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Great Lakes Article:

Fight for Great Lakes' share of national money, attention
Duluth News Tribune
Posted 10/23/2002

In Duluth, we depend on Lake Superior for our drinking water, industrial uses, shipping and recreation. Any change in the level or quality of water affects us.

The Great Lakes -- Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, Lake Erie and Lake Ontario -- have come a long way since the Seaway system opened in the 1950s and since some lakes were so choked with algae and pollution that they were declared "dead" or "dying" in the 1960s.

But there's still much to do -- and with declining political clout after the 2000 census, we need strong leadership from our governors and members of Congress.

The reality is that federal money for Great Lakes efforts has eroded, even as the federal government has put a ton of money into other nationally important bodies of water, such as the Everglades in Florida.

The Great Lakes congressional delegation has pressed the eight Great Lakes states, through the Great Lakes Commission, to come up with a plan so our region can take advantage of federal dollars the way that Florida and other regions have.

This takes leadership from the governor of Minnesota -- as well as the governors from Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. They met last week to solidify a joint vision and plan they can bring to Congress in 2003.

Just as the federal government will spend $8 billion in a 30-year plan to restore the Everglades, Great Lakes states should be pressing for a similar commitment to the Great Lakes.

To get our fair share of federal money, we have to be organized and unified and have a priority list -- as Florida did with the Everglades.

The Great Lakes Commission, made up of the eight states and two Canadian provinces, will issue its formal report next month. But the main priorities already are clear:

- Improving transportation and tourism on the Great Lakes.

- Controlling stormwater runoff.

- Cleaning toxic sediments and contaminated areas.

- Controlling non-native species.

- Governing removal of water from the Great Lakes for use outside the region.

- Keeping sewage and untreated waste out of the water.

- Restoring and protecting wetlands and coastal habitats.

Abundant fresh water and cheap transportation originally made the Great Lakes region a population and industrial center both in the United States and Canada.

Half of the 50 million people who live in the Great Lakes region depend directly on the lakes for drinking water. About 225 million tons of grain, iron ore and other commodities are shipped across the Great Lakes each year. Sport and commercial fisheries contribute more than $1 billion per year to the region's economy. About half of the steel made in the United States and nearly two-thirds of Canada's steel is produced in the Great Lakes region. Automobile manufacturing, heavy machinery, paper mills, metalworking, shipbuilding and tourism also are substantial industries.

In short, our economy and quality of life depend on the Great Lakes.

Come January, the Great Lakes region will lose nine seats in Congress to the rapidly growing South and West. We have to be organized and unified to press for our regional interests. We need a governor and congressional delegation that understand the importance of the Great Lakes to our economy and quality of life -- and will fight like bulldogs for our interests in Washington.

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