News and views, and history and humor, about the lake I love.

"I can hear my granddad's stories of the storms out on Lake Erie, where vessels and cargos and fortunes, and sailors' lives were lost." ~ James Taylor, Millworker

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tell your legislators loud and clear: water is not a commodity

If you've been following this blog you know that I've written extensively about HB 231, that ill-conceived piece of legislation that made a mockery of the Great Lakes Compact and which Governor Kasich thankfully - and wisely - vetoed.

Tom Henry, writing for Great Lakes Echo, recently posted a brilliant and timely editorial piece about the Great Lakes Compact and how the Ohio General Assembly tried to exploit one of the most serious problems facing the Great Lakes region for the short-term benefit of some influential business lobbyists. (See: Gov. averts Great Lakes attack; I'm still embarrassed to be a Buckeye). Tom talked about how he's still embarrassed to be a Buckeye.

We should all be embarrassed to be Buckeyes.

While all the lakes are equally precious and needing of our careful and caring stewardship, Lake Erie is particularly vulnerable to the kind of short-sightedness and stupidity we saw with the introduction of HB 231. Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes in volume (119 cubic miles) and is exposed to the greatest effects from urbanization and agriculture. The average depth of Lake Erie is only about 62 feet. The drainage basin covers parts of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario. Because of its fertile soils, the basin is intensively farmed and is the most densely populated of the five lake basins. All of these factors create enormous pressures on the health of the lake and we haven't even talked about the greed factor.

Tom Henry writes: "If HB 231 had become law, Ohio businesses would have been allowed to drain Lake Erie to the tune of 5 million gallons a day and take up to 2 million gallons a day from groundwater that replenishes the lake." In other words, he points out, virtually use of one of our most precious resources.

As is clear from the HB 231 fiasco, we can't afford to sit by passively and trust our elected officials in Columbus (or Washington, for that matter) to operate in our best interests without constantly looking over their shoulders. I guess they are like little kids that way. And with a political system awash in money, the game of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" is only going to get worse. (Our broken election system is only going to change through massive reform, such as the institution of public funded elections, but that's a subject for another day.)

As tempting as it might be, I'm not going to try to analyze the thought processes or pathology of the mental midgets who crafted this piece of legislation. Life has taught me that the simplest explanation is usually the right one, and the simple explanation is that they do what they do because they see their oath of office not as a sacred trust but as a means to an end, that end being to further the interests of those to paid to get them elected. I know, I know; in Civics 101 we learned that an elected representative is sworn to represent the interests of all the people and to provide the greatest good. But these guys don't think like that, as they've shown during their first six months in office.

To say that the system is broken and just give up is a cop out. Things are the way they are because we allowed them to get that way. There's no one else to blame but us. But the good news is, something that is broken can always be fixed. It only takes will and determination.

When it comes to something as precious as our water supply and the future of our children, we can't afford to let our politicians screw this up. Let them know water is not a commodity, it's a precious resource to be shared by all.

And let them know that, from now on, you'll be watching.

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