Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

March 7, 2014

Editorial: Beach testing grant exposes state's lack of commitment

Trying to see the logic in it will just make your head hurt. Instead, marvel at the idea that a state government that spent nearly $14 million to lure out-of-state visitors in 2012 set aside just $152,000 to test dozens of state beaches for E. coli bacteria contamination in 2014.

Then marvel further that a single downstate lawmaker was able to Shanghai $100,000 of that $152,000 to buy some snazzy new monitoring equipment for his backyard beach and that most other beach testing programs — including the one for the Grand Traverse Area — were axed.

Before reaching for the aspirin, thank the wiser heads at the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who salvaged the beach testing program for this year at least.

The band provided a $25,000 grant to the Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Benzie county health departments, including $16,000 to replace the monitoring program this year. The rest of the money, plus $2,600 from Grand Traverse County, will be used to improve beach safety signage and equip beaches with at least a swim buoy and rope that can be thrown to aid a struggling swimmer.

The chain of events has local officials wondering where they can look for more reliable sources of beach testing funding, More reliable? If we can’t depend on the state to support efforts to keep area beaches free of bacterial pollution — and advertise that fact to visitors and local beach-goers alike — who can we turn to? The tourism industry, perhaps? Scratch-off lottery tickets?

There’s a profound disconnect between state lawmakers and those who do the day-to-day work of protecting the resource for locals and visitors alike. Without funding, beaches don’t get tested and without testing, contamination levels can rise.before anyone knows there’s a problem and moves to fix it.

Common sense says you don’t spend $14 million to lure visitors here then cheap out when it comes time to protect that investment. Testing warns of problems in a timely way.

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