When Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday that the White House had OK'd the final plans for President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, (GLRI), the biggest news might not have been in the text of his comments - but the numbers in the fine print. Of the eight states that border the great lakes, Michigan and Ohio topped the list with almost $9 million each. They were followed by New York - $4.2; Indiana - $3.3; and Wisconsin with $2.2.
Illinois which has approximately 100 miles of shoreline, will receive $110,000, or about $1100 a mile, while Indiana, with less than 75, will receive $3,348,000, or $66,860.
It's true that Illinois accounts for less than 1% of the 13,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, but it wouldn’t be smart to forget that Metropolitan Chicago and millions of people are packed in like sardines on most of it. Don't think for a second that just because they use Lake Michigan water to flush their sewage into the Mississippi and points south, that if Chicago wasn't there, Lake Michigan wouldn't be cleaner.
With the new USDA numbers, and the fact that Chicago is currently the epicenter of the most serious environmental crisis in memory, $1100 seems like an insult. We'd like to know how the feds arrived at the division of “spoils.”
Maybe it's because Illinois, and the Chicago Locks, are currently the topic of hot national debate over the issue of the Asian Carp. The carp are expected to enter Lake Michigan through the locks of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, as well as through the series of sewage channels the City of Chicago and State of Illinois have created over the years. One of these, the North Shore Channel, will be a focal point of the next detection effort planned by the ACRCC (Asian Carp Coordinating Committee) beginning today and extending through Friday May 14.
The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Channel started out as a measure to divert Lake Michigan water into the Chicago River, (pay close attention to the word sanitary - remember, this was done long before spin control was invented) and has long been a sore subject to the other Great Lakes states, who continue to labor under the conviction that the water Illinois takes belongs to them as much as to anyone. The project reversed the direction of the Chicago river, causing it to flow away from the lake. This made the city’s drinking water safe again - at the cost of several inches of water level in the other states.
Recently, after a motion to reopen the “Chicago Diversion” case by the othe Great Lakes states failed, the Obama administration applauded the Supreme Court’s decision.
Whether the ball leaving Obama’s left hand (GLRI) and headed toward "farmers", will be caught by his right (the one he's using to hold open the Chicago Locks) remains to be seen. Meanwhile, mom and poppa carp, the door to the largest source of clean fresh water in the world is open, so come on in.