Editorial: Cleaning up Great Lakes important local issue too
Manitowoc Herald Times
Published April 19, 2006
Here's a pop quiz: what is the most important natural resource? If you are uncertain of the answer, here's a hint: if all the oil and all the water in the world disappeared tomorrow, which would you miss first?
By some estimates, the Lakeshore literally sits next to 20 percent of the fresh water in the world and 95 percent of the fresh water in the United States. The Great Lakes are a resource of such magnitude it is almost impossible to measure.
Yet, thanks to years of mismanagement, lax pollution laws, weak or non-existent shipping regulations and putting profits above long-term health risks, the Great Lakes are in critical condition and in desperate need of attention.
Looking out across the lake from our enviable location, it seems almost impossible to imagine that much water being polluted, but it is happening.
After lengthy study and debate, a historic plan to clean up the Great Lakes was released in 2005. It would address the major concerns of all those with a stake in preserving the water quality and quantity of the lakes.
The $20 billion plan was the result of an initiative President Bush began in 2004. But when he released his latest budget most of the money for implementation of the study's recommendations was cut.
Congress is debating a bill that would restore funding to many of the main components of the Great Lakes cleanup initiative, although supporters admitted the plan may have to come in pieces given a looming $400 billion deficit and the ongoing war in Iraq along with the other demands for federal dollars.
The residents of the Lakeshore and 9 million plus other citizens around the lakes depend on them for their water supplies, as well as recreation, commerce, fishing and tourism.
We encourage you to contact our representatives in Washington to support this legislation. However, we can't wait for the federal government to act. There's much that can and should be done locally.
We have seen first hand what happens when bacteria levels become unsafe and force beaches to close. Part of this problem can be traced to surface water runoff that makes its way into our streams and rivers and, ultimately, into Lake Michigan.
We must do our part to keep pollutants out of the surface water supply. That's part of what storm water maintenance tries to prevent. We shouldn't let the controversy over how the city funds this work obscure the fact that we have a responsibility to keep water flowing into the lake free of pollutants.
That's not the whole problem, of course. Farms, power plants, commercial developments, industrial facilities and even residential areas are all potential sources of pollution that can end up in Lake Michigan and other bodies of water.
The heavy lifting has to come from the federal government, but it is a hollow cry for help if communities around the lakes are putting pollution into the lakes faster than it can be cleaned out.