Friday, September 29, 2006

Bill would aid Great Lakes - Waterways could get $80 million

Some good news.

The Great Lakes are about to win federal funding of up to $80 million over the next five years, double the amount available in the past.

From studying the movements of yellow perch in Lake Michigan to restoring marshes, the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act has paid for 65 projects since its start in 1990. The U.S. House renewed the act this week and the Senate is expected to approve the bill before it recesses today or Saturday.

The former maximum Congress could allocate to projects under the act was $8 million per year. That would be raised to $16 million.

The act has paid to control sea lampreys and zebra mussels and helped restore walleye in Saginaw Bay. It also pays for research. This week's votes were to reauthorize the act, but how much Congress actually appropriates is decided each year. Lately, funding under the act has been less than $1 million, despite an $8 million cap.

Rep. Dale Kildee, a Flint Democrat and sponsor of the legislation, said renewing the act is a big step in preserving and restoring the Great Lakes. It's also a hopeful sign in the effort to win $20 billion in federal funding to clean up the Great Lakes, he said.

There is a new book out that sounds very interesting- as soon as the politicians are done yelling at each other I might get some time to check it out. Titled "The Great Lakes Water Wars" by former Newsweek correspondent Peter Annin (website here), it explores the history of the Lakes and the current threats they face.

His premise is that an era of warring over the Great Lakes is under way -- and will intensify as the global water shortage worsens. The lakes' future and the region's way of life hang in the balance as leaders grapple with the challenge of preserving what amounts to nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water, Annin writes.

The book comes nine months after representatives of the eight Great Lakes states signed a compact to ban most diversions of water outside the drainage basin, require each state to regulate water use and establish a regional standard for large-scale water withdrawals. The Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec pledged separately to adopt the same policies.

But the compact still faces an uphill climb, needing approval of legislatures in each state and the U.S. Congress to take effect.

"The Great Lakes Water Wars" describes the agreements and the contentious negotiations that produced them. But that's just the conclusion of a story that began more than a century earlier with construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which diverts water away from Lake Michigan.

The book relates the history of that still-controversial project and other legal and political skirmishes that led to the regional agreements. And it explains how the Great Lakes were formed, their unique characteristics and the threats facing them, from the global water shortage to exotic species and climate change.

This is one of those issues that flies under the radar. No one cares about the environment until it's gone- and there are some out there who would gladly sell it out for big profits now.

DeVos and the MI GOP are fond of using the words "extremists" and "radicals" whenever anyone mentions protecting the environment of our beautiful state- that is code for "we should be free to loot and pollute all we want". The current leadership of the Republican Party is actively working to turn back the clock on environmental issues- maybe when the rivers start to burn again people will wake up.

Granholm has an outstanding record on this issue- yet another reason we need to re-elect her.

You knew I'd get back around to that again, didn't you? ;-)