Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 9, 2013

George Weeks: Bipartisan efforts to protect Lakes

Budgets are tight and relations are ugly between the two parties, but there have been recent encouraging advances at the national, state and local levels on protecting the Great Lakes. A sampling of some mid-year developments:

--At the federal level, Washington has moved to continue Great Lakes Restoration funds for six states, including Michigan projects on Isle Royale and the Detroit River.

As part of its effort against invasive pests, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scheduled treatments last week to poison the larvae of sea lamprey in the Mitchell Creek stream bottom in Grand Traverse County.

“For us to get the adult lamprey in the lakes would be impossible,” said Alex Gonzalez, a federal fish biologist. The lamprey issue of late has not received as much media notice as the problem of Asian carp.

Also last week, three Michigan Capitol Hill lawmakers, including Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, introduced legislation to secure funds for Great Lakes dredging and harbor maintenance projects.

As noted by The Detroit News, Michigan lawmakers in the House and Senate have long lamented the user-fees collected from shippers for the federal Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund have been redirected or not used for its intended purpose of dredging ports and harbors.

--At the state level, Gov. Rick Snyder deserves kudos for hosting the recent summit of Great Lakes governors and premiers on Mackinac Island. They agreed on eight resolutions, including addressing water quality and levels and invasive species.

They helped address a question raised by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, keynoter at the conference: “How are we going to work together to capitalize on the Great Lakes?”

Especially significant and applaudable at the summit was that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, co-chair with Snyder of the Great Lakes governors, said that separating the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems is the “ultimate solution” to prevent Asian carp from entering the lakes. That means a Chicago area barrier, which has long been opposed there.

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