Clock Ticking on Keeping Asian Carp Out of The Great Lakes

The huge, ugly, leaping Asian Carp now threaten the $23 billion fishing-boating  economy of the Great Lakes.  Five years after Congress ordered the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find the best and fastest way to stop the invasive fish, the Corps could not come up with a solution.  Instead their new 232-page analysis listed eight possibilities and endorsed none of them.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat, and Rep. Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said the Corps should have picked one approach. They favor separating the two watersheds and have sponsored a bill to do that. Stabenow and Camp also wrote the bipartisan 2012 Stop Invasive Species Act that required the Corps to submit a report now instead of the original 2015/16 deadline.  With the carp nibbling at the Chicago foot of Lake Michigan, three more years was too long for these two elected officials to wait for a solution.

Now Stabenow and Camp are calling on Great Lakes residents to contact their Senators and Representative urging the Corps to act before it’s too late.  They are also pressing the Corps to work with Congress on a concrete project that can be voted on to get  started on the work stopping the carp as soon as possible.

Of the eight proposals – including doing nothing – one would reconstruct Chicago’s waterways, take 25 years, and cost over $18 billion. The single proposal supported by environmentalists and five of the Great Lakes states is to permanently separate the Mississippi River from the Chicago waterways by building two dams.  The two Great Lakes states opposing this permanent solution are Illinois and Indiana, both lobbied by their local shipping industries.

The movement to keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes started with Peter Wege’s Healing Our Waters conference in Grand Rapids ten years ago.  That work has evolved into the $20 billion Great Lakes Restoration Initiative federal legislation now funding environmental restoration projects throughout the five Lakes.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debby Stabenow is shown at Cabela's in Grandville in a joint news conference with Great Lakes conservation leaders calling for swift actionto keep the invasive Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.
Michigan Democratic Senator Debby Stabenow is shown at Cabela’s in Grandville in a joint news conference with Great Lakes conservation leaders calling for swift action to keep the invasive Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes.
**To learn more on the fight against Asian Carp please visit: http://www.stabenow.senate.gov
**To learn more on the fight against Asian Carp please visit:
http://www.stabenow.senate.gov

A Rose By Any Other Name…

If anyone else had announced one cold day in early 2004, “We have to save the Great Lakes,” The Wege Foundation staff would have gently nodded and gone about their business.  But not when that “anyone” was Peter Wege.  They knew him too well. Ellen Satterlee, now CEO of the Foundation, understood her boss was a man of huge vision devoted to the planet’s health. Terri McCarthy, now V.P. of Programming, knew Peter Wege never saw a challenge too big to take on if it meant leaving the Earth a better place for future generations.

That May of 2004, The Wege Foundation convened the first Healing Our Water conference by assembling over 70 leading environmental experts in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As Wege wrote in his invitational letter, “Our objective is to collaboratively reach consensus on a policy statement for restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem. We will focus not on the problems, but the solutions.”

In September 2012, some 600 state, federal, tribal, local, and community leaders and activists met in Cleveland, Ohio, for the 8th Annual Healing Our Waters conference. Peter Wege’s dream in 2004 has become reality. His focus on “solutions” has turned into $1 billion dollars spent since 2009 on specific environmental projects to “Heal” the Great Lakes.

That billion dollars is a direct result of Peter Wege’s directive to his guests at the original HOW gathering that they “reach consensus on a policy statement for restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem.”  His guests did what they were charged to do. And their final collaborative statement ultimately became a $20 billion package of laws in the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation, now the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The up-and-running GLRI projects completed and in progress are geared at the very problems Wege’s HOW 2004 conference defined.  Stop the introduction of invasive species. Prevent sewage contamination and toxic pollution. Restore wildlife habitat.

It is true that the 100-plus organizations representing millions of people who are part of HOW refer to this successful federal legislation as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But it started out with a different name.  In his 2004 charge that his invited guests come up with a collaborative policy statement, Peter Wege told them, “I’m calling it the Magna Carta of the environmental movement for the Great Lakes.”

“GLRI” works fine. But “Magna Carta” does have a nice ring to it.

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Peter Wege’s grandson Chris Carter, Jim and Mary Nelson (Peter’s daughter) enjoy a cruise on the now clean Cuyahoga River.
Cuyahoga
When the Cuyahoga caught on fire in the late 1960s from toxic pollutants, the national news coverage turned into a wake-up call for the environmental movement. The Clean Water Act of 1972 was a direct result of the public’s outrage over seeing film of Lake Erie’s tributary river actually burning.

Wisconsin Governor Shares Good News on Saving the Lakes

greatlakesposterSeven representatives of The Wege Foundation, including Trustees Mary Nelson, Peter Wege II, and Ellen Satterlee, attended the 4th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Milwaukee September 10-12. Most appropriately, the seven Wege Foundation delegates traveled from Grand Rapids to Milwaukee by crossing Lake Michigan on the Lake Express ferry.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle welcomed the over 300 attendees, all members of organizations collaborating to save the Lakes. The conference was sponsored by The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition. The HOW-GL Coalition was a direct result of the first Great Lakes Conference held in Grand Rapids in 2004 and called together by Peter Wege and The Wege Foundation. Wege’s advocacy has been consistent ever since. “We must do something for the Great Lakes while there’s still time.”

In thanking Wege and the Foundation, Governor Doyle told the crowd that without Peter’s vision, the remarkable strides that have been made in four years could never have happened. “Real progress has been made,” Doyle said. “HOW focused national attention on this issue.” In the tight Presidential race, the Wisconsin governor noted, “We are pivotal states in this election.”

Speaking of the rapid progress the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact has made moving through Congress, Governor Doyle said, “The Compact has gained real momentum. The flow is now in our direction!”

Calling the Great Lakes “part of who we are,” Doyle, who also chairs the Council of Great Lakes Governors, told the audience that Wisconsin has tripled the amount of money it is spending to fight invasive species. The state has allocated $7.7 million to clean up sediment.

Governor Doyle pointed out some the Lakes’ economic impact for Wisconsin. Over $6 billion in revenue is connected to the Lakes, with as much as $2.3 Billion in Milwaukee alone. Eleven thousand jobs in the state are tied to the Lakes. Governor Doyle predicted even higher financial gains as the high costs of oil have spurred a resurgence of Great Lakes shipping.

He said that in any photo of the Earth from outer space, the Great Lakes always stand out. Governor James Doyle closed by saying of the five Lakes, “They are a special gift from God.”

THE SECOND PILLAR: THE ENVIRONMENT

HEALING OUR WATERS

What began as Peter M. Wege’s vision to save the Great Lakes by inviting 70 environmentalists to a Grand Rapids conference in May 2004 turned into and unprecedented federal commitment within five years. Also supported by the Beldon, Frey, and Mott Foundations, the original meeting Wege convened at Steelcase University has made environmental history in record time. In February 2009, President Obama signed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a plan to restore the Great Lakes with an estimated $20 billion price tag.

In 2010 alone, the federal government has provided $475 million for Great Lakes restoration, including grants to address the three most serious threats to the Great Lakes: invasive species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediments.

These three primary targets came almost verbatim from the report –Wege called it the Great Lakes’ “Magna Carta” – issued by the original Healing Our Waters conference attendees in 2004. At the time Peter Wege told his invited guests that he wanted the Lakes restored in five years as, “I’m not getting any younger.”

Eyes rolled. Can’t be done. Federal funding? Politics? Elections? Monstrous endeavors like restoring the Lakes take decades to happen! But Peter M. Wege proved, once again, that he has a knack for making his impossible visions come true.

The Sixth Great Lakes Restoration Conference took place in September 2010 in Buffalo, New York, the sixth of the eight Great Lakes states to host the yearly gathering. From the original 30 environmental groups who met at Steelcase in 2004, over 120 organizations representing millions of Americans are now active members of the HOW-Great Lakes Coalition.

Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, and Lynn McClure, National Parks Conservation Association, co-chair the coalition with Mark Van Putten serving as The Wege Foundation’s consultant on the GLRI. In his newly published book, ECONOMICOLOGY II, Peter Wege says that restoring the Great Lakes is the single most important work he’s done in his life.

Wege’s good friend, the late President Gerald R. Ford, agreed. In congratulating Peter for his leadership on the Lakes, President Ford spoke for all Americans when he wrote in July 2006, “The Great Lakes have enriched my life as they have so many others, and I share your commitment to restoring them for our children’s and grandchildren’s future.”