Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 29, 2014

George Weeks: Levin, Stabenow tout Great Lakes sanctuaries

Michigan’s top three statewide officeholders have a solid record in bipartisan national politics of working with neighboring states on Great Lakes issues.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, like his predecessors of both parties, has worked with other governors on pollution, invasive species, water diversion and other issues. Likewise, Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow have collaborated with such Republicans as 4th District Rep. Dave Camp of Midland on Great Lakes issues.

Last week, Levin, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and Stabenow, a vice chair of the group, joined colleagues from Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin in introducing legislation requiring a federal assessment of Great Lakes waters with “significant cultural, historic or archaeological value for possible preservation as federal marine sanctuaries.”

That’s hardly an issue as critical, for example, as the threat of Asian carp, where federal action has been slow. But scientific, cultural and economic benefits are at play on sanctuaries.

The Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Assessment Act would direct the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to submit to Congress recommendations on possible Great Lakes sanctuaries. Currently, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary on Lake Huron near Alpena, which protects scores of historic shipwrecks, is the nation’s only freshwater federal sanctuary. (There are 13 protected in salt waters.)

There’s enormous potential in lakes Superior and Michigan. Said Levin:

“Thunder Bay has had enormous scientific, cultural and economic benefits for Alpena and Northeast Michigan. We should build on that success, potentially with a network of protected sites that bring the historic and significance of our Great Lakes heritage to life. Our legislation would require a comprehensive assessment of possible sites, an assessment developed in close cooperation with local Great Lakes communities.”

Stabenow said: “Michigan’s historic Great Lakes shipwrecks draw families and divers from across the state and throughout the world to discover and explore our rich maritime heritage.”

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