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Great Lakes mayors face environmental issues

Representatives from cities along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River are gathering in Niagara Falls this week to grapple with a number of environmental issues. The meeting of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative includes discussions about climate change, drinking water, managing nutrients and invasive species.

The group consists of more than 100 cities from the U.S. and Canada. Some city leaders attended the event to learn the latest about issues affecting the lakes and river.

“Mayors are on the front lines day in and day out, doing things in their community to improve the quality of life and economic well-being in their cities and at the same time protecting this tremendous resources,” said David Ullrich, the group's executive director. “When they come here, they get some of the best information that helps them do their jobs better, both from our panels and speakers and from talking to one another.”   

There are about 35 mayors in attendance and Mayor John Dickert of Racine Wisconsin is one of them. After leading a panel discussion on climate change, he said the issue must be a priority for governmental leaders.

“We all see it happening, it’s not as if it’s happening we’re seeing it, and it’s having dramatic impacts on our cities," he said. "So the question is, are we going to work with our local, federal and state officials to fix it? Or are we going to continue to play this game- what seems to be happening right now-  where people just ignore it. And, I don’t think that we can leave that legacy on to our kids.”

Racine is located on Michigan and has come a long way from the industrial age, when it was burdened with a polluted river and lake.

Dickert added, “Water is everything for us so we’ve done a magnificent job of cleaning it all up to make sure that people can swim in the Root River and swim in the lake without any problems at all and that’s not the way it was when I was growing up.”

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