Great Lakes marina operators will soon be able to earn certification online that acknowledge their green efforts.
The Green Marina Education and Outreach Project, a collaboration of the Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin Sea Grants, certifies environmentally friendly marinas as “clean marinas” by recognizing their above-and-beyond efforts.
One part of their accreditation processes will soon be entirely online. Sea Grant, which is a college-based research program, encourages marina operators to apply for the voluntary program to improve Great Lakes water quality. In Ohio, the evaluation is a five-step process. The marina’s staff must attend an in-person workshop. Only two or three are held each year.
Michigan has launched the prototype of the online classroom, but it should be available regionally in the next two months. A fee of $100 allows a marina’s entire staff to take the training.
“Other states aren’t able to have someone perform in-person workshops, and this way their marinas could go online and receive the education that way,” said Sarah Orlando, coordinator for the Ohio Clean Marinas program. “It’s geared toward all Great Lakes states. The online classroom will be interactive, with photos, videos and links to external resources.”
The modules focus on topics such as sewage handling and petroleum control. Webinars are held every few months; past topics include boat-bottom washing, aquatic invasive species, storm water and grass runoff. The training is required to maintain Clean Marina certification.
The Sea Grants are also working to improve marina management practices with a comprehensive guide focusing on eight themes of particular concern, including boat maintenance and waste management. These themes roughly align with the online modules. The goal of this project was is to make a more unified standard of practices by compiling the standards of each individual state.
“We made it general so states that don’t have clean marina programs could use the guidebook to help improve water quality and their business,” Orlando said.
Roughly 10 percent to 15 percent of marinas choose to go through clean marina certification and successfully complete the program, said Vicky Harris, water quality and habitat restoration specialist with the Wisconsin Sea Grant.
“Once they get in, they’re dedicated to working it all the way through,” she said. “Once they’ve committed, they want to make it to the end goal. But some may be hesitant to spend extra money on certain practices.”
But Harris said the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
“Clean marinas get a lot of recognition,” she said. “All state programs will put out press releases and let communities know that they have taken extra steps to improve their business. And they also save money by preventing spills that are costly to clean.”
Certification is good for five years or until the marina changes ownership. Checkups are done every two years to confirm that the marina is maintaining good practices.
Harris is confident that quality of training will not suffer during the shift to online.
“I think it could be even better,” she said. “The modules are very thorough, and people can go over certain topics multiple times if they want. It’s very flexible. Hopefully it will be a constantly available resource.”