Start working on clean water in Great Lakes today

Jane BeathardI recently took a day-long sightseeing excursion on the Jet Express high-speed catamaran from Port Clinton, Ohio, to St. Clair, Mich.

The Jet Express offers periodic excursions throughout the warm months to ports in Canada for bird watching and wine tasting, and to Michigan for fireworks and sightseeing. These themed outings  are in addition to regular runs that ferry passengers between North Coast towns and Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island.

Oct. 12 was a beautiful, early fall day with a vivid blue sky and just a tinge of color in trees along the shoreline. The tour guide provided a lively narrative about Great Lakes shipping, area history, and landmarks.

We traveled across the Western Basin to the Detroit River, through downtown Detroit, and into Lake St. Clair. After speeding across Lake St. Clair, we entered the St. Clair River and continued moving "up-bound" to the City of St. Clair.

We docked in the city for a buffet lunch at the historic St. Clair Inn. Some passengers went on to shop at a nearby mall for a few hours, while others lingered at the inn's bar and sunned on its verandas.

My friend, Debbie Cochran, and I dined with a couple from Port Clinton. The wife made a remark that set me thinking.

"The water here doesn't look like Lake Erie at Port Clinton," she said. "It's so clear here."

Sure enough, she was right.

We walked along the river and were amazed to find water so clear we could see the bottom in several places. It was so clear, that it reflected the blue sky above and actually resembled Caribbean waters that I've seen.

I could have provided the Port Clinton lady with a detailed environmental explanation of her casual observation. But, I kept it to myself and kept a keen eye on the water as we headed back to Ohio.

The 230-mile round trip not only provided a close-up look at the American and Canadian shorelines. It also brought home the murky and algae-choked nature of Lake Erie's Western Basin. North of the Maumee and Detroit rivers, water quality was visibly better.

Satellite views of the Western Basin show algae blooms emanating directly from these two tributaries. Agricultural and urban runoff washes into the rivers and feed the algae.

A story in the recent issue of Ohio Outdoor News talks about steps Ohio is taking to assure farmers in the watershed apply chemicals responsibly. Another story talks about unity among Great Lakes legislators in restoring water quality in all five lakes.

It won't be an easy job. It will take not only money, but time.

Considering what I saw from the deck of the Jet Express, we need to begin now. 

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