Will Great Lakes Be Designated ‘Oceans’ in Federal Funding Scheme?

Published July 1, 1999

One wonders if Representative John Dingell (D-Michigan) had revenge in mind when he sponsored the Conservation and Reinvestment Act of 1999 (CARA).

During the last Congress, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) tried to have Vermont’s Lake Champlain designated as a “Great Lake” to tap into federal dollars intended for research relating to the Great Lakes, commonly defined as lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Now, Dingell is trying to have the Great Lakes treated the same as oceans under CARA so that states like his own can get their hands on a portion of $1.2 billion intended for coastal states to mitigate the environment effects of offshore oil drilling.

Other sponsors of the bill, including Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), aren’t likely to mind Dingell’s maneuver, as it will increase the chances the bill will pass. By treating the Great Lakes as oceans, 103 additional members of the House of Representatives and 14 additional Senators from seven states would have a very good reason to vote in favor of the bill: cash for their states and districts.

Michigan would receive an estimated $22 million, Illinois $15 million, and Ohio $7.5 million–even though there isn’t a single offshore oil rig in the Great Lakes.

What will politicians do next to get more money for their districts? Declare Louisiana swamps part of the Florida Everglades, perhaps.