A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION: Policies must support ‘healthy, sustainable environment’

EDITOR’S NOTE:  This is the next installment in a monthly series that will pose a question or topic chosen by managing editor Michelle Graves, with responses presented by members of the Manistee County Democratic and Republican parties. The author is chosen by the respective party and may change from month to month. Columns will be published on the Thursday of each month. This month’s topic is Line 5. Writers were asked to respond to the following: Everyone can agree that the Great Lakes plays a major role in the economy of this area, as well as our way of life. Is a tunnel the right answer to Enbridge’s Line 5? What steps should be taken to protect the great lakes from pollution, diversion and invasive species (Asian carp is a large threat)?

By GARY MADDEN
Guest Columnist

Yes, everyone does agree that the Great Lakes play a dominant role in the economy of Michigan. They provide resources that people have been exploiting heavily for more than 200 years. Draining the center of the North American continent, the lakes are the single largest concentration of fresh water on the planet.

Today the Great Lakes system is in trouble; under assault from invasive species, pollution, environmental threats, commercial overuse and continuing pressure to divert water to other parts of the country. Over time these pressures are likely to intensify and threaten the vitality of our environment and the economy of the entire region. We must protect this precious resource at all costs.

The Michigan Democratic Party is opposed to building a tunnel under the Straights of Mackinac so that a foreign owned energy company can continue to ship oil, natural gas and even electricity through such an environmentally vulnerable region. Would it really be a good idea to concentrate all those energy sources into one tunnel? One spark from a failed electrical connection could cause a natural gas line to explode which would lead to a massive oil spill and the possible collapse of the tunnel. It is also estimated that the construction of such a tunnel would take eight to 10 years, further delaying the final closing of the 65 year old Line 5 pipeline. The Line 5 pipeline was designed to last for 50 years and would be nearly 75 years old when the tunnel is completed. Do we really want to risk the economic lifeblood of the region for the continuation of profits for a foreign corporation?

Further, the controversy over the continuation of the flow of fossil fuels through the Straights of Mackinac comes at a time when our state and country are beginning to move away from the use of fossil fuels toward sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar. This shift away from fossil fuels will only intensify as time goes by. Renewable energy is the future and the State of Michigan needs to assume a leadership role in the Great Lakes Region by adopting policies that support sustainable energy practices. Such a shift would also create more jobs, particularly in rural areas, as the solar and wind industries continue to grow and expand. Already Consumers Energy has set a corporate goal of 100 percent renewable energy production by 2035. The State of Michigan should join in this effort.

Another threat to the health of the Great Lakes environment is pollution. The Democratic Party believes that clean air and clean water are necessary for a healthy, sustaining environment in which people and all other living things can thrive. The State of Michigan must continue to adopt and improve policies which move us toward a cleaner environment. Farmers should be encouraged to adopt more sustainable practices to reduce the use of pesticides that run off the land and into our streams and lakes. Individuals can choose vehicles that run cleaner and get better mileage. In rural areas where there are large concentrations of septic systems, homeowners can take steps to properly maintain the systems so that creeks, rivers and lakes are not exposed to run off from poorly maintained systems.

The Democratic Party supports the regional policy of keeping all great lakes water within the great lakes watershed. In recent years we saw one Wisconsin city that is outside the watershed win permission to begin withdrawing its municipal water supply from Lake Michigan. The move was allowed because the Wisconsin city’s wells have run dry. We can expect this to continue all over the western half of the country as time goes by. To allow massive diversions of great lakes water to other regions cannot be allowed. Doing so would mean the permanent alteration of the hydrology of the center of the North American continent. Similarly, we are already allowing the Nestle Corporation (another foreign company) to remove massive amounts of Michigan ground water virtually free of charge, paying only around $300 per year.

Last year, the State of Michigan spent $24 million fighting the lamprey eel. The lamprey eel first made its way into the Great Lake region when the St. Lawrence Seaway was opened in the late 1940s. Since that time the eels have devastated the fish populations, and surrounding states have been fighting them ever since, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Democratic Party believes that we must continue to create policies and be ever vigilant against future invasive species. Today, we read about the Asian Carp being poised to move into Lake Michigan from the Chicago River. We are told that this fish will devastate whatever fish species that remain if it gains a foothold in the lake. Last year the Trump administration’s budget slashed funds for great lakes restoration by 90 percent, threatening efforts to keep the Asian Carp out of our lakes. It was only through the strong efforts of Democratic Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenaw that funds were restored in the final budget.

The Democratic Party continues to be committed to the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes and to the region that we all so dearly love and depend upon. To that end, Democrats can always be depended upon to pursue policies that will support a healthy and sustainable environment.

Gary Madden is the chair of the Manistee County Democratic Party. He can be reached at manisteedemocrats@gmail.com. Find more information about the Manistee County Democratic Party at www.manisteecountydemocrats.us.

 

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