Views from around the state: Still time to save S.S. Badger; Great Lakes restoration efforts deserve funding
The S.S. Badger is nearly done — for the season, and possibly for good.
That’s a shame. A solution to the historic steamship’s pollution problem shouldn’t be so elusive.
The Lake Michigan Carferry Service, which operates the Badger, had planned to finish its May-to-October season this coming weekend. The 60-year-old, 410-foot-long, 7-story-high lake ferry shuttles passengers, their vehicles and other cargo across Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Ludington, Mich.
Then the owners announced it would run through Nov. 2, with discounted rates. That’s because General Electric hired the ship to carry dozens of large sections of wind turbine towers between Wisconsin and Michigan.
But the most significant date is Dec. 19. That’s the federal deadline for the Badger to stop dumping 500 tons of coal ash into Lake Michigan each year.
The ferry company is seeking another extension of its permit from the Environmental Protection Agency while it seeks a cleaner yet cost-effective way to power the coal-fired ship — the last of its kind on the lakes.
Converting the Badger to natural gas is the most promising idea. Natural gas burns cleaner and wouldn’t require big discharges of coal ash into the water. Other vehicles such as private truck fleets and public snowplows in Wisconsin are converting to natural gas. And ferries have run on natural gas for decades in Norway. The technology is improving, and the cost is going down.
Such a conversion would allow the Badger to keep its steam engines, preserving more of its history and charm for the many travelers whose business supports local jobs in Manitowoc and Ludington.
Critics say the Badger’s operators are just stalling for more time. We’re not so sure, given that researchers at UW-Superior and the University of Minnesota-Duluth have taken up the cause of converting the ship.
If it’s serious about cleaning up the Badger, the Carferry Service should be able to give the EPA clear and convincing evidence of progress toward that goal. And if the ferry company does that, the EPA should grant a little more time.
Remember: All of that car and truck traffic driving around the lake would cause a lot of pollution, too.
– Wisconsin State Journal
Great Lakes restoration
efforts deserve funding
If there’s one issue that cuts across political groups and that most Wisconsinites can agree on, it appears to be the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.
About 75 percent of Wisconsin voters support Great Lakes restoration funding, according to recent survey of 801 voters that was commissioned by Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. Of those, 63 percent were Republicans, 78 percent independents and 84 percent Democrats.
That makes sense because the health of the Great Lakes is not a partisan issue; it’s a human issue, especially here in Wisconsin. It’s an issue that affects many state residents as they use the Great Lakes for everything from drinking water to recreation to business. Lakes Michigan and Superior supply 1.6 million state residents with drinking water, provide 170,000 jobs and provide fishing for 250,000 people a year, according to Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
And it’s an issue that has grown in importance as Asian carp have made their way to the doorstep of the Great Lakes, wreaking havoc on other fish and ecosystems along the way.
President Barack Obama’s 2012 budget included $300 million for the initiative, though it faces a $25 million decrease if Congress can’t avoid the “fiscal cliff.” We believe continued support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is imperative, no matter who wins the presidential election next month.
Environmental issues have been crowded out by talk of the deficit, health care and defense, they shouldn’t be ignored, and rightly so.
But if the economy is the No. 1 subject in politics, then consider that a $1 investment in restoration projects returns $2 in economic benefit, according to the Brookings Institution. The return is felt in increased tourism, fishing and home values.
If you’re looking for how Great Lakes restoration has helped the area, consider the $1.5 million Brown County received for the Cat Island Restoration Project or the $2 million the Brown County Port and Solid Waste Department received for Renard Isle capping and $377,354 for the Bair Creek Riparian Protection Project. More than $69 million has been invested in Wisconsin projects to clean up toxic pollution, restore habitat, reduce agricultural and urban run-off, and control invasive species, according to the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center.
We urge Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney to weigh in on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and to continue its funding, whether it’s under an Obama administration or a Romney administration.
Two of the big swing states — Wisconsin and Ohio — are on the Great Lakes and benefit from the restoration initiative. That should garner some support from Obama and Romney, if for no other reason than the political capital it would generate.
– Green Bay Press-Gazette
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