Obama found strong, consistent support in Great Lakes states
Voters in the eight Great Lakes states sent a resounding wave of support – and all 141 of their electoral votes - to President-elect Barack Obama in the Nov. 4 U.S. general election. Obama commanded 57.5 percent of the combined vote in the eight Great Lakes states with the strongest support coming from the two most populous states, New York (62.2 percent voted for Obama) and Illinois (61.8 percent). There was only one governor’s race in the Great Lakes, in Indiana, where incumbent Republican Mitch Daniels won handily with a 57.8 percent edge over Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson.
Ballot measures passed easily in two states, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, authorizing state financing of environmental quality initiatives. In Minnesota, the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota state constitution passed with a solid 56 percent margin. The measure will increase sales and use tax by three-eighths of 1 percent to generate an estimated $300 million per year for protection and restoration of wetlands, forests, parks, wildlife habitat and cultural heritage. Pennsylvania voters approved a $400 million Water and Sewer Improvements Bond Referendum by a 62.1 percent margin; the program will enable grants and loans to municipal governments and public utilities for water system improvements, storm water and nonpoint source management, and wastewater treatment.
In Ohio, voters approved by a 71 percent margin a constitutional amendment reaffirming private property owners’ rights to “reasonable use” of groundwater below their property, though the state reserves the right to regulate groundwater resources.
In the Canadian federal election on Oct. 14, Ontario voters helped strengthen Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government, backing the incumbent with 39.2 percent of the provincial vote. Overall, the Conservatives took 143 seats in Parliament (up from 127 in 2006) to the Liberal Party’s 77 (down 19). In Québec, the Bloc Québécois candidate Gilles Duceppe led the federal PM race with 38.1 percent of the vote, and the Bloc won 50 of Québec’s 75 seats in Parliament.
Support sought for Great Lakes infrastructure priorities in economic stimulus package
The Great Lakes Commission is urging Congress to include funding for critical Great Lakes infrastructure needs in the economic stimulus package currently being developed. In correspondence sent this week to the Great Lakes Congressional Delegation, Commission Chairman Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn stated that “now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to create jobs, stimulate economic development and protect and restore fresh water resources in the eight-state Great Lakes region.”
The Commission highlighted four critical areas where the economic stimulus package could support large-scale infrastructure projects that can be implemented in 2009 to stimulate job growth and strengthen the regional economy: 1) repair and upgrade failing wastewater infrastructure by providing $6.5 billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, with $2.4 billion for the eight Great Lakes states; 2) clean up toxic sediment with $250 million for the Great Lakes Legacy Act; 3) start construction of a new large lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., with $100 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and 4) eliminate a backlog of dredging Great Lakes ports, navigation channels and recreational harbors by providing $125 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
“The Great Lakes are a vital component of the regional economy,” stated Lt. Gov. Quinn, adding that “maximizing their economic benefits should be a key policy goal for the federal government.” In addition to supporting the Great Lakes restoration and economic revitalization agenda, he noted that the Commission’s recommendations would also complement and leverage the estimated $15 billion that local governments are investing annually in the Great Lakes. Contact: Matt Doss, email@example.com.
Three upcoming events will focus on control of invasive species in the Great Lakes
Three related meetings to be held in December in the Ann Arbor and Detroit area will involve efforts to control the introduction and spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes.
Regional coordination of the prevention and control of aquatic nuisance species (ANS) in the Great Lakes will be the overarching theme of the Dec. 2-3 meeting of the Great Lakes Panel on ANS. Discussion topics will include regulated species; new information technologies for Panel members; ongoing collaboration with the Panel’s counterpart in the Mississippi Basin; updates on the viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) outbreak in the Great Lakes; rapid response programs; and state coordination of ballast water regulation. The meeting, one of two a year held by the Panel, will be held at the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Marriot at Eagle Crest.
Management of organisms in trade will be the topic of a separate workshop to be held at the same venue immediately following the Great Lakes Panel meeting. The Great Lakes Commission, working with an advisory team of experts from government, businesses and conservation groups, is using a pathway-based approach to identify and address high risk activities contributing to AIS introduction and spread. Recently, the Commission initiated work on the project, Building a Framework to Advance Aquatic Nuisance Species Management of Organisms in Trade in the Great Lakes Region, funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund.
Specifically, the project is exploring the significance of the trade of live organisms - including industries such as the aquarium and pet trade, nursery and water garden, aquaculture, live bait, and live food fish - to the introduction and spread of AIS. The primary project goal is to identify and address unmet needs and to build on current efforts toward reducing the risk of aquatic invasions resulting from the trade of live organisms in the Great Lakes region. This workshop will be a follow up to an initial workshop held in June 2008 to scope the problem.
A third workshop will be held Dec. 18-19 near the Detroit Metro Airport on the topic of monitoring microbes and pathogens in the environment. The workshop is co-hosted by the Great Lakes Commission, the Northeast-Midwest Institute and Cornell University and is part of a project funded by the Great Lakes Protection Fund titled, “Ship-Mediated Non-Native Microbes: Assessment, Detection and Prevention.” The project is developing new analytical techniques and monitoring protocols to detect pathogens like VHS. The workshop, for agency monitoring experts, will review early results of the project and discuss ways to shape the project to meet the region’s needs.
Agendas and registration information for both the Great Lakes Panel meeting and the Organisms in Trade workshop can be accessed at www.glc.org/ans/panel.html#glpmeet. Contact: Kathe Glassner-Shwayder, firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on the pathogens monitoring project, contact Kristina Donnelly, email@example.com.
International submerged lands conference draws 80 to Traverse City
Siting of offshore wind energy turbines, regulatory issues surrounding changeable high water marks, and protection of shipwrecks and maritime heritage in coastal communities were among the topics highlighted at the 27th annual International Submerged Lands Conference held Oct. 26-29 at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Mich.
The conference drew more than 80 participants from across North America. Keynote speakers included land use specialist Chris Shafer of the Cooley Law School, and Prof. Joseph Sax of the Berkley Law School at the University of California.
“One of the most legally complicated and contentious locations on Earth is the place where land and water meet. The reason is that it presents the intersection of important public and private rights along an unstable boundary,” said Sax. “Without getting into technical legal issues about boundary location, the basic point for both the Great Lakes and the oceans is that we are facing long-term movement of the land/water boundary, and with it some potentially massive loss of both private and public benefits unless we act promptly and decisively.”
Presentations are online at www.submergedlands2008.com/program.html. Contact: Becky Pearson, firstname.lastname@example.org.