This past weekend, I joined several business, conservation, and industry leaders at the Great Lakes Governors summit on Mackinac Island, Michigan. Our setting was the historic Grand Hotel which provided a fresh venue overlooking the Straits of Mackinac. Clearly, this was the right atmosphere for this important meeting.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder kicked off the summit with a strong message that economic prosperity and Great Lakes restoration go hand-in-hand. This set the tone for the weekend.
A tone that focused on the need for Great Lakes Governors and the Canadian Premiers to work together to protect our shared natural resources while promoting economic growth.
Think about it: The Great Lakes provide 20% of the worlds fresh water and provide drinking water for over 30 million people. Also the Great Lakes region combined represents the 4th largest economy in the world.
After listening to the discussions and the many speeches throughout the weekend, one of the most interesting takeaway’s for me was that you could not tell which political party each Governor or Premier was from. A consistent message of working together in a bi-partisan fashion to accomplish progress. What a novel concept. But one that in this political and economic climate – is necessary to re-affirm.
Given the political differences amongst the Governors and Premiers, I felt a sense of unity among them after this meeting. They now have a joint-identity. They are Great Lake Leaders. They share a responsibility to manage and sustain a unique resource that not only provides a high quality of life based on clean water but also drives the economics of the region.
This summit resulted in several resolutions. Find the entire list here. A few highlights the Governors and Premiers committed to:
1) Invasive Species: Utilizing their executive powers to take a series of actions, while calling on other leaders to refocus their efforts to combat invasive species. They will begin an effort to harmonize state and federal ballast water regulations; develop a “least wanted” list of aquatic invasive species including Asian carp; and launch joint actions like better collaboration on early detection and rapid response to block these species from entering the Great Lakes; and
2) Algal Blooms: Enhanced research on efforts to reduce nutrient run-off into our waterways that are the main cause of damaging algal blooms. They will target their efforts on non-point sources (like agriculture).
If that was not newsworthy enough. Hot news out of the summit is that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed that the only way to stop Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes is to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.
This new development comes at a critical time in efforts to stop Asian carp. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing its report to Congress (due this December 2013) that will frame up a series of options to prevent carp from entering the Great Lakes in the Chicago Waterway System. Support from hometown Governor Quinn in separating the two basins will no doubt help.
After an uplifting meeting, now the hard work begins. The challenge is to continue the summits inspirational and pragmatic theme towards protecting the Great Lakes and strengthening our economies. I feel confident that this will happen. After all, the Great Lakes make our region unique from a resource and an economic perspective. Lets not forget that.