Republican presidential candidates hadn’t won Wisconsin or Michigan since 1984 and 1988, respectively, before Donald Trump swept through the Great Lakes states in 2016. Now he’s paying them back by fucking up their water.
Written by Kyle Magin
The Great Lakes hold a fifth of the world’s fresh water.
There is nothing like them in the world. Nowhere does this much fresh water congregate in one place.
Huron. Ontario. Michigan. Erie. Superior. HOMES.
Any Michigan schoolchild can recite the acronym for you and knows that Gitchigumi and its siblings are the most vital resource the region, country, and continent have going for them.
The lakes support two U.S. National Parks and four National Lakeshores including Michigan’s towering Sleeping Bear Dunes. They host a $7.2 billion recreational fishing industry. Six Great Lakes states are counted amongst the country’s top 20 states by boat ownership. Some 227,000 domestic jobs owe their existence to the supremely navigable inland seas. Major metropoli in the U.S. and Canada front the lakes, as do thousands of beach towns with untold billions in residential real estate whose values are exponentially multiplied by having a nice lake view.
These numbers tell you what people do on the lakes. But, they don’t tell you what they mean. They don’t capture that breath that catches in your throat as you turn into South Haven’s North Beach parking lot after a sweltering hour on M-43. They don’t tell you why Chicagoans flock by the thousands to Oak Street Beach to play volleyball and luxuriate in the man-and-nature contrast of a massive city set on the water. Numbers can’t quantify the value interfacing with an endless horizon has on the soul, the human bond that forms when a son poses for a shot next his father and their salmon catch. They can’t explain the joy of taking a sunset photo from St. Joe, or the beauty of a lakeside wedding in Milwaukee–a vastly different world opening up before you than the urban American landscape at your back.
Two of the states that border these priceless lakes–Michigan and Wisconsin–helped carry Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. He’s now paying them back by aiming his jihad against the Environmental Protection Agency directly at their water. A leaked copy of Trump’s proposed federal budget shows he intends to defund a major protective measure for the Great Lakes by 97%.
The Great Lakes Initiative is a massive, $300 million a year environmental program that helps to control pollutants entering the lakes and protect its valuable fishery and wildlife. It is administered by the EPA, and has been credited with everything from reducing fish kill to cleaning up algal blooms in Lake Erie, once so choked of oxygen it was deemed a ‘dead lake.’ Any federal program doubtless includes waste, and should be scrutinized, but a 97% slash will leave the millions who live along the lake’s shores vulnerable. Michigan’s already struggling recreational fishing industry may well be dealt a death blow by the cut. Ohio’s tourism industry derives $10 billion—more than a quarter—from the counties and cities that front Lake Erie. How fun is it going to be to crest Magnum or Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point and look down on a rotting, green lake?
GLI isn’t the Trump administration’s only assault against the lakes. Earlier this week, it was announced that his team delayed needed protections for the Great Lakes fishery in Illinois. That’s where the Brandon Road Asian carp barrier is proposed–an Army Corps of Engineers plan to install a gate to block the dreaded invasive fish from making their way into Lake Michigan and, hence, the rest of the lakes system. That would be catastrophic for the lakes–Asian carp out-compete and decimate native fish, SUCK to eat, and make river navigation a dangerous proposition. The Trump administration has appeared to kowtow to a piddly-shit Illinois Republican who is opposing the barrier because it might add minutes to shipping on the Illinois waterways connecting the Mississippi river system–which is lousy with the carp–to Lake Michigan.
In order to placate Illinois’ shipping lobby, and save $300 million, Trump is willing to let industry declare open season on Michigan, Wisconsin, and the country’s most precious resource.
If this is what Donald Trump’s gratitude looks like, I’d hate to be on his shit list.
Please, please, please: reach out to your House representative and ask them to oppose defunding the GLI. We only get one shot at keeping our lakes healthy.
Image: Defunding the GLI will roll back the Great Lakes’ health. Photo courtesy EPA.