Traverse City Record-Eagle. March 3, 2017

Stalling fight against Asian carp threatens Great lakes

he issue: Administration halts movement to address Asian carp

Our view: Stopping an already slow process further threatens Great Lakes

Government often moves at a glacial pace, but a recent freeze in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' efforts to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes threatens to reverse important, albeit long overdue, progress.

The Corps, this week, was scheduled to release draft results of a study two years in the making that many hoped would provide a workable plan to combat the invasive species' advance through Illinois rivers toward Lake Michigan. But a spokesman for the government agency said the release was "deferred" at the ninth hour.

The delay follows a Feb. 23 letter sent to President Donald Trump by 16 members of Congress asking the new administration to stall the draft proposal until after appointment is made to lead the civil works division for the Army. The letter from lawmakers who predominantly serve constituents in Illinois and Indiana argued the Corps shouldn't make hasty recommendations regarding the future of the Chicago-area shipping channels that threaten to serve as the gutter through which the invasive carp could trickle into the Great Lakes.

Corps officials began working on the draft plan in April 2015, an effort many expected would include upgrades at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. The site is a few miles downstream from electrical barriers that now serve as the only deterrent to keep the fish from continuing north toward the lake.

The plan's final version was scheduled for a 2019 release, but the recent delay likely will impact that timeline.

Pausing the release triggered a barrage of criticism from a cadre of both lawmakers and Great Lakes guardians. But the most recent halt is only the latest in what seems like an unending flow of moves against any real action to stop the unwanted species from poking its head into Lake Michigan.

Some have launched attempts to spin the issue into a partisan wrestling match, but the reluctance to take real steps toward halting the invasion is nothing new.

Little has been accomplished to address the Asian carp spread since the 1970s when the imported fish escaped Southern fish farm operations and entered the Mississippi River system. Since then the fish have migrated north in a relentless march, until seven years ago a live big head carp — one of two species moving toward the Great Lakes — was captured in a Chicago-area canal just 6 miles from Lake Michigan's shoreline.

Experts predict the carp would devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem through out competing native species as they have in several other locations.

The latest delay is a symptom of a much larger threat to the Great Lakes: Special interests. It appears whomever is behind the delay is adept at working both sides of the political spectrum to impede the fight against Asian carp.

It's time for our representatives in Washington, D.C., to set aside their partisan hand wringing and protect their home state's namesake.

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Lansing State Journal. February 28, 2017

To the point on Women's Hall of Fame move, Trowbridge development and Delta Twp. government

The Michigan Women's Historical Center and Hall of Fame will move to the Meridian Mall this spring after 30 years in downtown Lansing.

Although a loss for downtown, leadership hopes the move will bring new vibrancy and increased attendance to the center - it includes making exhibits easier to rotate and removing admission fees in favor of a suggested donation.

Anyone at the historical center in recent years knows space is an issue. Couple that with costs of maintaining an older building and accessibility issues, and it should come as no surprise the board voted to pursue a move in 2015. Since that time, strategy to choose the best new location has been ongoing.

At the Meridian Mall, the center and Hall of Fame will likely be exposed to new, younger audiences and other target demographics that have never seen the exhibits before.

Kudos to the board for making this a strategic decision, and best of luck in your new location.

Michigan Women's Hall of Fame moving to Meridian Mall

Trowbridge development good for region

A proposed new hotel and development at the location of the vacant Howard Johnson hotel on Trowbridge Road would bring back necessary hotel space to a key area near Michigan State University and U.S. 127.

The Boji group hopes to bring an 88-room SpringHill Suites - a Marriott brand - to anchor the site, which is now in proximity to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market and the new Trowbridge Lofts.

This is a good move for East Lansing, MSU and the region.

Hotel space in close proximity to MSU football, basketball and special events venues will increase cash flow to local businesses and impact tourism. The development would also include a coffee shop and single story retail space that could host up to four tenants.

$12M hotel project planned for Trowbridge Road

Delta Twp. board shows good government

The Delta Township Board of Trustees held public comment last week to discuss bans on honey bees and chickens in residential areas in the township.

Now the board has moved to entertain language to allow each with reasonable restrictions. The move will maximize freedom while minimizing harm and is good government - and the Delta Township board has shown us a story of good government in action.

Setting a strong example for other areas to emulate, trustees researched the issue and heard from members of the community who saw benefits.

Draft language is expected in the next couple of months for those who believe in the benefits of honey bees - including implications for agriculture and horticulture - and chickens - primarily for local food sourcing- to bring them back to Delta Township.

Nice work, Delta residents and trustees. Working together to find solutions that benefit the larger community is how government is supposed to work.

Delta officials could vote this spring to allow bees, chickens

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Times Herald (Port Huron). March 1, 2017

Fighting blight doesn't end with demolitions

Cleaning up blight — particularly when that means demolishing decrepit houses — by itself isn't enough. Take a drive through Detroit neighborhoods if you need persuading. The long, ragged gaps in that city's residential areas are a form of blight in and of themselves.

The city of Port Huron in recent years has been aggressive about demolishing abandoned and irredeemably blighted houses, including spending a $1 million grant over the past 18 months to target some of the worst. Despite those efforts, Port Huron does not have — there is no nice way to say this — the bombed-out appearance of Detroit and some other troubled urban areas.

Still, there are some neighborhoods and some parts of Port Huron that bear the obvious mark of the bulldozer. It is not so obvious a blight as a dilapidated and crumbling structure, but each gap in a row of houses is a strike against that neighborhood's stability. Plugging those gaps is essential to protect the investments of the neighbors who remain after the blighted buildings are razed.

The Port Huron Neighborhood Housing Corporation's decision to donate three of the vacant lots it owns to Habitat for Humanity is a brilliant way to protect the future of Howard Street. That's not only because new homes will fill the gaps in that street. It is also because owners will occupy those homes — and Habitat owners are a special kind — which will further stabilize and enhance their neighborhood.

"Us being able to go in and reinvest in the neighborhood and help bring the stability back is incredibly important," said Aubree Mayhew, Habitat's resource development director. "We've always looked to the city (to) see what they're doing and build from that."

In a perfect world, new home builders also would see those vacant lots as opportunities, but it is unlikely they would risk investing in those neighborhoods where new homes are needed most. It is also understandable. Habitat for Humanity is the ideal vehicle for a project like this one.

What Habitat does is not free. A lot of volunteer and future-owner sweat goes into its affordable housing, but money and materials go in as well. A donation to Blue Water Habitat for Humanity is an investment in the future of our towns.

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Petoskey News-Review. March 2, 2017

Federal leaders must verify Enbridge's claims on Line 5

With the news late last month that there are stretches of underwater pipeline that are missing their protective coating in the Straits of Mackinac — a report that line operator Enbridge calls incorrect — it is time for federal officials to act in a commanding and transparent way.

Enbridge claims that documents it posted on its own website and proposed to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for an upcoming analysis of the line in the Straits refer to hypothetical patches of pipeline where the coating is missing. But the report, called the Biota Investigation Work Plan, identifies specific areas where such conditions exist and the language used does not indicate a hypothetical scenario.

Even if you believe Enbridge officials and this is a false alarm, the report warrants further action.

Simply put, no evidence provided by Enbridge officials at this point will convince a growing group of concerned leaders and citizens questioning the more than 60-year-old line's structural integrity.

Enbridge officials undoubtedly have spent large amounts of money in the last couple of years conducting their own studies and mock spill exercises, while at the same time focusing public relations efforts on convincing the public there is no reason to be concerned about the line.

We certainly don't think Enbridge wants a spill in the Straits, after all the cost of such an incident would be extreme. Considering the company just finished the cleanup that followed a July 2010 spill near Marshall in the Kalamazoo River, another one in the Straits could do irreparable harm to Enbridge's reputation, as well.

But that's one of the reasons we shouldn't take their word for it, either.

In Petoskey last week for a chamber of commerce event at Stafford's Perry Hotel, newly elected Congressman Jack Bergman vowed to bring the proper agencies and officials together to ensure the pipeline, commonly referred to as Line 5, is structurally safe. We hope Bergman is successful in doing so.

Officials at the local, state and federal levels along with residents throughout the state and beyond have united across typical political lines in an effort to protect against this type of environmental disaster in the Great Lakes.

Enbridge has done just about as much as it can do to alleviate these concerns. Now is the time for the federal government to step in and seek independent verification of Line 5's true condition.

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