Macomb Daily: Leaders highlight value of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Macomb County
Bipartisan cooperation to enhance and protect the environment. That was the message Monday morning as Sen. Gary Peters toured improvements made at the Gloede Drain in Clinton Township, along with local political leaders, to see first-hand the results of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dollars.
Peters was joined by Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller, County Executive Mark Hackel, Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon and Clerk Kim Meltzer in front of the Italian American Cultural Center in Clinton Township to review the $2.3 million improvement effort along the nearly five miles of the drain that starts at 24 Mile Road and Hayes and feeds into the middle branch of the Clinton River. It’s one of three different GLRI-funded projects currently ongoing in the county managed by the DPW, totaling $8.8 million.
The drain itself and about 52 acres of land have been improved to reduce surface runoff, bolster drain infrastructure and minimize soil erosion that has decimated the local environment. The improvements have not only stabilized the integrity of the drain and its basin but also restored a natural beauty to the area and brought wildlife back to use it.
Miller, a former Republican congresswoman, and Peters, a Democrat in the U.S. Senate, both recalled fondly how they were once seat mates on plane flights to and from Washington D.C. and how they shared a passion for protecting the Great Lakes basin. They agreed it was important for not only the Michigan delegation but also other state delegations across the Great Lakes basin to be in lock-step agreement in the importance of protecting the region’s most valuable resource.
“This is truly great work,” Peters said after taking in improvements made to the drain. “This is money that is absolutely critical to maintain the integrity of probably the most important natural resource in the state of Michigan, which is the Great Lakes. In order to keep them clean, you need to clean up the tributaries and everything that flows into the lakes. The entire ecosystem needs to be protected.”
Hackel praised the work of Miller and Peters in helping to bring the GLRI funding to Macomb County, but he also praised the different levels of county and local government for working together for the greater good. The land around the drain was once part of the Partridge Creek Golf Club. When the land was sold to developers to build the Mall at Partridge Creek and residential properties, the developers donated the land around the drain to the township. Federal, county and local governments then began the process of restoring the health and beauty of the waterway. Peters said the area around the drain looks more like a parkland and that developers and people who live in the area recognized it as an asset.
“I’ve been county executive for seven years, and we never talked about the partnerships and the opportunities to create better water quality and better visibility of the natural beauty around this county,” Hackel said. “With her (Candice Miller’s) leadership, you’re starting to see planning departments coming together, talking to the public works commissioner about what we can do to restore the natural beauty and create better situations for our residents and businesses.”
FIGHTING FOR FUNDING
Peters said nearly 40 million people drink water out of the Great Lakes, another reason to make sure the water source stays clean and vibrant.
But during the last federal budgeting session,the Trump administration wanted to nearly eliminate funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Members of the Great Lakes coalition of legislators and senators were able to push back and maintain current levels of funding. Still, Peters knows it will be a yearly battle come federal budget time to maintain the funding and convince other areas of the country that protection of the Great Lakes should be a national priority.
“Unless we can change the Trump administration views on this, we will have to fight for this every single year, and it makes no sense,” Peters said. “This has been a bipartisan issue, a program that has been incredibly successful when you look at all the projects all across Michigan and across the Great Lakes region. When you have a record of success and money that has been spent efficiently and wisely, really a program that has a strong buy in from state and local governments, you would think that would be a project that would be pretty secure.
“But in Washington these days, you can’t take anything for granted. You’ve got to constantly be fighting and be proactive in your fight. That’s something in the Senate that I make a priority.”
Peters said that if GLRI funding were to stop, the affects would be “immediate and catastrophic.” He said projects that are already in place would end because funding wouldn’t exist to proceed on initial, developmental engineering.
“When you have a shrinking pie, everyone wants a piece of that pie and thinks their project is most important,” Peters added. “But I think there is a growing importance of the value of the Great Lakes nationally.”
One of the newest improvements along the drain since the summer is the planting of nearly 700 trees along the watershed, including 380 oak trees of different varieties. Miller said the trees will eventually grow into an “oak savannah” and will not only be beautiful and will also provide a role in the environment with a root system that can withstand the annual flooding in the spring and provide wildlife a place for nesting and protection and a food source. Cannon said he looks forward to showing residents the newly planted trees will be able to withstand the annual floodwaters.
“We can’t wait for the spring to show people that these trees are not going to die,” Cannon said. “We have people asking all the time, ‘Are you crazy? Because the water in the spring will be way up.’ But the trees are not going to die, and the vegetation they’re going to put in will preserve this forever.”
By: Don Gardner
Source: Macomb Daily
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