Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Two good steps to protect the Great Lakes

As I sit in Chicago, nowhere near Lake Michigan, preparing for one of the most boring trade shows in the history of mankind, I read that two pieces of legislation designed to protect the Great Lakes watershed have moved forward. The first is the Great Lakes Compact which is nearing the end of its torturous journey to keep outside interests from sucking vast quantities of water out of the lakes. The other is a measure passed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to require ships to treat ballast water they release to make sure that invasive species are not hitchhiking as they have so many times in the past.

The Great Lakes Compact is the most amazing piece of legislation in my opinion. It had to be crafted so it passed the legislatures and was signed by the governors of 8 states and 2 Canadian provinces. It then had to pass the US Senate, the House, and be signed by the President. All that remains to be done is for Bush to sign the thing and he claims that he will. Like all legislation its a compromise but a pretty damn good start. You can peruse the particulars here. When you consider the gauntlet of US Democrats and Republicans, Canadian Liberals and Conservatives, and various special interests and right/left wing nut cases that this thing had to get through, its pretty impressive that it passed. A few years back I cast an absentee ballot for the Minnesota gubernatorial race since I would be bowhunting on the Tuesday of the election. A friend who used to be a DFL senator (the Democratic Farmer-Labor party are our very own homegrown Minnesota Democrats) asked who I voted for and I told him Jesse Ventura. He told me, "You can't be serious!? We'd have a Democratic senate, a Republican house, and an independent governor; nothing will ever get done!" My response was, "So.....what is the problem?". In this case however, a decent piece of legislation with international significance made it through and the Great Lakes will be better for it.

The other measure is a Minnesota Pollution Control regulation to force ships to treat their ballast water before releasing it into Minnesota waters. Ballast water has been the main source of destructive non-native pests like the sea lamprey, Eurasian Milfoil, Zebra Mussels, a slew of other nasty European imports. This regulation will be completely ineffective of course, unless Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ontario decide to issue similar rules. If they don't it will be like a rule requiring that small children only pee in the shallow end of the pool. One would hope the states, and maybe even the Feds, would realize this and pass similar regulations before the implementation date of 2016. Unfortunately in many cases the cat is already out of the bag but I think an effective rear guard action will help prevent future hitchhikers from entering the watershed. I'm sure a letter or two to the powers that be couldn't hurt in promoting this important piece of legislation. For me, all it took was seeing a lamprey slither between my boots at the mouth of the Brule as I launched my boat to remind me of how destructive these invasive pests can be.

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