As Chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has a unique perspective on the impact President-Elect Barack Obama could have on restoration as well as the region’s economy. In this exclusive Question and Answer session, Gov. Doyle considers what the outcome of this historic election will mean for the Great Lakes.
HOW: Why are the Great Lakes a concern for our entire nation and why should restoration be made a priority of the President-elect?
Governor Doyle: The election of Barack Obama to President will boost all state, regional, and national efforts to support the Great Lakes. Not only does Barack Obama hail from a Great Lakes state, he also has demonstrated he is committed to restoring and preserving this tremendous asset for future generations.
The Great Lakes are a national treasure—important to our nation and the world as both an environmental and economic asset. Our national economy depends on the Great Lakes for industrial uses, hydropower, maritime commerce, agricultural irrigation and many other uses. The Great Lakes are a globally unique and important environmental resource. We must restore the Great Lakes in order to continue to provide benefits to us all.
HOW: Senator Barack Obama won the Presidential election – what impact do you expect Barack Obama to have on Great Lakes Restoration and the region’s economy?
Gov. Doyle: Decisions made in coming months and years are critical, and Barack Obama has the sound judgment and priorities to address the many challenges facing the Great Lakes. These decisions will determine whether our shared efforts will accelerate or falter, both to restore the Great Lakes and stimulate our regional economy. I am eager to work with the Obama Administration toward our shared goals which are important to our region and our nation.
HOW: Both candidates were asked to pledge to spend $20 billion over five years to restore the Great Lakes and to appoint a cabinet level official to ensure that restoration happens – do you believe this promise will be met?
Gov. Doyle: I applaud the recognition made by President-elect Obama that Great Lakes restoration and protection must be a top national priority. I also applaud his written pledge to make Great Lakes restoration a priority in his Administration. As part of that pledge, a commitment was made to “[i]nclude significant funding in my annual budgets for the priorities outlined in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy and future needs of the Great Lakes…” I look forward to working with the Obama Administration to follow through on this commitment.
HOW: Do you have any suggestions as to who would be a good leader to put in the position of coordinating restoration?
Gov. Doyle: Renewed leadership is pivotal to accelerate our restoration efforts. I am confident that the Obama Administration will appoint a capable, dynamic leader to better coordinate among the federal agencies.
HOW: There was a lot of momentum that drove the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Compact through the last state legislatures and then Congress. Unfortunately, several other Great Lakes priorities are still lingering. What role would you like the President Elect to play in:
• Setting a National ballast standard?
Gov. Doyle: Although I appreciate the recent efforts of many members of Congress in trying to pass ballast water legislation, the failure to effectively protect our waters against aquatic invasive species has been a great disappointment. The preferred solution remains a broad, national protection through Congressional passage of a National Aquatic Invasive Species Act.
• Providing money to update sewer systems?
Gov. Doyle: The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund has served as a critical tool for updating the sewerage systems in the Great Lakes. Unfortunately, recent and ongoing major cuts to this program have resulted in a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars for the Great Lakes States. I urge the Obama Administration to support in FFY 2010 and future years the historical full-funding of $1.35 billion in support of this program.
• Getting more money into the Great Lakes Legacy Act to speed up the clean up of toxic spots?
Gov. Doyle: I applaud the recent reauthorization of the Great Lakes Legacy Act which has provided critical funding for remediation of contaminated sediments in the Areas of Concern. I urge the Obama Administration to support appropriations for the fully authorized amount of $54 million in FFY 2010. I pledge to continue working with the Administration and Congress to increase future Legacy Act monies to the $150 million amount annually called for in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.
• In essence, fulfilling and fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy over the next five years?
Gov. Doyle: We must re-double our efforts to restore our Great Lakes. Progress has been too slow. Our long-term goal remains to secure needed funding and to enact management reforms to ensure the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes.
HOW: Obama promised $5 billion to restore the Great Lakes and jump-start the regional economy and he said he would appoint a person to coordinate these efforts. Is this enough?
Gov. Doyle: $5 billion would be a significant investment in our Great Lakes and I applaud President-elect Obama’s support for this initiative. He has shown strong leadership on the issue of Great Lakes restoration and protection, and I am committed to working with him to secure this funding and to increase it over time. With Barack Obama as President, I believe the future of the Great Lakes is bright.