Memorial Day Weekend Thoughts On Our Great Lakes Legacy

This post written by Clean Water Action’s Fran Brennan

(Cross-posted at Michigan Liberal)

“I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore. . . .
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.”–William Butler Yeats

For many of us who have grown up and live in Michigan, Memorial Day weekend kicks off the eagerly awaited summer season. We gather our family and friends, pack up the car, and drive “Up North!,” wherever that happens to be.

Beach towels and chairs, music, hot dogs and chips help set the scene, but they all pale in comparison to the joy of a warm, sunny day on a clear blue Michigan lake.
As Michiganians, we cherish our Great Lakes. Our collective history overflows with fond memories that all revolve, one way or another, around our wonderful waters. Whether from boat races, sailing regattas, swim competitions, or just carefree fun-in-the-sun-by-the-beach, the recipe for fun for so many of us in the Great Lake State could easily boil down to: “just add water.”

For generations, our waters have been an integral part of our way of life. As a proud Michiganian, I’m grateful to the generations who came before me who jealously guarded and protected our waters and enabled me to have the wealth of memories of great times on the water that I cherish to this day.

As I reflect on my gratitude to past generations, I’m concerned that my generation might not be fulfilling our end of the bargain with future generations. Protecting our waters, like every public trust, is a sacred contract we make with the future. Our response to one of the newest threats facing those waters – a natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” – calls into question our commitment to keeping that contract. 

I’ve seen some first steps on the long road to making sure we’re responsible stewards of our water. Late Tuesday night, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released new, stricter permitting rules for fracking. They get our state closer to protecting our water from contamination from fracking, but frankly, we’re not there yet.

Given the risks of just one major spill – contaminating surface and ground waters, exposing local residents to toxic drinking water, or worst of all, polluting a Great Lake with who-knows-what chemicals they put in the fracking fluid – we’d be derelict in our responsibilities to future generations if we didn’t demand more and better protections for our water.

I hope you’ll all join me in urging Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature to hold off on new natural gas exploration and extraction that utilizes hydraulic fracturing until requirements have been put in place to protect Michigan’s water from overuse, chemical contamination, and a number of other dangers.

By working together, we can keep our Pure Michigan pure, for now and for future generations! As you enjoy the water wonderland that is Michigan this holiday weekend, take a minute to reflect on everything that’s at stake.

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