WSW: What Does A New Michigan Governor Mean For The Great Lakes?

Dec 20, 2018

A lead pipe is shown after being replaced by a copper water supply line to a home in Flint, Mich., Friday, July 20, 2018.
Credit Paul Sancya / The Associated Press

Michigan will have a new governor in 2019. Senior Correspondent for Detroit Public Television’s Great Lakes Bureau Gary Wilson says regardless of who is in office other states in the region look to Michigan as a leader on water and environmental issues.

Wilson interviewed Governor Rick Snyder recently about Great Lakes issues as the Republican’s time in office comes to an end. Then Wilson joined WMUK’s Gordon Evans to discuss Snyder’s legacy on the Great Lakes, and the challenges awaiting Democrat Gretchen Whitmer when she takes office January 1st.

Wilson says overall, Snyder’s record on the Great Lakes is positive. That includes restarting regular meetings of Great Lakes governors, which had “fallen dormant.” But Wilson says Snyder had limited success in getting the governor’s on same page of issues like keeping Asian Carp out of the lakes.

The final weeks of Snyder’s term have included a series of moves to complete a deal with Enbridge on a new Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac. Wilson says the issue first came to light five years ago. He says by finalizing the deal during at end of his term, it’s on Snyder’s record forever.

Any discussion of water quality issues, or Snyder’s two terms as governor, ultimately come back to the Flint water crisis. Wilson says there is the possibility of Snyder having to defend himself legally on Flint. He could also be called back before the U.S. House oversight committee. Democrats now have more power to investigate because of winning control of the House in the November elections.

Wilson says Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer’s first big decision may what to do with Line 5. Whitmer said during the campaign that she wanted to shut the pipeline down. Wilson says the new governor will have to decide how much effort to spend on the issue now the bill is signed. Wilson says Whitmer campaigned on an aggressive water agenda that includes expediting lead pipe replacements and making drinking water more affordable.