Desjarlais tackles Great Lakes defunding

By Devan Mighton – Originally published in the LaSalle Post on Apr. 21, 2017

(LASALLE, ON) – LaSalle Town Councillor Sue Desjarlais is passionate about the environment.

As a former long-time Essex Region Conservation Authority board member, recent budget proposals by the current U.S. administration have left her perplexed, to say the least.

“What I am worried about is the whole Great Lakes system,” said Desjarlais.

President Donald Trump’s first budget announcement ruffled the feathers of many local environmentalists, in particular, the part that would slash 97 per cent of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes projects.

“I am concerned because, locally, the Conservation Authority has worked hard, very strongly with the State of Michigan and their [Department of Natural Resources] and we’ve built up a very good rapport,” Desjarlais explained.

“The Great Lakes provide drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people. You can’t [pollute] the water and drink it.”

At last week’s LaSalle Town Council session, Desjarlais tabled a motion to request the Canadian and Ontario governments, as well as mayors of centres along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to lobby to U.S. State representatives in order to overturn possible EPA budgetary gouging.

“If they cut the funding, then we’re not going to be able to continue the good stuff we’ve got started,” said Desjarlais.

“In this area, we have to be very pro-active and I will get in touch, not only through the motion last night at Council, but I will personally contact all of our MPs and MPPs and suggest that they do something.”

In recent years, massive algal blooms have formed across Lake Erie on the shoreline near Toledo, Ohio and have left the water undrinkable and a lot of wildlife floating belly-up.

“What happens to the Lakes when the algae continues to grow and there’s nothing to stop it and nobody is doing anything to help?” asked Desjarlais.

“I just think we all have to because the conservation authorities that front the Lakes have worked really hard to get good stuff going and I think our MPs and MPPs owe it to all of the population to deal with these state representatives and say ‘work with your government’.”

For the local economy, the effects could be devastating, said Desjarlais.

Tourism could take a hit because of unusable beaches, ferry travel could grow unattractive, not to mention the toll the blooms and effluent in the water could take on the fishing industry.

“Think about Wheatley,” said Desjarlais. “If those fishermen can’t go out, that whole town is out of jobs.

“Those fishermen go out from the end of March to October, November, as long as they can to fish, if there are no fish, they have no job – and we’re not the only ones, I’m sure there are fishing enterprises through Ohio and Pennsylvania that are going to be hit the same way.

“Do you want to increase the unemployment? I don’t think so. You want to make it a welfare state? I think not. You don’t have money to do that.”

Not too late… but time is ticking

It is not too late for the surrounding citizenry to take a stand against the defunding of the EPA’s Great Lakes projects as the budget has not gone through the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate – but time is ticking.

“We have to do some damage control for us and our kids and our grandkids,” stated Desjarlais. “… I am very nervous that somehow they’re going to be able to cut the budget and they’re going to cut funding for things like this and the EPA is going to say ‘we don’t have any money to do anything.’ “

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