“Heart of the Great Lakes” to get a checkup

Ann Arbor, Mich. — It’s often said that Lake St. Clair has been overlooked when it comes to environmental restoration and protection. But next week, it’s going to get some attention.

A two-day conference, Lake St. Clair: Restoring the Heart of the Great Lakes, will focus on the state of the lake and efforts to restore and protect it. Resource managers, policymakers and interested citizens from both the U.S. and Canada will take part in the event, to be held June 17-18 at the Thomas Edison Inn in Port Huron, Mich.

Often referred to as the “Heart of the Great Lakes” for its distinctive shape and location in the center of the Great Lakes system, Lake St. Clair plays a central role in the lives of area residents and within the larger Great Lakes system. With uses ranging from fishing to recreational boating, drinking water to commercial navigation, Lake St. Clair is the defining natural feature of southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario.

The conference, co-sponsored by the Great Lakes Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), will generate information and ideas for the development of a comprehensive management plan for Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. The plan is being coordinated by the Commission for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Lake St. Clair is a vital part of the Great Lakes system and we are pleased to convene this conference and highlight the many important restoration efforts underway,” said Dr. Michael J. Donahue, president/CEO of the Great Lakes Commission. “The management plan will provide a roadmap for organizing our efforts to restore and protect Lake St. Clair. What’s critical now is that the communities around the lake come together to ensure the plan is fully funded and implemented.”

Conference sessions will assess the health of Lake St. Clair and review management programs for the lake. Speakers will address the status of these programs and identify opportunities to increase their effectiveness in protecting and restoring Lake St. Clair. The final session will review opportunities to better organize and coordinate management efforts for the lake and its watershed.

“We recognize Lake St. Clair’s importance to Michigan residents and are committed to supporting federal, state and local efforts to address problems that have impacted the lake in recent years,” said Gary Gulezian, Director of the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office. “Our agency convened the first Lake St. Clair conference in 1999 and we’ve continued to focus on the health of the lake since then.”

In 2002 U.S. EPA, together with other federal, state and tribal agencies, released a strategy to guide Great Lakes management efforts. The strategy identified Lake St. Clair as a special focus area and called for a locally-driven, binational program to coordinate management of the lake.

Conference speakers will include Gulezian; Susan Humphrey, restorations programs manager for Environment Canada; Lt. Col. Thomas Magness, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District; and Ken DeBeaussaert, director of the Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. Video statements will be provided by three members of Congress, Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Sander Levin and Rep. Candice Miller.

The first annual Heart of the Great Lakes Award will be presented to John C. Hertel, former chair of the Macomb County Board of Commissioners, by the Macomb County Water Quality Board at a special reception Tuesday evening, June 17.

The conference is open to all interested parties. Registration fees will be waived for members of the media, who are encouraged to attend. For others, the registration fee of $50 covers Tuesday’s lunch and the evening reception , and all conference materials. Interested individuals must register by 4:30 p.m. Friday, June 13.

Additional information, including a registration form and updated program, is available online at projects.glc.org/stclair/heart

For immediate release: June 12, 2003
Contact: Matt Doss, mdoss@glc.org, office: 734-971-9135

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The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational 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 membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer programinvolving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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