President Bush has a peculiar logic when it comes to federal spending: Hundreds of billions of dollars for his two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq isn’t excessive, but a meager $23 billion to clean up and protect our nation’s water is unnecessary. Thankfully, Congress had something else to say. By overriding Bush’s veto of the water bill on Thursday, Congress reasserted that the survival of our future water supply is a concern that needs immediate attention – something even lawmakers from the Great Lakes state haven’t always been willing to assert.
Meant to increase spending on water projects across the country, including two highlighted projects to clean up the Florida Everglades and the Gulf Coast, Congress’s $23 billion water bill was one of the few bipartisan things done in Washington this year. But claiming that the bill included more than $9 billion in pork barrel projects, Bush vetoed it two weeks ago.
On Nov. 6, the U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to override the veto, with all of Michigan’s 15 representatives – Republicans and Democrats – voting with the majority. Finishing the job, the U.S. Senate joined the House on Thursday to deliver the first veto override of Bush’s presidency.
The reasoning behind Bush’s veto of the bill was faulty to begin with. Brought into focus by the wildfires out West and the drought in the South, America is currently experiencing a water crisis. The water supplies that we do have are becoming increasingly polluted, and we must turn the focus to cleaning them up right away. Although he claimed that the bill included too much pork barrel spending, all of the projects included in the bill are essential to the health of the country’s water supply. By any standard, essential spending simply cannot be considered pork.
The bill comes with many benefits for Michigan and the Great Lakes water system, which contains more than 20 percent of the world’s fresh water. It includes funding for a new shipping lock at Sault Ste. Marie, which would open up northern Michigan to shipping and strengthen the Upper Peninsula’s local economy. In the Detroit area, the bill would fund shoreline protection along the Detroit River, and the cleaning up of Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. One of the most essential parts of the bill includes funding to correct raw sewage overflows into the Great Lakes, which encourages the growth of dangerous e-coli bacteria.
Even though the federal government just poured money into the Great Lakes, our own state government is still lagging behind. As one of the few remaining parties yet to sign the Great Lakes Compact – a regional agreement between the eight states bordering the Great Lakes and the two Canadian provinces to prevent Great Lakes water from leaving the basin – Michigan lawmakers are dragging their feet. With faraway states coveting Great Lakes water, the compact, if also approved by Congress, would bar the transport of water out of the Great Lakes system. That is an essential step in ensuring the Great Lakes, already at historically low water levels, are not further depleted.
Congress had the right idea when it voted to override Bush’s veto and fund the protection of the nation’s water resources. It is time for Michigan to get on board and sign the Great Lakes compact. After all, water is one of the few things Michigan has left.