Rep. Jim Oberstar: Pump Up the Volume on Clean Water Restoration Act!

If the Ancient Mariner were to wax poetic today his “rime” may instead say, water, water everywhere, but none of it clean! That’s depressing. But soon, we hope Minnesota Rep. Jim Obertar (DFL) will introduce the Clean Water Restoration Act.

Rep. Oberstar gave a rousing speech to the Healing Our Water’s Coalition in Duluth, Minn. last Saturday.  Rep. Oberstar has a wealth of knowledge about the Great Lakes and the history of this nation’s attempt to stop polluting all our waters via the Clean Water Act. If you ask why, you’ll hear the history of our nation’s water policy because Rep. Oberstar started his career in politics clerking for the subcommittee on Rivers and Harbors (be prepared to listen for awhile ;).  That is where he had the opportunity to work on the Clean Water Act during its inception – which implies he should know the intent of that first law – and he continued that work as a Congressman for Minnesota.

“All the water there ever was or ever will be is with us today,” he said. It is true, only the surface waters of the Great Lakes changes over and only one percent of that is renewed annually. That means that the other 99 percent of our Lakes is composed of truly ancient waters and needs protection as well as restoration.

“The responsibility we have is to pass this water on to the next generation in better shape than we found it,” Rep. Oberstar said in Duluth. That is why we need the Clean Water Restoration Act – without CWRA we can’t hope to return the lakes, her tributaries and her “kidneys” the wetlands to a healthy state of being.

Rep. Oberstar told us we need to pump up the volume on this issue. “The immensity; the urgency has faded,” he said, speaking of the public outcry that forced the CWA through 30-plus years ago. “Your responsibility becomes greater to mobilize the public mind and make the grassroots speak to Members of the House and Senate today as we did 30 years ago.”

We heard the message loud and clear: we need to bring the full force of our membership and grassroots connections to bear on Washington to let them know we need CWRA now. The opposition is organized against this act and has lots of money to spend on their arguments so we need to get loud fast and we need Rep. Oberstar to have faith that we will do so. Go ahead, Rep. Oberstar – introduce CWRA – we’ve got your back!

Great Lakes Day 2008

The Great Lakes region’s Healing Our Waters Coalition members joined forces in Washington today to hike the Hill and advocate for Great Lakes issues with US House and Senate Members and staff. They spent all of yesterday training up on a host of issues and preparing for today’s events.

“We need all the lobbying we can get,” Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich) told throngs of Great Lakes advocates preparing to march the halls of Congress.

Rep. Ehlers asked coalition members to urge Congress to pass the Great Lakes Legacy Act which is up for reauthorization. It was first passed in 2002 and comes up for reauthorization every five years. It has been effective combating Areas of Concern, but that didn’t stop the President from cutting funding in his proposed 2009 budget. “We need support on it and we are trying to increase funding levels,” Rep. Ehlers said.

Advocates will also be lobbying Members to fund and pass the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which embodies the strategy set forth by the 1500 Great Lakes officials and advocates called together five years ago by the President’s Executive Order.

“We have to get that moving,” Rep. Ehlers said, who claimed the bill is languishing because of the $20 billion price tag “it scares the daylights out of members of Congress.”

While $20 billion is nothing to scoff at, we need to remember what we are spending across government and the impact the investment will have on the economy in the region. A Brookings Report shows that the investment promises to reap a $50 billion– paying for itself plus generating an economic revival in the region.

“Frankly, I think it is a bargain. You’re going to get more for that $20 billion for the Great Lakes then you are for the $8 billion for the Everglades,” Ehlers added before pleading with coalition members to push their Representatives and Senators to “get off the stick and get going on this.”