Hats off to Chris Evans for telling it like it is about where the Presidential Campaign is on Great Lakes issues…
Great Lakes interest carp, not candidates: Christopher Evans
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 5:00 AM
By Christopher Evans, The Plain Dealer The Plain Dealer
The Great Lakes should be the liquid leviathan in the White House living room, but for some reason the issue is MIA from the presidential campaign.
Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican contender Mitt Romney are acting as though 6 quadrillion gallons of fresh water — the largest such ecosystem on the continent — were a mud puddle.
In truth, they’re a cash cannonball to the local economy. Lake Erie generates $10.1 billion in tourism alone. The ripples buoy tens of thousands of jobs.
But the Great Lakes are not well. They have been weakened by invasive species, scarred by toxic algal blooms and cooked by climate change. The greatest threat they face, though, is the complacency of the Obama administration, which continues to downplay the piscine peril posed by encroaching bighead and silver carp.
Such dithering deserves a beat-down from Romney, but the Republican has all but ignored the issue. His campaign was AWOL in Cleveland at last week’s Eighth Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference, a gathering of more than 400 scientists, environmentalists, business leaders, politicians and voters to discuss topics as diverse as sewage overflows and wetland restoration.
The climax of the conference was a presidential forum in which representatives from both campaigns were supposed to debate the merits of hydrological separation of the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins at Chicago to halt the carp, and of funding for the Great Lakes initiative.
Obama sent former eco-czar Carol Browner, who preached to the choir. Nothing new on stopping the carp. Just the usual blah-blah-blah.
The Romney camp was a no-show. This time, it was a Democrat talking to an empty chair.
Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, said the Romney team had spent a month trying to find a policy surrogate.
That they couldn’t bring a body to the podium suggests the Great Lakes is not on the Romney radar screen. A campaign spokesman blamed scheduling conflicts. “Gov. Romney is deeply concerned about the threat posed . . . by invasive species,” the spokesman noted in a campaign release.
Whew. No worries then.
Buchsbaum described conference organizers as “disappointed” that Romney turtled. When an earnest environmentalist uses a verb like “disappointed,” that’s like a normal person ripping out his hair and banging his head against a wall.
And why not?
The fin-print of silver carp has been confirmed in the western basin of Lake Erie, the shallowest and most vulnerable of the Great Lakes. It offers a plankton paradise for these voracious filter-feeders that starve out native species and leave watery graves in their wake.
How Obama — who launched the unprecedented $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010, an annual cash infusion that the Great Recession has whittled down to $300 million the last two years — could ignore these finned predators defies logic. If they get into the Great Lakes, they could flush the initiative and its hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars down the toilet. Unless, of course, Obama is simply kowtowing to his shipping industry cronies who vehemently oppose hydrological separation of the lakes from the Mississippi River.
Obama’s failure to address the issue — I’ve never heard the words “silver and bighead carp” pass his lips — leaves him wide open to a Romney roundhouse.
But the challenger choked. At least with Obama we know whom he takes his marching orders from. Romney remains an enigma except, of course, for his belief that nearly half of America is composed of welfare junkies.