From Talk to Action: Great Lakes Leadership from the Ground Up

Letter from the President & CEO

June 5, 2019

A version of this story previously appeared in Watermarks, the Alliance for the Great Lakes’ quarterly newsletter. You can find the full issue online here

Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes President & CEO

With tens of thousands of advocates speaking out, community partnerships addressing local water challenges, and fresh leadership on the most pressing Great Lakes issues — our region’s commitment to clean water is clear. And the Alliance is ready to transform that commitment into tangible wins for the lakes.

Last year’s elections touched every corner of the eight Great Lakes states. Seven of eight governorships, eight Senate seats, all members of the House, and hundreds of state and local offices were on the ballot. Many candidates included clean water issues in their platforms, responding to people all across the region who have spoken up about dirty water in our lakes and from our taps. Now, our elected leaders must both defend hard-fought clean water victories that are under assault, while advancing the new protections our communities need.

This spring, we joined 150 partner organizations in Washington, D.C. as part of Great Lakes Days with the Healing Our Waters Coalition. A top item on the agenda was urging Congress to support funding for Great Lakes restoration and infrastructure programs. Just a week after our trip, the White House released a budget gutting many of these critical programs for the third year running. But Congress holds the purse-strings. Backed by staunch support from across the region, we can override this move and ensure federal investment in the Great Lakes actually grows.  

While Congress has an opportunity to lead on some Great Lakes issues, state action remains critical. Five of eight Great Lakes governors are new this year, and they will need to work proactively and work together for clean water. Governor Mike DeWine (OH) stares down the greatest pollution challenge Lake Erie has faced since the 1970s. His recently-released budget proposes new funding for Lake Erie cleanup and creates a chance to tie those dollars to measurable clean water performance. Governor J.B. Pritzker (IL) has signaled that he wants Illinois to lead in protecting the lakes from Asian carp. And Governor Gretchen Whitmer (MI), who ran on the most detailed and aggressive water platform in the region, is prioritizing clean water in her state’s budget and policy agenda. In Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers has declared 2019 the “Year of Clean Drinking Water.”

When elected officials step up on these challenges and protect the health and safety of millions of people living around the Great Lakes, it’s because of local action from people like you. For years, our advocates have spoken out on Great Lakes issues and propelled clean water wins forward. Right now, water is the talk of the region, and I look forward to converting that optimism to action with your support.