The Journal Sentinel makes a strong conservation and economic statement Sunday in support of fully-funded federal Great Lakes restoration initiatives:
...it's important that the Obama administration maintain adequate funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which helps municipalities upgrade their water infrastructure systems, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, aimed at restoring habitat, dealing with non-point source pollution, such as runoff, and invasive species and monitoring waters to make sure they're healthy.
At a time when most newspapers, including The New York Times, are trimming their environmental reporting, the Journal Sentinel has more than held its own - - Egan on invasive species or Lake Michigan's falling levels, Don Behm on the Jackson pipeline gasoline break, Lee Bergquist on the mining bill, and more.
And the paper's editorial clout on these issue could be strengthened by its applying the heart of today's argument in favor of aggressive Great Lakes protection and restoration to other high-profile water issues facing the state - - namely the threat to Lake Superior and the Bad River watershed from dynamiting and excavating the Penokee Hills for iron ore upstream, and the probability of tar sand crude oil pipeline expansion in Wisconsin and throughout the Great Lakes region.
The newspaper backed away from the mining bill at the 11th hour because Republican sponsors - - to no one's surprise - - declined to include the most reasonable amendments for modest environmental protections in the bill.
A measure now law that was drafted a) with the input of the mining company, b) with the intentional exclusion of environmental organizations and the Bad River Band of Ojibwe whose treaty-protected land and water is dangerously close to the massive open-pit mine being proposed, and c) also with damage to the environment presumed as outcomes and given legal protection, a key sponsor admitted.
An unambiguous defense by the newspaper of water quality at the edge of Lake Superior and also the Bad River Band's water-based rice-growing culture as the first public interest priority not open to negotiation or degradation would have been the preferable editorial stance.
An argument that certainly would have flowed into and enhanced the thrust of the language and goals in today's pro-Great Lakes editorial:
"...restoring habitat, dealing with non-point source pollution, such as runoff, and invasive species and monitoring waters to make sure they're healthy.Likewise - - the newspaper went on record a year ago supporting expansion of tar sand pipeline capacity through Wisconsin from Canada even as a major pipeline break polluted and continues to damage the Kalamazoo River next door in Michigan.
With cleanup costs now hitting $700 million, by a company - - Enbridge - - that has had its share of pipeline breaks in Wisconsin.
To be fair, the newspaper's editorial urged regulators to keep "a watchful eye" on the added pipeline capacity, but "watchful" and "regulators" are regrettably too often oxymoronic, and the newspaper didn't stand unambiguously firm enough for Great Lakes watershed protections:
State regulators should make sure the improvements meet state requirements and don't put the state at greater hazard of a spill such as occurred in an Enbridge pipeline in Michigan nearly two years ago. That's paramount; Michigan is still suffering from that mess.
But if the changes can be done safely - and we think they can - Enbridge should be allowed to do what it needs to move more oil from Canadian sources to the Midwest and beyond. The result would be good for Wisconsin jobs and reducing the reliance on sources of oil in less stable areas of the world.
It should apply that stance also to preserving and enhancing the waters that feed into the Great Lakes as part of the entire watershed holding the largest share of fresh surface water on the planet - - waters in Wisconsin that sustain the Ojibwe, and support tourism and recreation and the local and statewide economy - - but successfully only if the waters are clean, fishable, swimmable and sustainable.
Cross-posted at Purple Wisconsin.