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Great Lakes Article:

Michigan lawmakers take right action on water project
Oakland Press
Posted November 15, 2007

It was a rare occurrence. So rare that it's worth mentioning in an editorial.

A couple weeks ago, Michigan lawmakers swiftly rejected President Bush's veto of a bill authorizing millions of dollars for water projects in the Great Lakes region.

The House voted 361-54 in support of the first override of a Bush veto, backing a $23.2 billion water resources bill that contains dozens of water and sewer projects. All nine of the Republicans in Michigan's delegation joined with the six Democrats in a rare break with the president.

On Nov. 8, the Senate completed the veto override, with Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow joining all their House counterparts in voting "yes."

Congratulations. Finally, our congressional and Senate representatives have decided to act in the best interest of the state, rather than in the best interest of their party.

It's wonderful and needs to happen more often.

In the case of the water bill, $342 million is specified for a commercial shipping lock at Sault Ste. Marie, $20 million is slated to clean up the St. Clair River and Lake St. Clair and funding is designated for a barrier to stop the spread of the Asian carp.

Other Michigan-related projects include $35 million to address sewage overflows that frequently lead to beach closings along the Great Lakes, $3 million to protect the shoreline along the Detroit River and funding to rehabilitate the Hamilton Dam in Flint.

What is key here is that our representatives in Congress are pulling together for once, and if they were ever going to do so, it makes sense they would do it on a water-related issue.

Michigan's designation as the car capital of the world has been, or continues to be, whittled away at by foreign competition. Both local and state leaders have said we need to find new, high-tech industries that will invest in Michigan to help raise us out of this economic depression.

What we also need to do is use more efficiently and effectively Michigan's greatest asset, which can easily be argued is its freshwater supply.

The water bill projects should only be the beginning of massive efforts by state and federal representatives to maximize Michigan's water assets.

With droughts elsewhere in the country and areas such as the South and Southwest running out of water, Michigan first needs to preserve its valuable resource.

We pray, along with those in Georgia, that they get the rainfall they need. But Atlanta's dire situation should send a clear message to us in Michigan -- protect our Great Lakes.

Then, we need to capitalize on it through heavy promotion of tourism. We've heard lip service from many state officials on how important the lakes are to the state, but they don't seem to be acting with much of a sense of urgency.

This needs to change. We need to see more frequent instances where our leaders in Washington act together to benefit the state. Michigan is in appalling straits and can't afford to have our state and national representatives continue to play party politics. The water projects veto over ride is a good start -- but much more "joint" action and hard work is needed.

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