Lakes mayors seeking greater control
of American and Canadian cities bordering the Great Lakes,
including Muskegon, say they will seek a greater voice
in drafting long-term plans to protect and restore what
they called one of North America's most precious natural
For too long, federal
and state governments have had all the power in determining
policies and programs that affect the lakes, said Chicago
Mayor Richard Daley, who attended a conference at the
Hancock Center last week with more than 20 officials from
Great Lakes cities.
Among them was Muskegon
Mayor Steve Warmington.
"We believe mayors deserve
a stronger role in developing policies and programs affecting
the Great Lakes," Warmington said.
He noted that mayors
and other local officials make frequent decisions regarding
the lakes -- providing clean and safe beaches, repairing
shorelines, controlling water discharges, conserving drinking
water, regulating lakefront development and dealing with
"What happens to these
lakes has a direct impact on our ability to create and
sustain vibrant cities like Muskegon, where people want
to live, work, play and raise their families," he said.
"Many of us have long
believed that mayors deserve a bigger role," said Daley.
"We have never been at the table in the past. I think
local government has to be there."
Lake Michigan's well-being
is critical to the quality of life of lakefront communities,
and whenever problems develop, local officials get complaints
from residents and are expected to respond, he said.
Issues of concern include
invasion by foreign marine species, industrial and agricultural
pollution and development on the lakes' shores, Daley
Regulation is another
problem, said Milwaukee Mayor John Norquist.
Under the Jones Act,
which imposes "ridiculous federal regulation," foreign-flag
ships are prohibited from carrying American passengers
between U.S. cities, Norquist said.
As a result, once-common
routes that connected cities across the Great Lakes have
died, he said.
Designed to protect
business interests of ports on the east and west coasts,
the law instead has hurt tourism in the Midwest, Norquist
said. "It has hurt cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Detroit,
Cleveland," he said.
Though numerous government
agencies are involved in regulating such things as water
levels and fish populations, local leaders typically are
not well represented, officials said.
The mayors said they
also plan to ask Congress and the Canadian Parliament
to fund a detailed plan for the protection and restoration
of the lakes.
At another meeting with
Great Lakes colleagues in Chicago last May, Daley and
other mayors called for creation of a national environmental
trust fund to clean the lakes. It would be patterned after
a fund begun several years ago to restore Florida's Everglades.