Another car ride, more good news for the Great Lakes.
Last week, President Donald Trump told a roaringly appreciative crowd that he will restore a 90 percent slash to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which dropped from $300 million to $30 million.
He announced the breaking news after a pitch from U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), John Moolenaar (R-Midland) and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) in the 20-minute car ride from Gerald R. Ford International Airport to Van Andel Arena.
“They are beautiful,” Trump said of the Great Lakes, as reported in the Detroit News. “They are big. Very deep. Record deepness, right? And I am going to get, in honor of my friends, full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which you’ve been trying to get for over 30 years.”
He said he’d make the first move on Sunday, then jokingly asked if that was soon enough.
We couldn’t be happier. That funding fights invasive species in the lakes — the Great Lakes ecosystem hosts more than 180 invasive and non-native species like zebra and quagga mussels — restores healthy habitats and cleans up pollution.
The move rings familiar.
Just last April, Bergman, Moolenaar and Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Dryden) were riding with Trump — this time 19 miles from Selfridge Air Force Base to an arena rally in Macomb County. On the drive, they impressed the importance of the badly-needed modernizing of the Soo Locks. Trump announced at the rally that the locks were “going to hell” and pledged to take care of it and call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that day or following days.
Soon after, after years of stalling, the modernization got traction in the form of a $922 million political vote of support for work spanning 7-10 years. Already the Army Corps has spent $32 million on design and added a $75.3 million construction line to next year’s budget. Underscoring the timeliness of it all, the first 1,000 footer churned through the Soo Locks last weekend, starting the shipping season.
The Detroit News quoted Huizenga saying that Bergman said they were “two for two.”
Their victory is ours, too, and spills over into the bigger picture of national and world impact, as our lakes contain a fifth of the world’s fresh water supply.
But there’s a theatrical element that we wish wasn’t there.
It feels a little purposely contrived, like a reality show-style conflict that spans set-up to resolution in 27 minutes, starring our swashbuckling president and Republicans, cutting through red tape and tying it in a neat bow.
Let’s remember the cut was created by the presidential budget to begin with for the third year running, the Soo Locks Restoration Bill was a bipartisan effort, and the good theater simplicity of pinning big decisions on car rides may mean that they could as easily and willfully be diverted.
Look, we understand how “taketh away” increases re-giveth appreciation. Mentally, it just counts more. And we all feel like winners, which is good, right?
We also have that Midwestern tendency not to look that gift horse in the mouth — besides looking ungrateful and rude, we could also spook the horse, right?
But we’re fortunate that many of us Great Lakers have found an issue that doesn’t politically polarize us: Protecting our lakes.
While the whys and wherefores are debatable, and boy, can we split hairs over policy, the overarching desire to keep our fresh water clean crisscrosses party lines, stitching us together.
We’re grateful to our savvy representatives who got $270 million funding back in a 20-minute car ride. And potentially $922 million in another one.
These projects are popular because we all want clean water, and all politicians recognize this cross-party appeal. These swift, strong decisions help everyone.
Let’s just keep a clear eye about it.
— TRAVERSE CITY RECORD-EAGLE