There#8217;s now a second battle for Lake Erie

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Having lived on the “North Coast” of America my whole life, I share Ohioans’ deep appreciation for the Great Lakes.

The Lakes hold one—fifth of the world’s fresh water, provide a habitat to countless species of wildlife, are a vital resource for tourism, transportation and recreation and provide drinking water to millions of Americans.

When I was first elected to the state legislature in 1966, I saw firsthand the effects of pollution on Lake Erie and the surrounding region. I was truly startled by the dramatic toll human carelessness was taking on such a magnificent natural resource - Lake Erie was the poster child for a dying lake.

Email newsletter signup

I committed myself to stopping the deterioration of the Lake and wage what I call the “Second Battle of Lake Erie” - the battle to reclaim and restore Ohio’s great lake.

I have continued this fight throughout my career — as county commissioner, state legislator, lieutenant governor, mayor of Cleveland, governor of Ohio and now U.S. senator. In Washington, I am co—chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force and serve on the Committee on Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

I truly consider my efforts to preserve and protect Lake Erie and all of the Great Lakes to be among the most significant of my career.

The effort comes at a much—needed time. The Great Lakes ecosystem faces many serious threats and is under attack by terrorists from abroad: invasive species that are causing great harm to our Great Lakes fishery and economy.

From 1993 to 2003, zebra mussels caused $3 billion in damage to the Great Lakes region. This is a perfect example of why preventing new introductions is so important. Invasive species must be stopped.

Recently, the House passed the Water Resources Development Act Conference Report, authorizing funding for several vital Great Lakes projects. I am particularly pleased that the report includes authority for the Army Corps of Engineers to deal with Asian Carp which are a very serious threat facing the Great Lakes.

The bill authorizes the Corps to complete construction of and operate two dispersal barriers in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. These barriers will prevent Asian Carp and other invasive species from further invading the Great Lakes.

I look forward to the Senate passing the conference report and it being signed into law by the president.

Another pathway of introduction into the Great Lakes is ballast water, which is the depositing of water carrying new species from cargo ships into our fresh lakes. Because one of the most effective ways to stop overseas terrorists is through ballast water treatment technology, Sen. Levin and I have been proactively fighting to ensure that cargo ships entering the Great Lakes are held to higher standards.

We recently introduced the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act to address invasive species in a comprehensive manner, establishing a mandatory ballast water management program with a ballast water discharge standard that is 100 times stronger than that set by the International Maritime Organization. And I am committed to implementing many of the recommendations in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy Report.

Though the challenges facing the Lakes are not small, they can be overcome. Cleanup and restoration efforts on the scale of the Great Lakes will involve eight different states and federal legislation that must work its way through several committees in Congress - as well as coordinating with our Canadian counterparts if we are truly to be effective in this effort.

Great Lakes restoration is a national priority - one that we will continue to fight for and invest in. We need every citizen to join us in the effort so that this global resource can be used and enjoyed for generations to come.

George Voinovich is a Republican senator from Ohio.