Presidential Campaigns Discuss the Great Lakes

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By Elizabeth Miller

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump threw their support behind the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Thursday via surrogates speaking at a conference in Sandusky, Ohio.

Each campaign's representative spoke separately at the Great Lakes Restoration Conference.  They answered questions about harmful algal blooms, Asian carp, and clean water.                                                                                                                                

Trump's representative, former Ohio Division of Wildlife Chief Mike Budzik, stressed the need for state and local groups to help the federal government in cleaning up the Great Lakes.

“The problem wasn't created overnight, and it won't go away overnight,” said Budzik. “The folks that are affected by the lake need to be at the table.”

Budzik said Trump's sons put the Great Lakes on the radar for their father because of their interest in fishing and camping.  Budzik praised the Healing Our Waters Coalition for its work with the Great Lakes, and pointed out several of Ohio’s efforts to reduce algal blooms in Lake Erie’s Western Basin.

Clinton's surrogate, David Hayes, worked under the Department of the Interior during the Clinton and Obama administrations. He reiterated a statement from Clinton, promising to protect drinking water if elected.

“At the top of the list is our water system,” said Hayes.  “Not only the Flint, Michigan distribution centers, but also the wastewater treatment needs.”

When asked about algal blooms, Hayes suggested a collaboration between agricultural and environmental agencies.  “We’re learning, and this does not have to start with the heavy hand of regulation, but start with cooperation,” said Hayes.

Clinton’s surrogate also mentioned Trump frequently, which Budzik did not do.

“You cannot close your eyes to the science and to climate change and be serious about protecting the Great Lakes,” said Hayes.

In the past, Trump has called climate change a hoax.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which the Senate reauthorized last week, supports thousands of projects dedicated to mending the lakes.  

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