group to set goals for Great Lakes
By Tom Henry
The Toledo Blade
Great Lakes mayors have formed a new group to unify their
goals for the lakes in the wake of a federal report that
claimed such coordination has been sorely lacking across
all levels of government.
The Great Lakes Cities Initiative, based on Chicago,
will help U.S. and Canadian mayors develop consistent
policies and restoration efforts. A broad spectrum of
issues will be covered, from beach quality to shoreline
development to invasive-species control.
Toledo is expected to be one of the key players, being
the sixth-largest port city on the Great Lakes and a hotbed
for Lake Erie-based ecological, tourism, recreation, health,
and business activity. And western Lake Erie - being the
warmest and shallowest area - is the most productive region
of the Great Lakes for fish spawning.
"The sole issue of water is becoming huge,"
Mayor Jack Ford said, referring to legal skirmishes in
the Southwest. "I think it’s going to become the
issue in the country one day, just like health care. Water
diversion, water quality, drinking water and waterfront
development - all of it.’’
U.S. Sen. George Voinovich, a former Cleveland mayor
and former Ohio governor, last week led a congressional
hearing on the lack of coordination among Great Lakes
programs. He believes the mayoral group could inspire
better coordination of Great Lakes programs at all levels,
spokesman Scott Milburn said.
"He knows how much local officials can impact lake
quality," Mr. Milburn said. Mr. Voinovich is chairman
of the subcommittee of government management, part of
the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.
The hearing was in response to a report issued May 21
by the U.S. General Accounting Office, the investigative
arm of Congress. The report said the Great Lakes are governed
by a hodgepodge of 50-some state and federal programs,
plus many at the local level. It called upon the U.S.
EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office to take a lead
"It has to be at all three levels," Mr. Ford
said of coordination. "Mayors often have a pretty
good political feel at the local level and can influence
their legislators," he said.
Better coordination could help the Great Lakes region
win support for an Everglades-like allocation. Florida’s
congressional delegation in 2000 secured an $8 billion
restoration package for the Everglades, the largest single
investment America has made in an ecosystem.
U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) and U.S. Sen. Carl Levin
(D., Mich.) recently introduced a bill for $6 billion
over 10 years. A similar bill, calling for $4 billion
over five years, was introduced in the House by Chicago-area
"Restoring the Great Lakes could be the greatest
legacy any of us will leave on this earth," Mr. Voinovich
said at his hearing.