Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 28, 2013

George Weeks: Bipartisan stand for Great Lakes

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Michigan lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill last week urged Congress and the Obama Administration to strengthen efforts on behalf of the Great Lakes.

Also, Michigan Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette joined the Michigan League of Conservation Voters (MLCV), a bipartisan champion for the Great Lakes, in contending that the feds are falling short on the critical issue of the advance of Asian carp toward the lakes.

While MLCV welcomed the administration’s new $50 million short-term plan to thwart the carp from entering the Great Lakes, it said in an under statement that “a long-term solution to keeping the invasive species from decimating our region’s environment and economy is still at bay.

“The plan calls for an array of methods to strengthen defenses but does not enforce full separation of waterways.”

West Michigan LCV Director Patty Birkholz, who as a 1997-2002 GOP state representative from Allegan County was an effective environmental advocate, said:

“Invasive species pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes Region’s economy, which is the fourth largest in the world. This plan includes many preventative measures to address Asian Carp looming in neighboring waterways, but if we want a barrier that holds, we must completely separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basi

Schuette, who like Democrat Frank Kelley and Republican Mike Cox before him has been a stout defender of Michigan’s Great Lakes interests, was more pointed in his criticism of the federal stop-gap plan that includes electronic barriers and water cannons. Contending that any plan that falls short of full separation leaves Michigan and the Midwest at risk to severe economic ecological damage, he said:

“Playing Russian Roulette with stun guns and water cannons is simply too risky when it comes to protecting our $7 billion Great Lakes fishery. For every family in Michigan who takes summer fishing trips, to those who enjoy a peaceful boat ride or have a job dependent on Michigan’s tourism trade, I simply am not willing to stand by and wait for Asian carp to invade Michigan waters. We must act right away to slam the door shut on the Mississippi River basin.”

A related issue that flared last week on Capitol Hill came when a House subcommittee introduced a bill that would slash 2014 spending for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80 percent—from $285 million to $60 million.

Among Michigan lawmakers sponsoring legislative to maintaining adequate funding are Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow; Democratic Reps. John Dingell of Dearborn and Sander Levin of Royal Oak, and Republican Rep. Candice Miller of Macomb County.

Stabenow, who has been allied with Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, on the Asian carp issue, joined Carl Levin and others in a letter to urge President Barack Obama to consider “risks and impacts” of climate change on the Great Lakes as he formulates plans for dealing with greenhouse gases.

The letter said: “Addressing the impacts of climate change on the Great Lakes region is essential for ensuring the long-term health, safety and prosperity of our country.”

Stabenow gets 1st Helen Milliken Award

On Saturday at Black Star Farms in Leelanau County, the Michigan Land Use Institute gave Stabenow its first Helen Milliken Award, named after the late wife of ex-Gov. William G. Milliken. She was on the institute’s board for 12 years.

The award went to Stabenow, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, for leadership in Senate passage of the Farm Bill. The Institute said the bill “expands support for community gardens farmers’ markets and local food hubs to boost Michigan agriculture, our state’s second largest industry.

“The bill also provides crop insurance and disaster relief for northern Michigan cherry growers who were wiped out by last year’s warm winter and spring freeze, while strengthening conservation tools and landowners use to protect our natural resources.”

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism 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.