Over June 15-17, 123 mayors came together for an annual meeting of the Great Lakes & St. Lawrence Cities Initiative in Niagara, NY to discuss environmental, social and economic issues facing the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. Representatives from local Lake Superior communities were in attendance from both Canada and the United States.
On the docket for the Cities Initiative were presentations and resolutions adopted on issues such as invasive species (particularly Asian carp and phragmites), microbeads, radioactive waste, drinking water safety, pipeline safety, integrated water management, confined animal-feeding operations, and sewer overflows. The mayors also took great time to review climate change strategies and commitments, as well as poll for responses on the proposed Waukesha diversion.
A press release by the Cities Initiative was released to local news sources voicing the mayors’ collective opposition to the Waukesha diversion, which will be decided in a final vote by Great Lakes state governors on June 21, 2016. The Net Newsledger quoted Nipigon, ON mayor Richard Harvey and EarthCare representative Brad Doff from Thunder Bay, ON, , both of whom added their voices to the previously published release.
“This is an important decision because it sets a precedent for the future,” said Brad Doff, EarthCare Thunder Bay attending on behalf of the City of Thunder Bay. “If we open this door, it may open the door wide for many other municipalities requesting to draw water outside of the great lakes basin.”
“This may be one of the most significant threats to the great lakes today” commented Mayor Harvey. “Any move to allow diversions of Great Lakes water out of the basin opens the door to future diversions and withdrawals’ of our waters. Being at the head waters of the Great lakes we recognize water as one of our greatest assets and must do everything to protect this great gift we have.”
In covering the event, the London Free Press reported an impassioned call by Cities Initiative for more resolute action to counteract climate change. The mayors are hoping to see more help from federal, provincial, and state levels to help with local climate change initiatives and programming expansion.
The Free Press spoke with mayor John Dickert of Racine, WI, who stated that too many legislators are “sitting on the sidelines” when they should be working more closely with municipalities to rethink transportation systems, build efficient buildings, and convert to renewable energy sources.
“We’re going to do it with your help, but if you folks aren’t going to do this at a federal level or a state level, then it’s time to move on . . . We need the funding, just as a reminder, but we will do it,” Dickert told the Free Press.
Though several communities in the Cities Initiative are promising to track and document their efforts to reduce carbon output, some smaller municipalities feel that larger cities need to step up their effort to account for their larger carbon footprint. Accordingly, a presenting engineer from Toronto suggests rather than focusing on new carbon emissions strategies, successful existing ones should be scaled-up. Fernando Carou, an engineer with the Toronto environment and energy division stated: “It’s not only about initiatives. It’s about getting the magnitude right.”