ALPENA -Democratic candidate for Michigan's 1st Congressional District seat Gary McDowell made a stop in Alpena during a brief tour of the Sunrise Side where he shared his thoughts on the importance of improving and protecting the health of the Great Lakes and the jobs they produce around them.
McDowell said Alpena is the perfect example of how a community benefits from having the lake as its neighbor, and to have the water damaged could be catastrophic for outdoorsmen and the economy.
"The lakes are important to not only our way of life, but also to our economy and the jobs that are generated because of the Great Lakes," McDowell said. "The University of Michigan just did a study that showed there were 1.5 million jobs directly related to the water of the Great Lakes and over a half of a million of those are right here in Michigan. That's why it is so important to protect them."
McDowell said one of the biggest issues facing the Great Lakes will be the outcry from states out of the region demanding use of the water because they are facing a shortage. He said it is imperative to conserve the lakes in case a legal challenge is made by those entities.
"We have to make sure the water from the Great Lakes stays in this basin. As the country get drier and drier, as we have seen this summer, there will be more from around the country who will want our water," McDowell said. "We have to make sure we are good stewards of the water, because eventually this issue could end up in the Supreme Court to see who this water belongs to, and the first thing they are going to look at is if we have been good stewards of the water and protect the water in the basin. If we can show we have, I think we have a very strong case for the water remaining."
McDowell said he has been keeping a close eye on the developments and advancement of invasive species, and Asian carp in particular. He said the fish must be stopped at all costs.
"Right now the invasive species we are the most concerned about is the Asian carp. I believe we have to separate the Great Lakes basin from the Mississippi basin," McDowell said. "There are several other spots we know they may be able to enter, but we have to make sure we stop it, do it as soon as possible. There was a vote in Congress where Dan Benishek had a vote to help stop Asian carp and put the rules in place, and he voted against it. That is absolutely irresponsible when $7 billion-a-year industry and for our way of life are at stake."
McDowell said harbors and marinas all over Michigan are facing issues with boat traffic and visitors. In Alpena some larger boats can't enter the harbor because the water depth is low and money for needed dredging is unavailable. He said there is money in Washington and he will fight to be sure northern Michigan gets its share for the needed work.
"There is the Great Lakes Restoration Fund, which is supposed to be used to restore, protect and perverse the Great Lakes. Dan Benishek voted to slash funding to that," McDowell said. "The (Army) Corps of Engineers have money for dredging, but their first priority is commercial ports, the second priority is recreational ports like the one in Alpena. I feel this community is just as important and needs to be funded. We need to continue to make those critical investments to our infrastructure, and that is one thing I promise I will fight for."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.