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Great Lakes Article:

EDITORIAL: Get back to work on a new pact for the Great Lakes
The Muskegon Chronicle
Published November 21, 2006

Time has run out on a 34-year-old pact that supposedly safeguards the Great Lakes, some are saying. Three-decades-plus is a long time for any agreement, especially one so important to the well-being of the millions who depend on the world's largest freshwater supply on earth.

Since the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1972 was signed, there have been changes both for the good and for the worse in lakes water quality. Such obvious disasters as the pollutant-soaked Cuyahoga River near Cleveland have been abated, as have other danger sites around the Great Lakes Basin.

As the years have gone by, local pollution issues have been dwarfed by threats of a far larger nature. Imported exotic species, deposited into the lakes through ballast water from ocean-going ships, have turned the table on native fish and other lake life forms. Mercury from smokestack pollution carries over the lakes from places known and unknown.

Newer issues, such as water diversion from bottling companies, have opened up new cans of legal worms. The rise of "factory farms" generating immense amounts of animal waste runoff into the lakes is a growing pollution source. There is also the issue of global warming, which may be a contributor to the steady decline in lake water levels, and a big factor in rising lake water temperatures.

The call for a new water quality pact comes from the International Joint Commission, made up of representatives from Canada and the United States, which advises both nations about the lakes. A recent IJC report stated the 1972 agreement had long run its course and lacked the tools governments need to meet emerging threats to Great Lakes health.

Before the governor's race was settled in Michigan, we pointed to a need by the winner to tackle Great Lakes issues as a starting point that could win bipartisan backing. The area we suggested was closing a loophole in current law regulating certain issues pertaining to water diversion. It appears as if the task -- and challenges -- facing Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the new Legislature, and other Great Lakes governments will be vastly larger in scope.

What's a tree without lights?

If you haven't seen it up close, the new 50-foot-tall "Community Christmas Tree" in Hackley Park is a vast improvement over the old one, even in its better days.

But when the tree was cut down more than a month ago, its old lights went with it. Now that the new tree -- a donated by Laketon Township residents Jim and Ann Timme -- is in place, it's going to need a lot of lights.

Led by Muskegon's forester, Larry DeCou, a crew of city workers worked hard to get the tree cut down and transported downtown one week ago. Several pieces of city equipment were used in the process, but the biggest part of the job was done at no charge by Curtis Andrews of Andy's Tree Service in Egelston Township.

Now, in the hope of starting a new tradition of erecting and lighting a large donated tree each holiday season without going too far out on a limb, money-wise, and to help make this a truly community event, the city is reaching out to others for help.

DeCou says the city would like to see financial donations of about $500 to purchase enough lights to augment the screw-in-bulb style of lights the city already has on hand, and also is looking for someone willing to donate time and equipment to string the lights on the tree -- and/or take them and/or the tree back down again after the holidays. The lights could be reused year after year, and, would become a part of the annual Christmas in Hackley Park lighting ceremony.

Muskegon's downtown holiday lighting has depended on donations of money, lights, ornaments and equipment in the past, especially since the downtown mall closed. Such donations have brightened what would have been dismal Christmas seasons in the slowly emerging "new" downtown.

Interested? DeCou can be contacted at 724-6783.



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