder and always do your best,’” said Dowker. “I’m constantly thinking that I can always do a little more.” That same mindset and internal fortitude could easily be held responsible for a discovery Dowker made in June 2021. While taking a prospective scuba client out on the Cheboygan River, Dowker was diving and looking for a token for her passenger to take away with them. She came across a clam shell, which in itself is pretty cool, but looked for something even more amazing. As she pulled out a small brown bottle, she decided to go out one more time and came back to the boat with an old-looking green bottle that appeared to have something inside. “Seriously, it was a message in a bottle,” said Dowker. “It’s just not the sort of thing you expect to find, even though you secretly hope you will.”

Nautical North Family Adventures 231-444-3400 /Straitsarea /nauticalnorth.familyadventures nauticalnorthfamilyadventures.com



Our Tree Removal And Brush Cleanup Program And Schedule ur chief responsibility as an electric cooperative is to provide reliable and safe power, and trees are a major hazard to our infrastructure. As a result, we proactively remove trees and brush within our rightsof-way, which are 15-foot strips of land on either side of our high-voltage and primary power lines. We do this for several reasons, including public safety, access, restoration effectiveness, and outage prevention.


If a tree on your property gets tangled in our lines, it could result in an outage for many customers, or it could hide power lines from view, creating a potentially deadly situation. Therefore, we work hard to remove obstructions from our lines and poles to help provide the best possible service experience for you. You can learn more about the importance of tree trimming and vegetation management from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Here are the areas where we plan to clear our rights-of-way this year: Michigan: Calvin, Constantine, Decatur, Fabius, Flowerfield, Keeler, Lagrange, Marcellus, Newberg, North Porter, Penn, Pipestone, Porter, Prairie Ronde, Silver Creek, Van Buren, Volinia, Wayne Ohio: Brady, Franklin, Gorham, Mill Creek


We also employ a long-term spraying strategy to manage continued regrowth. It effectively controls tall-growing trees and bushes while promoting low-growing plants beneficial to wildlife. We will spray in the following townships: Michigan: Almena, Antwerp, Brady, Calvin, Constantine, Decatur, Fabius, Florence, Flowerfield, Howard, Jefferson, Lagrange, Leonidas, Lockport, Marcellus, Mason, Mendon, Milton, Mottville, Ontwa, Oshtemo, Oslo, Park, Penn, Portage, Porter, Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft, Texas, Van Buren, Volinia, Wakeshma, Washington, Wayne, White Pigeon, York Indiana: Harris Ohio: Brady, Franklin, German, Gorham, Mill Creek

We Will Notify You Of Work Scheduled We mail notices to affected customers a few weeks prior to starting tree work or spraying. We also place automated phone calls, and as the tree crew surveys a specific area, we will attempt to leave a door tag. If you have any questions, please call 800-492-5989, Mon. through Fri. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Strengthening Schools Grants Recipients

In January, we awarded local educators with Strengthening Schools Grants to help them bring new and exciting learning opportunities to students throughout our service territory. We are proud to offer these grants, funded with partnership dollars from Wolverine Power Cooperative, each year to those who share our vision of creating vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities. Co-op members Christopher (Chris) Malayter, Bobbi Jo Lowe, and Barbara Gordon evaluated and scored all applications and determined final awards without knowledge of the school, district, or community. Addison Elementary

Bookworm vending machine

Mattawan High School

New books for freshman English class

Brandywine Elementary

VersaTiles literacy books & math kits

Board games to learn coding

Cassopolis Middle School

Science classroom supplies

Mattawan Later Elementary

Centreville Jr. High

Earth Science Kit curriculum

Mattawan Middle School

Field trip transportation

Davis Elementary


Mattawan Middle School

Beekeeping club

Decatur Jr. Sr. High School

Graphic novels for the classics

North Pointe Center

Sensory room supplies

Eagle Lake Elementary

Book vending machine

Onsted Middle School

Sensory & decompression room supplies

Eau Claire High School

New drumline equipment


Eau Claire Middle/High School

Educational games

Patterson Intermediate Learning Center

Bilingual books

Eau Claire Middle School

TI-84 calculators for seventh and eighth grades

Redwood Elementary School Sam Adams Elementary

Multiplication math stairs & math games

Edwardsburg Middle School

Oculus Quest sets for middle school science class

Sam Adams Elementary

Edwardsburg Primary School

Reading tent

Grand Valley State University tutoring program to help kids who fell behind due to the pandemic

Kincheloe Elementary

1-year subscription to Generation Genius

South Walnut Elementary School

Sensory/decompression room

Marcellus Elementary

New low-level reading books

Vicksburg High School

Studio equipment for podcast production

Marcellus Elementary

New books for third-grade classroom library

Watervliet High School

Printing press for HS art classroom MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

SWEET TREATS Simple desserts that do the trick.



Meta Steeb, Great Lakes Energy ½ cup chili roasted pistachios (or chopped almonds/walnuts, roasted pistachios, etc.) 7–8 pitted medjool dates, soaked in water for 10 minutes to soften; drained 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder 2–3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (or semisweet chocolate if you prefer)



energy bill credit!

10 FEBRUARY 2022

On The Grill due March 1 • Tomatoes due April 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.

Add the pistachios to a food processor and pulse a few times until broken into small pieces. Add the dates, vanilla, and cocoa powder, and pulse until moist and sticky dough is formed. Roll into 10–12 (1-inch) balls and freeze for at least 10 minutes. Melt chocolate and, using tongs or toothpicks, dip each truffle to coat with chocolate. Optional: Add crushed nuts on top while chocolate is still melted. Refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Recipe can be easily doubled or tripled. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

Chocolate Mint Brownies

Double Chocolate Banana Oatmeal Cookies

Brownies: 1 cup flour 1 cup sugar 2 cups chocolate syrup 4 eggs, room temperature ½ cup butter, softened Mint cream: 2 cups powdered sugar ½ cup softened butter 1 tablespoon water 1 teaspoon mint extract • green food coloring (a few drops) Chocolate topping: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 6 tablespoons butter

¾ 1 1 2 1 1 2½ ½ 1 1 3 1 1

Theresa Mandeville, Cherryland

Preheat oven to 350 F, and grease a 9x13-inch pan. Mix all brownie ingredients together until combined and add to the 9x13-inch pan; bake 30–35 minutes. Cool completely. Meanwhile, mix together all mint cream ingredients in a small bowl. Spread mint cream over cooled brownies. Cook the chocolate topping ingredients over low heat until chocolate melts and combines with butter. Spread lightly cooled chocolate topping over mint cream layer. Refrigerate brownies for a couple of hours or until chocolate topping has hardened.

Apple Cake

eggs cups sugar cup canola oil teaspoon vanilla cups flour teaspoon baking soda teaspoon cinnamon teaspoon salt gratings fresh nutmeg cups shredded apple (I use Ida Red) 1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

cup brown sugar cup white sugar stick soft butter medium-size ripe bananas teaspoon vanilla egg cups flour cup old fashioned oats teaspoon baking soda teaspoon salt tablespoons cocoa powder teaspoon cinnamon 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cream together the sugars, butter, bananas, vanilla, and egg in a mixer. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients of flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cocoa, and cinnamon. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Mix in the bag of chocolate chips. Drop large teaspoonsized dough spaced 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8–9 minutes until they look baked but not overdone. Cool on rack or platter. This was a family favorite recipe my mother always baked—a delicious cookie where you just can’t resist taking another.

Golden Caramels

Sharon Libich, Presque Isle 3 1¾ 1 1 2 1 1 1 2 4

Valerie Donn, Great Lakes Energy

Sharon Holzhausen, Great Lakes Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat together eggs and sugar. Stir in oil and vanilla. Stir together dry ingredients and fold into batter. Fold in grated apples and nuts of your choice. Pour into a greased 9x13-inch pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done when a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy with whipped cream or ice cream!

2 2 1 1 1

sticks butter cups sugar cup light corn syrup cup condensed milk teaspoon vanilla

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch pan and set aside. In a medium-size pan, add the butter, sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk, and stir to mix. Stirring constantly, cook on high heat until the mixture boils, then turn down to medium-high heat

until the temperature reaches 240 F on a candy thermometer. Remove pan from heat and add the vanilla. Pour caramel into prepared 9x13-inch pan and cool to room temperature. Once cool, slice caramels into squares with a sharp knife. Wrap the pieces individually into precut rectangular pieces of wax paper. Twist the ends of paper to hold caramels within. *Be sure to cool completely before wrapping or the paper will melt and stick to the caramels. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


TIDINGS AND CHEER The Christmas season is always a favorite at MEC. Employees come together for a season of giving: Adopt-a-Family – We partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to provide gift cards and Christmas gifts for eight local households in need. Adrian Comstock Christmas River Walk – Businesses, civic groups and individuals sponsor and decorate over 450 trees and then personalize the decorations of those trees. Fostering Solutions and Child Welfare Visitation (Lenawee County) – The team gathered and picked out gifts for 25 children and families, which included items such as car seats, board games, toys, and bedding. Marcellus Elementary Santa Express – We visited the elementary school and helped kids purchase and wrap gifts for their families. We also did an employee donation to ensure no child went home empty-handed. Toys for Tots – Our employee secret Santa exchange brings out the kid in all of us. We draw names and then buy toys that represent the recipient. Once we have fun opening the toys and guessing who bought them, we donate everything to Toys for Tots.

Christmas Shopping in Adrian: Employees Garrett Adams, Eric Keller, Kody Naylor, Matt Adams, Terry Sproles, Ryan Ciacelli, and Kirk Sander pick out gifts for foster kids in Lenawee County.

The MEC Christmas tree at the Comstock River Walk.

12 FEBRUARY 2022

Marcellus Elementary Santa Express: MEC employees Kurt Schantz and Marty Smego help wrap gifts for a student.

Winter weather can have a significant impact on your energy bills, hitting your pockets a little harder than you would have liked. Now that spring is just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to tackle a few DIY efficiency projects for your home. The good news: You don’t have to be an energy expert to do this!


By completing these simple hands-on efficiency projects, you can save energy and money while increasing the comfort level of your home. And you can impress your family and friends with your savvy energy-saving skills.



DIY Efficiency Projects

WATER HEATER INSULATION AND TEMPERATURE Insulating a water heater that’s warm to the touch can save 7 to 16% annually on your water heating bills. (Note: Newer water heaters may already be insulated.) A pre-cut jacket or blanket can be purchased for about $20. 1. Turn off the water heater. 2. Wrap the jacket or blanket around the water heater and tape it to keep it in place temporarily. 3. Use a marker to note any areas where the controls are so you can cut them out. 4. Once positioned, tape the jacket or blanket permanently in place. 5. Turn the water heater back on. For an electric water heater, do not set the thermostat above 130 degrees, which can cause overheating.

SEAL AIR LEAKS WITH CAULK The average American family spends $2,000 annually on energy bills, with much of that money wasted through air leaks in the home. Applying caulk around windows, doors, electrical wiring, and plumbing can save energy and money. 1. Choose a silicone caulk that is waterproof, flexible, and won’t shrink or crack. 2. Clean and remove any old caulk or paint with tools or solvent. The area should be dry before you apply the new caulk. 3. Apply the caulk in one continuous stream, and make sure it sticks to both sides of the crack or seam. Use a putty knife to smooth out the caulk. 4. Wipe the surface with a dry cloth.

WEATHER-STRIP EXTERIOR DOORS One of the best ways to seal air leaks is to weather-strip exterior doors, which helps keep out drafts and control energy costs. 1. Choose weather-stripping materials that can withstand temperature changes, friction, and the general “wear and tear” for the location of the door. You will need separate materials for the door sweep (at the bottom of the door) and the top and sides. 2. Clean the molding with water and soap, then let the area dry completely. 3. Measure each side of the door, then cut the weather stripping to fit each section. 4. Make sure the weather stripping fits snugly against both surfaces so it compresses when the door is closed.


They say it takes a village to raise a child. However, they forgot to mention it also takes a village to raise a fish.

HATCHING A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE By Emily Haines Lloyd || Photos by Thomas Mann


he Jordan River National Fish Hatchery (JRNFH) located in Elmira, Mich., is a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative Member, and is one of the village members who make up the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a bureau within the Department of the Interior. Jordan River National Fish Hatchery has produced native fish for stocking into the Great Lakes since 1965.

danger in the Great Lakes.

All the work JRNFH does to manage fish stocking into the Great Lakes is coordinated with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, with key support from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal, provincial, state, and tribal natural resource agencies. Their mission to “conserve, protect, and enhance” fish and wildlife is a vital part of righting an environmental ship right here in Michigan that put native trout and other keystone species in

Sea lampreys, a native to the Atlantic Ocean, resemble eels but act more like a leech, as they feed on native fish once they attach. The first recorded observation of a sea lamprey in the Great Lakes was in 1835 in Lake Ontario. Niagara Falls served as a natural barrier, confining sea lampreys to Lake Ontario and preventing them from entering the remaining four Great Lakes. However, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, improvements

14 FEBRUARY 2022

“The threat to these keystone species started in the middle of the 20th century,” explained Roger Gordon, a supervisory fishery biologist and hatchery manager. “There were many contributing factors from a loss of habitat to pollution, and of course, the introduction of parasite species like the sea lamprey.”

to the Welland Canal, which bypasses Niagara Falls and provides a shipping connection between Lakes Ontario and Erie, allowed sea lampreys access to the rest of the Great Lakes. Native trout are primary targets for the sea lamprey. The feeding on keystone species like lake trout, which have been in the Great Lakes since the Ice Age, leads to an imbalance in their ecosystem. It’s up to JRNFH and their aligning agencies to observe, control predators like sea lampreys (as well as humans), and restock the lakes to bring back order to the ecosystem. It’s a tall order, which is why Gordon is grateful to be part of a larger team. “This isn’t a job for just our hatchery,” said Gordon. “We work internationally with Canada, eight other states around the Great Lakes region, as well as federal, state, and tribal agencies,

not to mention research universities who help us collect and analyze data.” JRNFH is responsible for raising more than 3 million cisco, lake, rainbow, and brook trout for restoration and recreational programs in the Great Lakes region. In addition to providing healthy, high-quality fish for fishery goals and targets, the staff assists a wide array of state, federal, tribal, and public partners with natural resourcerelated projects and enhancements across the Midwest. It takes a fleet of trucks (think big milk semis) to transport and then load a large U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offshore stocking vessel. This vessel meets the trucks at various Great Lakes ports like Charlevoix, Alpena, or even Milwaukee with fish. The fish are transported to historic offshore spawning sites and released, and, as Gordan says, “we let them do their thing.”

about spawning fish in 15-degree weather with 30 mph gale winds, but there’s satisfaction and an attachment to our mission.”

Gordon describes himself and his team as “aquatic farmers” who work closely with the animals they raise and release.

The hard work is paying off. Since stocking the Great Lakes, JRNFH and its partners have actually eliminated the need for stocking Lake Superior, which is now self-sustaining. Recently, Lake Huron has rebounded as well, with just 30% of what they initially used to stock and over 50% of current fish spawned in the wild. Lake Michigan is proving tougher, but still seeing some improvement.

“We get our hands wet working with live animals every day,” said Gordon. “There’s nothing particularly pleasant

If the work continues, JRNFH hopes to see a rebalanced ecosystem for native trout—but what happens then?

“Ultimately, our job is to put ourselves out of business. To fix the problem and move onto the next one,” said Gordon. “What we do is a great example of how government can work together in a cooperative manner to get something done. None of us could accomplish any of this without the others.”

Visiting The Hatchery

The hatchery is open to the public from dawn to dusk, 7 days a week, all yearlong. The busiest time of year for visitation is the winter months, when the Jordan Valley snowmobile trail is open. Tours are self-guided unless arrangements for group tours are scheduled in advance. To schedule group tours, please call the hatchery at 231-584-2461. The hatchery abuts the North Country Trail and Jordan Valley Pathway walking trail systems and is a common stop or trailhead for walkers, hikers, hunters, and fishermen. fws.gov/midwest/jordanriver facebook.com/pages/Jordan-RiverFish-Hatchery/117253601625926



ATTENTION MEC INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS: We’ve now included the full CommandIQ suite of benefits for free with your subscription. That’s an additional $10 in monthly benefits at no additional charge.

What’s CommandIQ? A FREE mobile app that helps you manage the devices connected to your Wi-Fi. Set Up a Guest Network to Protect Your Main Network

Give all your guests temporary access to your network without giving them your main log-in credentials. You can even schedule the length of time for the network to remain active.

Update Your Wi-Fi Name and Network

Easily change your Wi-Fi ID and password any time you need to do so.

Test Your Network Speed and Monitor Your Usage

Do a bandwidth test to see how fast your internet is and check which devices are connected, as well as their bandwidth usage.

Schedule Screen Time

Set time-limit schedules to automatically turn off the internet for specific devices or family members during designated times and days.

Parental and Device Controls

Limit or block access to specific types of content and any website or app that you choose. No more sneaking FaceTime calls with friends when homework needs to get done. You can also enable safe searching and YouTube restrictions to prevent them from seeing inappropriate content.

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We’ve All Got Priorities. Now Your Devices Can Too. Do you want to ensure that you have the best connection possible when working from home? With My Priorities, you can prioritize devices or certain online activities, and you can set up a schedule to have those items automatically get bandwidth priority at certain times and days.

Hackers Are a Busy Bunch. Luckily, So Are We. Any device that connects to the internet is susceptible to hackers and malware, including smart home devices. For this reason, ProtectIQ guards your entire network and all connected devices by updating your router multiple times each week with protections against the latest known threats.

Get Started

Learn more at teammidwest.com/ commandiq or download the app from your app store to start exploring the benefits. You need to use MEC Wi-Fi to take advantage of the app, and if your router looks like this, you’ll need a new one. We’ll provide it for free. Give us a call at 800-492-5989 to learn more.

WINTER WEATHER DELIVERY AND SAFETY TIPS FOR MEC PROPANE CUSTOMERS Follow these guidelines to ensure safe and efficient propane deliveries: • Keep your propane tank, equipment, piping, and appliance vents clear of debris, plants, lowhanging trees, snow, and ice. Be aware that snow and ice accumulation can break your gas connections, and blocked vents can cause gas fumes to get trapped in your home.


Due to extremely volatile propane markets and supply issues, we cannot accept new propane customers until further notice.

• Remove ice and snow from your driveway, and sand all inclines to ensure safe access to your tank. If we can’t navigate your driveway, we can’t fill your tank. • Mark the location of underground tanks and provide a clear pathway. • Make your service address clearly visible at the end of the drive.

Practice Work Zone Safety


hen your power is out, our line crews are hard at work on restoration. Help keep our crews, and you, safe by following these tips around utility work zones:

• SLOW DOWN AND MOVE OVER. According to AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, a person has a 50% chance of suffering severe injuries when struck by a vehicle going just 31 mph. Please slow your speed when passing our work zones and move over when possible. • DO NOT DISTURB. If you see our linemen working, please leave them alone to do their jobs. Stopping them to ask questions delays restoration for everyone and could put everyone in danger. For updates on the status of an outage, please call us at 800.492.5989 • RESPECT ROAD CLOSURES. Sometimes safe restoration work requires that we close a portion of a road. When you see road closure signs, please find an alternate route. Bypassing these signs is extremely dangerous. Additionally, always avoid downed lines. Assume any line you see is energized and stay 50 feet away. Don’t drive over any lines, and please call us at 800-492-5989 to report the location.


Guest Column

A Glimpse Through The Thousand-Yard Stare Darren Bettinger, Midwest Energy & Communications


rowing up on the lake, I always looked forward to visits from my grandfather. He lived out of the state and would make trips over from Ohio to see us. My parents would take him up on his offers to watch us, and plan a little getaway from my sister and me. On those occasions, my grandfather would take us to the beach for swims or drive our boat while we tubed behind it. I imagine many of my Michigan neighbors share memories like these about their grandparents with me. One of those swims sticks out in my mind, for a very sobering reason. My grandfather served aboard a Landing Ship, Tank (LST) vessel during his stint in the United States Navy, during World War II. Grandpa Verle, as we called him, helped land troops and war material shortly after the beachhead was secured in Italy and Normandy, while the fighting was still somewhat heavy. He never spoke about it much, like the many men and women who have experienced the horrors of war. I don’t know if it was the sound of the waves crashing against the shore or the weather, but I witnessed what many would come to call the "thousand-yard stare" on his face that day. I knew what was

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18 FEBRUARY 2022

bothering him, and I asked him what the war was like. His only reply was, “I saw a lot of airplanes.” You see, at the age of 10, I was very interested in World War II aircraft, and he was trying to deflect the conversation. It wasn’t until I saw the movie “Saving Private Ryan” that I understood why. When I get to missing my grandfather, I make the trip from Cassopolis to Muskegon and visit the USS LST 393 museum there. The ship is a similar vessel that my grandfather served aboard, and the staff there has done a great job preserving memories and stories of veterans from all over Michigan who served in all our nation’s conflicts throughout the 20th century. For more information, visit https://www.lst393.org/.

Darren works in quality control for a major orthopedic device manufacturing company. He is a volunteer for the Cass County Historical Society, and enjoys the Michigan outdoors with his family.

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

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Answer this video challenge, and you could earn $1,000 toward your college education: Pick a job from one of the descriptions listed on teammidwest.com/scholarship. Then create a video resume to tell us about yourself and why you would be the perfect candidate. Envision yourself having the experience needed to qualify, and then tell us about it along with anything else you think would make us pick you. To help you out, we’ve included tips on how to make a great resume at teammidwest.com/scholarship. High school seniors whose families receive monthly service from MEC at their primary residence can apply. Scholarship applications must be submitted by Monday, March 14, and awards will be announced in April. Selection for the scholarship is based on the video submission along with academic performance, extracurricular activities, community involvement and employment, and honors and awards. A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a four-point scale is required, and an official transcript must be submitted for final approval. Get creative and have fun. Your unique, funny, or even quirky video might just put $1,000 toward your education!

Apply by March 14 at teammidwest.com/scholarship