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GLIN==> Great Lakes Day photos online!

Title: Great Lakes Day photos online!

Contact: Jon MacDonagh-Dumler, Great Lakes Commission, jonmacd@glc.org

Senate committee hearing highlights Great Lakes Day in Washington

Great Lakes restoration must be a priority, senators say

A slide show of Great Lakes Day in Washington events is now available online at www.glc.org/greatlakesday/slideshow06 

The annual gathering of Great Lakes policymakers and stakeholders, held March 16, 2006, focused on the recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy for Restoring and Protecting the Great Lakes.

At a Senate committee hearing and other events around Capitol Hill on that day, members of the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation, regional leaders and stakeholders joined together to send a message that the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes cannot wait. They stressed that while the federal budget may be tight, the Great Lakes are a national resource of such stature, with needs that are so critical, that room must be made for them.

“We have to get real about some of these problems,” said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, chairing a hearing of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “If we don’t find the resources to do something about them, we’re going to lose our lakes.”

Voinovich was one of a number of Great Lakes senators and others to offer their views during the hearing on the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes. The hearing was one of the main events of Great Lakes Day in Washington, the annual policy forum co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Commission and Northeast-Midwest Institute to focus attention on Great Lakes issues and legislation.

Committee Chair James Inhofe, who opened the hearing before passing the gavel to Sen. Voinovich, expressed skepticism that major Great Lakes initiatives could be funded in the current budget climate. However, Sen. Voinovich expressed concerns about the potential costs of not taking action, at one point citing the breach of the New Orleans levees following Hurricane Katrina as an example.

“My concern is the domestic side of the budget is getting clobbered and there are many things we ought to be doing that we’re not doing,” Sen. Voinovich said. “I think we’re being penny-wise and pound-foolish.”

Andy Buchsbaum, director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters campaign, cited a recent report issued by more than 60 Great Lakes scientists concluding that the Great Lakes are experiencing a historic crisis due to the cumulative effects of a combination of historic and new stresses.

“Scientists are coming to a consensus that the Great Lakes are at a tipping point,” he said, describing a cascading effect of combined stresses resulting in abrupt and major changes that could lead to a breakdown of major sectors of the ecosystem. “The rapidness of the process of change is unique in Great Lakes history.”

Also testifying before the committee, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., expressed disappointment that President Bush had not sought funding to implement the recommendations of the regional collaboration process he had initiated. He and Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, described a Great Lakes restoration bill that the two senators plan to introduce that would be based on those recommendations and include, among other things, comprehensive invasive species legislation and measures to restore fish and wildlife habitat; resources for addressing sewage overflows and contaminated sediment cleanup; a phase-out of mercury products; and support for additional Great Lakes research and program coordination.

“The plans are there – there’s no shortage of plans,” Sen. Levin said. “The data is there – there’s no shortage of data. What’s lacking is the funding.”

The day began with a breakfast reception in the Senate Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, attended by numerous leaders from the Great Lakes stakeholder and policymaking communities. Remarks were offered by Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-14th Ohio and Rep. Vernon Ehlers, D-3rd Mich., as well as by Tom Huntley, chair of the Great Lakes Commission and Dick Munson, executive director of the Northeast-Midwest Institute.

In the afternoon, six teams consisting of representatives of the Great Lakes Commission and partner organizations conducted congressional office visits, meeting with Great Lakes members of Congress and key staff to discuss the recommendations of the Regional Collaboration and show support for them as a regional agenda.

Testimony from the hearing is available online at http://epw.senate.gov/hearing_statements.cfm?id=252789

For a slide show of Great Lakes Day photos, see www.glc.org/greatlakesday/slideshow06 

Contact: Jon MacDonagh-Dumler, Great Lakes Commission, jonmacd@glc.org


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by the Hon. Thomas E. Huntley (Minnesota), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes­St. Lawrence region and its residents.  The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.  Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.”  The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests.  The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.