I'll close this "worth noting in 2021" series with a couple of random thoughts. Things I've thought about but haven't reduced to writing.
How long does it take to restore an ecosystem?
It depends on who you ask. Great Lakes advocates may respond it's ongoing. There is no end date because systems are complicated, they evolve and new threats emerge. It's like funding the Department of Defense in the federal government one former Great Lakes exec told me recently. You fund it every year.
I ask because the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is entering its 13th year. It has received $3.8 billion to date and will get an extra $1 billion spread out over the next four years plus, it's eligible for $300-$400 million a year for the next four years in the annual budget.
But legislators who have to write the checks are asking how much longer they have to do that. Florida Everglades advocates led by Sen. Marco Rubio tried to get $5 billion for the Everglades in the recent infrastructure bill, but it didn't make the cut.
That should be a heads up for the Great Lakes region whose restoration program is modeled after the Everglades. The money will dry up some day and it should. I'm all in for the funding the Great Lakes has received to date. It was long overdue but at some point the region that regularly touts its $6 trillion economy needs to get off the federal dole and take responsibility for the bounty and treasure that are the Great Lakes.
Plan now I say because it will be sticker shock for the states if and when the feds bail out on Great Lakes funding.
Where's Michigan AG Nessel?
If you follow Michigan politics you're aware of Dana Nessel, the high-profile, sharp-elbowed Attorney General. She's seemingly everywhere with an opinion on every issue. Nessel is best known for her involvement in trying to shutdown the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline. Even though the attorney general isn't part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's team, they've worked hand and glove trying to shutdown Line 5. If you get her press releases, I do, not a day goes by that she isn't touting her official endeavors large and small.
But she's been uncharacteristically silent on Michigan's biggest faux pas of the year, the Benton Harbor drinking water crisis. And it's the type of issue tailored to her activist leanings. Disadvantaged, predominantly Black community plagued by drinking water issues. State agency slow-walks a response while denying responsibility. Federal government intervention required. It's Flint redux from an administration that didn't learn the lessons of Flint.
But deafening silence on an issue of environmental justice from AG Nessel, a former civil rights attorney.
More to come in 2022!
Chicago-based environmental journalist