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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes mayors seeking greater control
Muskegon Chronicle

Mayors 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 assets.

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 invasive species.

"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 said.

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.

© 2002 Muskegon Chronicle. Used with permission

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