There is a growing recogni- tion that the Great Lakes are a unique and invaluable asset to the states and provinces that border them. At a time when other regions of the country are experiencing water shortages and are engaged in territorial battles, the challenge facing the Great Lakes states lies in protecting what they have.
In the case of Ohio, the obvious focus is on Lake Erie, although there are no boundaries between the five lakes when it comes to issues such as pollution, algae concentrations and invasive species.
Given the economic, recreational and even cultural importance of Lake Erie to Ohio, we applaud a new bipartisan and forward-looking effort being led by two state senators, Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard. They announced recently that they are forming a Lake Erie Caucus to help focus attention on issues involving the lake.
“We just believe the lake and all it means to Ohio needs even more focus,” said Gardner. “As state legislators, we have an obligation to provide that focus and leadership.”
Gardner and Cafaro should have no problem finding allies in Columbus. Six other Senate districts and 20 House districts include parts of coastal counties. Cafaro’s district contains all of Ashtabula County, but a county doesn’t have to border the lake for its residents to recognize its importance.
The caucus will be holding an organizational meeting in January. Let’s hope 2014 is a year that marks an even greater recognition of Lake Erie’s importance to Ohio, not just the coastal regions.
It is not only a part of the greatest fresh water resource on the planet, it is an economic engine, providing important industrial transportation as well as recreation and tourism.
It is also under attack on multiple fronts, from the Asian carp, about which we’ve written in the past, to increasing algae problems, to attempts to draw more water from its watershed than is prudent. There are also forces in Washington eager to cut federal funding for Great Lakes environmental projects.
The caucus deserves support in Columbus from the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Department of Commerce. The caucus will also be reaching out to travel and tourism groups, the boating and fishing industries, environmental groups and varied business interests.
The new caucus can play an important role in protecting Ohio’s irreplaceable asset.