Written by Caitlin Cox
Patricia Birkholz was appointed by Governor Snyder to the Office of Great Lakes. She tells Kirk Heinze about the steps the office is taking to preserve the Great Lakes.
Housed in the Department of Environmental Quality, “The office deals with all things Great Lakes,” says Birkholz, “They contain twenty percent of the world’s fresh water.”
The Office of the Great Lakes deals with several issues including: the Great Lakes Commission, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, the Asian Carp group, great lakes restoration money and coastal zone management.
“The Great Lakes are a great ecosystem,” says Birkholz, “The Great Lakes are important because of their interconnection with our rivers, wetlands and they’re very important to our economy. Governor Snyder believes our natural resources can play a key role in revitalizing Michigan’s economy.”
Well-known challenges the department faces are the battle with invasive species such as Asian Carp and the request for diversion from surrounding states, which Birkholz says is, “something that our office takes seriously.”
The Office of the Great Lakes is pushing for permanent separation between the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. The current barriers are good and help but are small and incremental.
Also challenging the department is the issue of water diversion, which, Birkholz says is about, “Making sure that we look at the amount of water other states take and is it truly a rate that they need. Also, how much will be returned to the basin and are they providing conservation measures.”
The Office of Great Lakes exists primarily for the restoration and preservation of the ecosystem. But Birkholz adds that we can all be better stewards of our Great Lakes by being more aware in our daily lives.
“My tip for everyone is to wash off all equipment when you’re transferring your belongings from one body of water to another. Invasive species attach themselves to anything whether it’s the side of a boat or children’s beach toys,” says Birkholz
“I get chills when I think about how beautiful the Great Lakes are and how important it is to preserve them for future generations.”
Click here to hear Birkholz's Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk Heinze. Greening of the Great Lakes airs Sunday evenings at 9 on News/Talk 760 WJR and Friday evenings at 7 on MSU's Impact Radio.