attention to Great Lakes with task force
By George Weeks
The Detroit News
Published May 24, 2004
For decades, Michigans governors and lawmakers
of both parties have been urging presidents of both parties
to give more attention and higher funding priority to
the Great Lakes.
President George W. Bush paid special attention last
week, taking a step that he said would enhance this national
treasure as an economic engine and recreational
When he named a Cabinet-level task force to coordinate
Great Lakes sustainable development and restoration,
Republicans dutifully heaped praise and said his 2005
fiscal year budget has a five-fold increase for Environmental
Protection Funding for the Great Lakes.
Some Democrats said hes not walking the talk now
any more than before. Smoke screen, shrieked
the Sierra Club.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm had a reasonable reaction. She
welcomed Bushs engaging on the Great Lakes,
but she awaits a meeting with the head of the task force
to determine if there will be the green of federal dollars
to help preserve the deep blue of 20 percent of the worlds
U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, whose district includes
nearly 200 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, told me,
I agree with the governor that the key thing
now is to cut through some of the clutter
in the federal system and push for funding now that the
Great Lakes are on Bushs radar screen.
Granholm Press Secretary Liz Boyd says the governor is
concerned that Bushs executive order offers
no funding for implementation.
U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, long second to none
in Michigan as a champion of the Great Lakes, goes so
far as to declare: The order excludes additional
funding or resources to implement a comprehensive Great
Lakes restoration plan.
It does no such thing, in the sense that excludes
means preventing or keeping out. It simply did not address
funding. Executive orders do not appropriate money.
Funding will be a focus of Granholms planned Detroit
meeting Wednesday with Environmental Protection Agency
Administrator Mike Leavitt, head of the 10-member Cabinet-level
task force. One of the task force members, Interior Secretary
Gale Norton, plans an early June visit to Michigan.
As Stupak notes, the Bush administration has committed
$8 billion to the Everglades restoration in Florida, and
we need that same kind of commitment to the Great Lakes
Florida, whose governor is Bushs brother, may be
more pivotal in the 2004 electoral battle this year than
Michigan. But, as an electoral cluster, such battleground
Great Lakes states as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and
Wisconsin command his special attention.
He gave it in his order creating the Great Lakes Interagency
Task Force that should address failures identified by
the General Accounting Office. One is the lack of coordinated
activity. Another is lack of adequate funding.
Dave Dempsey, policy adviser for the Michigan Environmental
Council and author of Michigan State University Press
new On the Brink book on the Great Lakes,
says, Its good that the White House is finally
paying attention to the Great Lakes.
However, he cited it as an example of how politicians
pay lip service to the worlds greatest freshwater
ecosystem, but balk at doing almost anything meaningful
to protect them.
There is time before Nov. 2 for Bush and the GOP-controlled
Congress to prove their environmental critics wrong.