WSW: Federal And State Priorities For The Great Lakes

Nov 13, 2017

File photo of the South Haven lighthouse on Lake Michigan
Credit WMUK

Environmental Policy Advisor and author Dave Dempsey says a budget is about setting priorities. He says states have to reshuffle priorities if they truly care about the Great Lakes. Dempsey says that’s especially true for Michigan, the Great Lakes state.


Dempsey’s long career of environmental work, includes serving in the administration of Michigan Governor James Blanchard. He’s currently policy advisor for the Traverse City-based group For Love of Water (FLOW).

As the future of federal funding for the Great Lakes becomes less clear, Dempsey says states should step into the void. Dempsey says he would like to see Michigan put a bond issue on the ballot for environmental and water issues. He says similar proposals have been approved in the past. Dempsey says the money could be used to update sewer systems, invest in drinking water facilities, and put money into Great Lakes restoration. He says that money could be used for habitat, clean up of sediment and control of invasive species.

With an election year on the horizon, Dempsey says he is “skeptical” of how important a political issue the environment and Great Lakes issues will be in 2018. He says the economy and other issues are more important to voters. But Dempsey says water issues are part of Michigan’s identity and candidates need to take leadership of those issues.

Dempsey says one person not on the ballot next year should be working hard on environmental issues. Dempsey says Governor Rick Snyder can do a lot before he leaves office to improve his legacy. While he calls the Flint water crisis “a major stain,” Dempsey says overall Snyder hasn’t done any harm to the environment. But Dempsey says the governor also hasn’t shown any leadership on those issues.

Dempsey says that unfortunately environmental issues have become partisan. He says it would be better if there were two parties working to be the strongest on the environment.