Friday, March 7, 2008

Were coming to your town, we'll help you party down: Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives Tour

The fastest boat on the great lakes, the Earth Voyager, has a mast 97 feet tall and moves pretty dang fast. She'll be touring the Great Lakes this summer as part of the Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives Tour, which will highlight how healthy lakes equal healthy economies and drinking water for the region. The tour will include concerts, street fairs, and art exhibitions in a dozen Great Lakes cities. Make sure to contact the organizers if you're in one of the port cities and want to help get the word out on Great Lakes restoration.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lakers v. Salties

Matt from Ohio shared a useful bit of information he got from Great Lakes Day:

“I learned that Great Lakes shipping refers to vessels as being either "Lakers" or "Salties." Lakers are ships that stay within the GL ecosystem and Salties are ships that go to sea.... Never knew that before.”

Yep, Lakers (the ships, not Kobe or Magic) are the ones that stay in the Lakes. Salties are the ones that go to sea and pick up ballast water out there, along with nasties like the zebra mussels. When Salties dump their ballast water in the Great Lakes system, or enter the system without treating their ballast tanks, the non native animals and plants that come with the ship take over the ecosystems, threatening native species, water quality, and even industry. Legislation is in play at state and federal levels to regulate ballast water – you can learn more about those efforts at the Healthy Lakes website. Now you know...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Video: Jennifer Caddick of Save the River

I demonstrate fantastic journalistic skills (<-sarcasm) speaking with Jennifer Caddick, Executive Director of Save the River, an organization dedicated to saving the St. Lawrence River, the front line in the War on Invasive Species:

Um... an article about uh... legislation to close loopholes in duh... ballast water legislation is here.

State-by-State Wrap Up: Illinois

I’m following up with state leaders to get their thoughts after Great Lakes Day – finding out how the lobbying went and how everyone back home can get involved. Here’s my email interview with Joel Brammeier of Alliance for the Great Lakes:

How did it go? How were legislators and staff reacting to the Great Lakes message?

I’ve never seen members of Congress so anxious to demonstrate leadership on Great Lakes issues. From education to appropriations, legislators want a piece of the action and know that restoration is going to pay dividends for the Great Lakes

The Illinois coast is unique among the Great Lakes states – it’s almost all very urban and includes the Chicago diversion, which takes some of Illinois out of the watershed. What political and environmental issues does this bring up for Illinois activists for Great Lakes restoration?

Illinois residents should be aware of the tremendous benefits they already receive from being part of the Great Lakes watershed, but also what they’ve lost – clean healthy beaches, natural coastlines and native fish. Illinois is a Great Lakes state through and through and will benefit from the unique restoration projects possible in an urban setting.

Why is Lake Michigan important to the Chicago area? Why should we try to keep it healthy?

Number one, we drink it. Number two, it drives our economy. And after that, what more reason do you need? From booming coastal tourism in Chicago to charter boats to the anglers boaters to the family day at the beach, Lake Michigan defines metro Chicago.

What can people in Illinois do to get involved with Great lakes and wetland restoration?

Let your member of Congress know it’s a priority to you. If you live in a coastal community, ask your local parks department and municipal offices to join efforts like the Lake Michigan Watershed Ecosystem Partnership to help target public dollars toward restoration. Volunteer with the Alliance for the Great Lakes through its Adopt-a-Beach and Coastal Allies Network program, where you restore the Great Lakes on the ground as well as in Springfield and Washington DC.

If I’m a busy Chicagoan who loves the Lakes with time only for three letters or phone calls to legislators or newspapers, where should those go and what should they be about?

Write your member of Congress and ask for more money, cleaner water and better habitat for the Great Lakes. Write an editorial letter to a community newspaper or for your church, school or boat club. Finally, get involved with your local agency that manages land in the Lake Michigan basin, like the Chicago Park District. Restoration starts close to home.

Alliance for the Great Lakes' Adopt-a-Beach Program Sign Up
Lake Michigan Ecosystem Partnership
Chicago Park District

State-by-State Wrap Up: Ohio

I’m doing interviews with some state leaders to follow up with Great Lakes Day – finding out how it went and how everyone back home can get involved. Here’s my email interview with The Buckeye State’s Matt Misicka of League of Ohio Sportsmen and Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club:

How did it go? Where does the Ohio delegation stand with their support for Great Lakes restoration?

Representatives Kaptur, Tubbs-Jones, Sutton and LaTourette are all on board. Some other officials from outside the basin are iffy this year – some are locked in tough reelection campaigns and they don’t have it near the top of their lists.

The Ohio coast and watershed of Lake Erie has some urban areas that have problems that might overshadow an unhealthy watershed and Lake. How do you demonstrate Lake Erie’s importance in these areas?

Hit them over the head with the Brooking's Institute findings that suggest a 4 to 1 return on investment. Funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act and State Revolving Loan Fund will help create jobs and increase property values. If they are not interested in the environment, interest them in the economics.

A woman spoke passionately at the opening meeting about the fact that her constituents (single moms, working poor, etc) lack access to clean drinking water and from her perspective that need far outweighed the environmental issues that we seemed so occupied with. On that I had some thoughts:

A lack of clean drinking water in the USA is not the problem; rather it is the economics of getting affordable clean water to people. Clean water is, or can be, available if we can develop better infrastructure (state revolving loan fund) and create a stronger basin economy through increased appropriation of great lakes issues.

The group gathered in DC last week was primarily joined to one another by environmental issues. Indeed we are greatly fortunate that we are wealthy enough to take time out of our days to care about these things. However, our desire to focus on these keystone concepts of water and the ecosystem will in the long-run result in cleaner waters for more than just ducks and fish and plants – we ought to remember that when communicating with our public officials, the media, and our friends and neighbors.

What can people in Ohio do to get involved with Great lakes and wetland restoration?

Participate in opportunities like Great Lakes Days. Make it as inexpensive a trip as possible... by participating in these activities, you'll learn (and better appreciate) an incredible amount about the Washington process.

I’m originally from southern Ohio – what are some pretty places up in the Erie watershed I should take my family to fish and swim?

My favorites are MaumeeBay State Park and East Harbor. Add South Bass and Kelly's too. And don't forget all the great walleye and perch charters...

“Lakes cleanup would give $50B lift to economy” (Ann Arbor Business Review)
“Healthy Waters, Strong Economy” (PDF of Brookings Institution Report)
Maumee Bay State Park
East Harbor State Park
South Bass Island Lighthouse
Kellys Island

Photo of a catch by Ed Jefferson from

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Video: Charlie Bristol talks about friends getting together to save rivers and lakes

I mentioned my discussion with Charlie Bristol a while back and promised some video. It's here.

Charlie is an engineer who works with his friends (Friends of the Detroit River, Friends of Belle Isle, Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium, Friends of the Rouge...) I talked with him about what they're all doing over in the Detroit area:

So if you're in Southeast Michigan and you aren't friendly with your rivers and lakes, check out Charlie's friends and get involved!

State-by-State Wrap Up: New York

I'm continuing to follow up with some state leaders for the campaign about how Great Lakes day went and how folks back home can build on the momentum. Here's my email interview with Dereth Glance, Executive Program Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment:

How did it go? How were legislators and staff reacting to the Great Lakes message?

Great Lakes Day was once again a great success. The NY delegation heard loud and clear from constituents and advocates about the urgent need to enact the comprehensive blueprint to restore and protect our Great Lakes. Key legislators and staff were familiar and passionate about halting Aquatic Invasive species hitching a ride in ballast water, reauthorizing and improving the Great Lakes Legacy act to remediate toxic mud that persists along our shorelines, and increasing funding for communities to deal with sewage fouling beaches. We recognize the competing interests for a small amount of money, but it was clear that NY delegation has a sophisticated understanding of the threats facing the Great Lakes, our upstate economy, and our recreational assets.

What are some political and environmental issues specific to New York that people there should know about if they want to get behind Great Lakes restoration?

New York is the gateway to the Great Lakes. Ocean going ships must traverse through the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario before arriving to the ports of Toledo and Duluth. New York receives little economic benefit from shipping, but experiences all of the costs associated with aquatic invasive species that arrive in our waters unchecked by predators. New York's remaining 5 toxic hotspots must be cleaned up for current and future generations--Congress must strengthen and improve the Great Lakes Legacy act before it sunsets on Sept 30th of this year. Additionally, Congress must appropiate adequate resources to improve our aging and failing sewage systems that lead to foul beaches, contribute to algal blooms and low oxygen levels that choke aquatic life.
Revitalizing the upstate economy is directly tied to restoring and protecting New York's freshwater coasts. Forty percent (40%) of New York's land mass is wholly located within the Great Lakes Basin, including the Finger Lakes and residents depend upon our amazing freshwater ecosystem for hydropower, drinking water, agriculture, industry, and recreation.

What can New Yorkers do to get involved with Great lakes and wetland restoration?

New Yorkers can sign up to receive timely action alerts at Citizens Campaign for the Environment (LINK) and join the Healing Our Waters Coalition at

If I’m a New Yorker who loves the Lakes with time only for three letters or phone calls to legislators or newspapers, where should those go and what should they be about?

Write to your local paper, a brief letter to the editor (200 words or less) about how much the Lakes mean to you and how important it is for Congress to protect the lakes by improving sewage treatment plants, stopping aquatic invasive species, and cleaning up toxic mud and restoring habitats. Drop a quick line to your Congressional member and Senators about the Great Lakes and what this amazing freshwater ecosystem means to the upstate economy and identity. Tell Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act, enact a coast guard bill that stops aquatic invavise species from hitching a ride in the ballast of ships, and fund sewage treatment plants to keep our beach clean and safe!
Audubon New York
Save the River (Upper St. Lawrence River Keeper)

Photo courtesy of Finger Lakes Visitor Connection