Posts Tagged ‘Healing Our Water’s’

Great Lakes Leadership

June 19, 2012

If there was ever a day when the Great Lakes need presidential – and presidential candidate –leadership, today is it.

First there’s this week’s release of the latest Asian carp eDNA tests by the Army Corps of Engineers from a single sampling day: 17 positive hits for silver carp past the electronic fence, including 14 in Lake Calumet, a direct shot to Lake Michigan, only five miles away. That’s bad – really bad. Never before has a single sampling event yielded that many positive hits in the Chicago waterways system. In fact, there were only 34 positive hits for Asian carp in all of 2011, and we just got half of that in one sampling day (May 22). Although the Corps cautions that eDNA readings don’t necessarily mean the presence of live fish, that’s pretty hard to argue with so much evidence in such a short time period. It’s pretty clear that the Asian carp are advancing past the electronic fence toward Lake Michigan. The question is how long it takes them to establish a breeding population….and whether our political leaders will act before it’s too late.

Then there’s funding for Great Lakes restoration. Today, the subcommittee considering the EPA’s budget in the  U.S. House of Representatives cut Great Lakes restoration funding by $50 million for next year. That reduces it to $250 million, almost a 50 percent decrease from the $475 million baseline passed in 2010. This, despite the fact that restoring the Great Lakes has proven to be an excellent investment ecologically AND economically; that over 600 projects are underway in eight states that put people back to work; and that the need for restoration work is greater than ever.  Talk to Rick Unger, president of the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, and you’ll hear how algal blooms are decimating Lake Erie and the region’s businesses (including his own). He’ll tell you how important Great Lakes restoration funding is to anybody who fishes, works, or drinks water.

So, what to do, and who should do it? I have an easy answer: President Obama and Governor Romney can fix both of these, right now.  Both of them should publicly commit to maintaining Great Lakes restoration funding – no cuts – and tell their allies in the House and Senate to get in line. Both of them should announce their commitment to building a permanent barrier in the Chicago canals as soon as possible to stop the invasive carp from advancing any further toward Lake Michigan – and to doing whatever it takes to get that barrier in place ASAP. Both of them should tell their respective party leaders to provide the funding and authority needed to stop the carp. And both of them should sign the Great Lakes pledge issued by the Healing Our Waters Coalition, which asks for precisely these commitments.

Sometimes leaders have to make tough and unpopular decisions to do the right thing. This isn’t one of those times. The right thing is to protect 90 percent of the nation’s surface fresh water, the drinking water of 30 million Americans, and the engine for a multi-million dollar economy. The easy thing is to preserve the water wonderland of the people in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota – which just happen to be 2012 presidential swing states.

The Great Lakes need leadership – and this one’s easy. Will the presidential candidates step up?


Wooing Great Lakes Voters

May 16, 2012

This week the Cleveland Plain Dealer sent a shot across the bow of the presidential candidates. In an editorial, it chastised the Obama Administration for doing too little, too late to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. It criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for moving too slowly in finding a permanent solution, and took the Administration to task for failing to support hydrological separation between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes.

It concluded with, “If Obama really wants to woo voters in the Great Lakes states, he should tell the Army Corps to take the coalition report, crunch the numbers quickly, and start shoveling dirt.”

If this sounds familiar, it should: this is the same logic that prompted the Healing Our Waters Coalition and NWF to issue the Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Candidates Pledge. Healing Our Waters, the 120-organization coalition dedicated to restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, asked all the candidates for president to pledge to:

  1. Maintain and if possible increase funding for Great Lakes restoration, and
  2. Commit to constructing a barrier in the Chicago canals that would hydrologically separate the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds.

President Obama has committed to the funding, but as the Plain Dealer points out so clearly, he’s resisted committing to the long-term measures needed to stop the invasion of Asian carp.

What the Plain Dealer hasn’t said is that thus far, Governor Romney has committed to neither.

I hope both candidates read the Plain Dealer editorial. The largest newspaper in the most critical swing state in the nation is telling them what moves their voters, and guess what? It’s the Great Lakes.

Mr. President and Mr. Governor, how about that pledge?

Successful Great Lakes Day and Carp Hearing on the Hill

February 26, 2010

I’m just back from a full week in Washington, D.C., where the Healing Our Waters Coalition and the Great Lakes Commission held an awesomely successful Great Lakes Day. Over 200 leaders descended on the Capitol, visiting over 85 House and Senate offices and talking to key members of the Administration.

Great Lakes director Cam Davis keynoted the HOW and GLC conference, and the groups gave special recognition awards to Senator George Voinovich and Congressman Vern Ehlers. For more details on this event, check out Jeff Alexander’s post on the Healing Our Waters blog.

I also had the chance to testify yesterday before Senator Stabenow’s subcommittee on Asian carp and the government’s plans to combat a Great Lakes Asian carp invasion. You can read my full testimony here. There were eight of us on two panels, a wide variety of witnesses from federal agencies, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Dr. John Taylor (who authored the best study to date on the real costs of lock closure), Michigan Office of Great Lakes Director Ken DeBeaussaert, and Illinois DNR Director Mark Miller. I saw some real progress at the hearing. Almost all the witnesses, including Illinois’ Mark Miller, favored ecological separation as a permanent solution and wanted to get there as soon as possible. The witnesses also all recognized that there is no short-term emergency measure that can completely safeguard the lakes and so all the measures need to be used together. There was disagreement over the frequency and scale of some of the measures (particularly lock closures), but there was more emphasis on where there was consensus for moving forward.

The big development that helped bring everyone together was the Great Lakes Commission’s adoption of a resolution endorsing the concept of ecological separation as the best way of protecting the Great Lakes from Asian carp. This was so important because it included support from Illinois; it really made all the Senators sit up and take notice.

The next milestone (at least, the next one we can anticipate) is the Corps’ release of a modified lock operations plan, due out in the next week or two. Here’s hoping that the new plan is a channel by channel, lock by lock strategy on how to stop the movement of the invasive carp in the short run, and not another concept document.

Following the money

February 9, 2010

Yes, yesterday was the day of the White House carp summit with the governors, and the feds also released their big Asian carp response plan.

But right now I’d like to squeeze in a little non-Asian carp news on the Administration’s Great Lakes budget. The President proposed $300 million for FY 2011, which you can look at as either a $175 million cut from last year or the second largest Great Lakes budget allocation in history.

The Healing Our Water’s Coalition response is posted below. Of course, later this week look for a return to the carp issue.

Coalition Urges Congress to Restore Funding for Great Lakes

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (Feb. 3, 2010)—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today urged Congress to restore funding for Great Lakes restoration, following the release of President Obama’s budget on Monday. The president’s budget includes $300 million for his Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a 36 percent reduction from the $475 million he requested in his inaugural budget.

“Although President Obama’s budget makes Great Lakes restoration a priority, the proposed funding will make it difficult to keep pace with the urgent threats facing the Lakes,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We’re going to work with Congress and the White House to restore funding to Great Lakes programs before the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”

President Obama proposed in his inaugural budget a new, precedent-setting $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that helped jump-start long-stalled federal action to restore the Lakes, the largest freshwater resource in the world.

The Administration started strong; it needs to stay strong,” said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “After years of federal inaction, there is a huge need to fund solutions that advance Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery. We look forward to working with the Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress to make that happen.”