The lunch keynote speaker was Lana Pollack, Chair of the United States Section of the International Joint Commission (IJC). The IJC was established by the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty, which has six members.
The President of the United States appoints three members, with the advice and approval of the Senate, and three other members are appointed by the Governor in Council of Canada, on the advice of the Prime Minister. The Commissioners are duty bound to follow the Treaty as they endeavor to prevent or resolve water disputes. As an impartial body, they must review problems and decide issues without representing the views of their respective governments.
Ms. Pollack spoke about her role as chair of this joint commission and the importance of public opinion and involvement in ensuring the Great Lakes are protected for generations to come. She commented on how one-fifth of the world’s fresh water has been both revered and abused in the same century. Since the 1972 Great Lakes Treaty, the IJC has had more tools to fight the battler for “clean water”; however, she also noted this Commission has NO POWERS of enforcement. While the Commission is involved with issues of navigation, hydropower, pleasure boating and other issues, by far the greatest concern is keeping the Great Lakes clean for personal use (i.e. drinking water).
Ms. Pollack opined the biggest challenge ahead is not historic low levels of these Great Lakes caused by climate change, invasive species or even continuing industrial and pesticide pollution caused by water runoff, but the lack of “political will” to tackle the tough problems that lay ahead. She applauded those in attendance at this conference, certainly recognizing her audiences were those very people who cared enough about these precious lakes to make a difference in fighting for better water quality. Ms. Pollack also acknowledged that the fight for the Great Lakes is a continuous battle for economic development as the two are inextricably tied together.
The keynote was followed by two other breakout sessions. One of the breakout sessions delved into the importance of tourism, recreation and enjoyment of all the Great Lakes as a key component for economic development of communities and cities that especially call Lake St. Clair their backyard playground. The panel commented on Lake St. Clair being a key economic development tool and driver for so many people. With fishing as a $2.0 Billion industry in the Great Lakes, Michigan having the most registered snowmobiles and our state having the third most recreational boats in the nation, Lake St. Clair is a key component in growing our economy. More and more county and city economic development officials are turning their attention to this natural resource in growing our local, county and state economy for the good of all Michiganders. The panel spoke about Areas of Concern (i.e. pollution sites) but spent the bulk of time explaining all the initiatives moving forward on using Lake St. Clair as the centerpiece of their economic development story for their communities and beyond.
Some panel members spoke about the branding of their coastal areas through signage and programming. They commented on how using the natural attributes of this body of water actually draws their own citizens and guests to spend more time (i.e. money) enjoying the benefits that Lake St. Clair provides. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Michigan Coastal Grant were but two programs mentioned for returning the focus on Lake St. Clair as an economic development tool. As the economy improves and more people take advantage of all the activities Lake St. Clair provides, these communities, counties, the State of Michigan as well as the Province of Ontario will all benefit from the abundant opportunities that Lake St. Clair provides. Let’s all take full advantage of our Blue Economic Initiative and grow our economy around these pristine waters.
ROBERT E. MATTLER, Associate Broker, Attorney and LEED AP BD+C, is Director of GREEN Brokerage at Armada Real Estate Services in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Bob speaks, writes and advocates about emerging sustainable real estate issues in Michigan and elsewhere. Bob is a Senior Correspondent for www.greeningdetroit.com . For more information, contact Bob at Armada Real Estate (248) 855-1221; or by e-mail: email@example.com