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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Great Great Lakes Reporting

Zebra mussels getting cozy (too cozy) in Lake Keesus in Waukesha County
(photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Of all the laments about the demise of the daily newspaper, one of the most salient is the loss of good, factual, analytical reporting. For all their ubiquity (and their iniquities), Rat fully understands that blogs – even this one – are not journalism.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Dan Egan served up some fine reporting lately, however – reporting with a bit of an edge. In the October 27 edition, Egan asked the question that’s gotta be asked: what will $475 million of federal money for saving the Great Lakes really get us? Probably not what’s needed most – enforcement of existing laws. Read the sobering conclusion from his reporting here.

He keeps up the drumbeat in a follow-up story zeroing on invasive critters that hitchhike from foreign ports and get dumped into the Great Lakes, the most infamous of which is the zebra mussel.

To Egan’s point again: the zebra mussel is out of the barn door (can you say that?), and the new federal largess won’t touch this problem. In this case, it’s not the lack of enforcement, but a lack of good laws in the first place to keep nasty bilge water from being dumped in the Great Lakes.

Rat can’t imagine why a relatively tiny industry like Great Lakes shippers have such a grip on the tillers of Congress and state legislatures. (It’s not like they’re running casinos.)

Yet, lawmakers continue to refuse to regulate these ships. Their cargo could get moved around the Great Lakes by train or truck cheaper anyway. What gives? Maybe they're swept up in the romance of the high seas. Maybe they're in the hip pocket of the zebra mussel lobby. Or maybe they've listened to The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald one too many times and have lost all perspective. We might never know why they're so reticent to regulate this industry and the many menaces it's responsible for dumping in the Great Lakes. But we do know one thing...

....better start getting used to zebra mussels...and little else... in Wisconsin's inland waters...

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