for Great Lakes' share of national money, attention
Duluth News Tribune
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
- Cleaning toxic sediments
and contaminated areas.
- Controlling non-native
- 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transportation originally made the Great Lakes region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.