Seven 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.”