Ann Arbor, Mich. — Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, is the new chair of the Great Lakes Commission, a binational agency representing the Great Lakes states and provinces on matters of Great Lakes policy, research and management.
Speck, who heads the Commission’s Ohio delegation, was unanimously elected by his fellow Commissioners at the organization’s annual meeting in Cleveland on Oct. 15, 2002. Minnesota state Rep. Thomas Huntley was elected vice chair.
“This is a very exciting point in history for the Great Lakes Commission, given the issues and challenges we face,” Speck said. “It is a great privilege to be elected chair at a time when so much can be accomplished.”
Speck said that the Commission has been presented with a number of significant opportunities, related to ongoing efforts to develop a framework to manage water use, as called for in Annex 2001 of the Great Lakes Charter; the challenge of battling aquatic invasive species through reauthorization and implementation of the National Invasive Species Act (NISA); and working with the Council of Great Lakes Governors and other parties to frame, develop a national program to address, and advocate for a comprehensive set of priorities to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
“There are many opportunities and challenges that we, working together with our many partners, must address,” he said. “We must ask ourselves two questions: ‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’ The answer provides our motto for the coming year: ‘Us-Now.’”
Speck succeeds outgoing Chairman Nat Robinson of Wisconsin, who assumes the post of immediate past chair. Speck held the post of vice chair the past two years.
At the same meeting, the Commission approved a series of policy actions that will help define its advocacy efforts over the coming year. Among these measures, the Commission called for construction of a new, permanent electric barrier to prevent the Asian Carp, an emerging major threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, from reaching the Great Lakes through the Illinois waterway system. The fish, which are voracious eaters and can weigh more than 80 pounds, have already been found within 50 miles of Lake Michigan in the Chicago Sanitary and Shipping Canal, which connects the lake with the Mississippi River.
Fisheries biologists have warned the carp could reach Lake Michigan by next spring unless urgent action is taken. The Commission urged that a temporary barrier, installed as a demonstration project, be supplemented by a more durable and effective one. The current barrier discharges an electric current into the water to discourage fish from crossing but primarily affects bottom-dwelling species; the new barrier would target the entire water column.
In a related action, the Commission called upon Congress to move ahead with reauthorization of the National Invasive Species Act, including provisions recommended by the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species that directly address the Great Lakes.
The Commission also applauded the progress made in laying the foundation for a comprehensive management plan for Lake St. Clair, the heart-shaped body of water between lakes Huron and Erie that supporters call “the heart of the Great Lakes.” The resolution followed a presentation on the management plan development process, which is one of a suite of initiatives benefiting the lake. Lake St. Clair and its watershed are a microcosm of many of the problems faced by the entire Great Lakes system, including invasive species, wetlands and habitat loss, toxic pollution, sewage overflows and leaking septic systems, and heavy development along its shores.
In other action, the Commission called upon federal, state and provincial governments to make a high priority of addressing the problems represented by the numerous beach closings that have occurred around the Great Lakes in recent years. The Commission also urged the Great Lakes states and provinces to embrace the findings of a study laying the groundwork for a process to inform water use decisions by Great Lakes governors and premiers.
For immediate release: November 1, 2002
Contact: Dr. Michael J. Donahue, firstname.lastname@example.org, office: 734-971-9135
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is an interstate compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states. Associate membershipfor 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.