Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway Mayors from Canada, U.S. Bond in 15th Annual Conference
by Gary (IN) Mayor Scott King
June 18, 2001
For fifteen years a cross-section of Canadian and American mayors from the Great Lakes area of both countries have been meeting to discuss common problems of cities in two provinces of Canada and eight states. Last year, I was pleased to serve as president and hosted the 2000 Annual Meeting in Gary. This years event, just concluded, drew a wide variety of experts on such diverse topics as tourism, recreational boating, gas and oil drilling, and other subjects to Host city Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, a.k.a. "Sweet Soo."
The June 6-8 event of the Annual Conference of International Association of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Mayors is important for mayors from both countries as a vehicle to discuss, and hopefully solve, problems which have no borders. Fifteen mayors from both countries were active participants in this annual event. Our United States delegation included such stalwarts as Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner and Mayors Kate Marshall of Petoskey (MI), David Nadolsky of Rogers City (MI), and Anthony Bousbous of Sault Ste. Marie (MI). Host mayor was Mayor John Rowswell of Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.
Issues discussed affect more than 40 million people in the United States from the eight states which have Great Lakes shorelines. These are: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. On the Canadian side, the relatively large provinces of Ontario and Quebec are adjacent not only to the Great Lakes, but the St. Lawrence Seaway.
In addition, this organization received a recent boost for the 620 waterfront communities in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence area when, in May 2000, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley became the newest member of the Conference.
For those unfamiliar with the Great Lakes of Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior, this area constitutes one-fifth of the worlds fresh surface water and 95 percent of the US supply is in this area. The Great Lakes shoreline is equal to almost 44 percent of the circumference of the earth. Michigan's Great Lakes coast, where mayors are attending this year's Annual Conference of Mayors here in Detroit, can experience a portion of the total 3,288 miles more coastline than any state but Alaska.
At the event just concluded in Canada, mayors raised important topics such as that reflected in Toledo Mayor Finkbeiner's resolution to ban natural gas drilling on Lake Erie. We also tackled such problems as ways to stimulate tourism without damaging the sometimes fragile ecosystems in this area. We endorsed support from both countries, federal governments, for restoration and delisting of Great Lakes areas of concern, border entry rules for recreational boats, and ways to continue to develop a bi-national consensus on legislation to benefit the Great Lakes.
What is unique about this Annual conference is the fact that two countries with extensive borders meet in a cooperative and congenial fashion to sit down together and address current problems. My city of Gary, located on Lake Michigan, is an active supporter of this association because I believe it vital and necessary that we forge alliances to advance the causes of 620 waterfront communities in both countries.
One keynote speaker was Thomas L. Baldini, who has served as Chair of the United States Section of the International Joint Commission since April 7, 1994 after being nominated by President Clinton and confirmed by the United States Senate. His speech focused on regulating Great Lakes water levels in the 21st century. Another keynote speaker was Michigan state representative Scott Shackleton.
Another interesting point: the Great Lakes cruise trade, in the middle of a dynamic resurgence and tourism and already on the upswing, will definitely benefit our communities. The theme of this years meeting was highly appropriate, that being Making Waves Globally.
All in all, the International Association of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence mayors is an organization that merits the support of all of us affecting as it does our way of life, as well as all aspects of the natural environment of the United States and Canada from weather and climate, to wildlife and habitat. Our national health and our children's inheritance depend on our collective efforts to wisely manage this complex ecosystem. If you serve a city that is on these waters, I encourage you to get involved beginning with next years' meeting in Ville Salaberry de Lillyfied, a Montreal suburb.