Editorial: Great Lakes states must ensure our water future
Traverse City Record Eagle
Published December 21, 2007
For all that we have in common the Great Lakes states have never been known for their unity. Other than being a core Democratic region during the era when the auto industry and United Auto Workers ruled, we seem to dwell as much on our differences as what we have in common.
That has to change, and now. From this point on, the Great Lakes states must be aware, as never before, that the lakes are not only our heritage but a future that tens of millions of people will want to claim at least a share of.
That's why it is so critical that Great Lakes voters pay close attention to, and be prepared to act on, what the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates have to say about protecting the lakes from pollution, legalized larceny and other threats.
A pledge that several members of Congress from both parties, governors and mayors from across the Great Lakes have challenged the candidates to sign is a first step.
According to the Buffalo (NY) News Washington bureau, the pledge would commit the candidate to appoint a Cabinet-level official to enact the proposed Great Lakes Collaboration Restoration Strategy and create a budget to fully fund the work.
The $20 billion restoration strategy is intended to coordinate efforts to deal with invasive species, contamination, pollution and wildlife habitats. It has gotten support from the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office.
While all that sounds impressive, those who have kept close watch on Great Lakes issues know that most of the time, coalitions and declarations prove pretty much worthless.
To this day, the Environmental Protection Agency has refused to enforce federal law mandating physical searches of ocean-going ships that enter the lakes with water in their ballast tanks, a prime source for invasive species.
The recent Great Lakes Compact allows lake water to be treated as a commodity and sold -- by the bottle or the boatload. The courtroom success of the Nestle water-bottling operation in Mecosta County is a horrific precedent.
States thirsting for water to feed expanding economies or ease ongoing droughts could someday talk about tapping the mother lode for their share of the bounty.
We may dismiss such talk now, but climate and other changes could make the far-fetched seem likely.
The surest way to control our own destiny is to have the clout needed to fend off future water raids. That may start with a pledge from a presidential candidate, but real progress won't come until the Great Lakes states can talk with one voice on Great Lakes issues.