Traverse City Record-Eagle

June 9, 2013

George Weeks: Bipartisan efforts to protect Lakes

Syndicated columnist

---- — 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.

--As for local-level Great Lakes efforts, Chicago-based commentator Gary Wilson in a Great Lakes Echo report said a group of 100 mayors have had ongoing coordinated efforts. He said that while up to this point “governors have been on the sidelines,” Snyder’s initiative is “to his credit.”

One local initiative came last week when Macomb County started a freshwater research project aimed at economic opportunities as well as environmental management of Lake St. Clair and the Clinton River.


Land’s Launch

Former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who won two terms by double digits in 2002 and 2006, announced last week she will seek the GOP nomination next year for the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.

Land, currently Michigan’s Republican National Committeewoman, said she is forming a campaign team and will file for the primary by July 1.

She said: “We need conservative leadership now more than ever because of high unemployment, huge deficits, and a spendthrift Congress. “ The day of her announcement, she went to Traverse City for the memorial service for former First Lady Helen Milliken, who died late last year.

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson was quick to criticize Land: “Michigan families will lose under Land's out of touch agenda to privatize Medicare and Social Security, making it tougher for seniors to retire with dignity and undermining our chances of a full economic recovery.”


All-star staffer

Once again, Suzanne Miller Allen of Traverse City has been named the “most effective partisan staff member” in the state legislature, based on the biennial survey of political insiders conducted by MIRS-EPIC/MRA.

Allen, chief of staff for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, won the designation in the past when she was top aide to then-Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming, and later for then-House Minority Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire.

She is the wife of ex-Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, now deputy director of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.