MARQUETTE - The fresh water of the Great Lakes could be the economic key to the future, according to a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Fresh water is going to become the commodity of the future. Everybody is going to be looking for it," said Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard.
McDowell will challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, in the November general election. He said it is becoming more and more apparent - as drought ravages much of the country - that the Great Lakes should be cared for.
"The rest of the states are looking at the Great Lakes and saying, 'Who does this water belong to?'" McDowell said. "The only way we're going to defend it and say, 'It belongs in our basin. It's our water,' is if we're good stewards."
In town Friday, McDowell is in the midst of a summer tour across Michigan's 1st District. At every stop, he is highlighting the importance of the Great Lakes, which provide 1.5 million jobs - 525,000 of which are in Michigan - and $62 billion in annual wages, according to a recent University of Michigan study.
The congressional hopeful voiced disappointment in the stance that the current U.S. Congress - including Benishek - has taken with regard to the protection of the Great Lakes.
The body, he said, has voted to remove environmental sanctions that would allow increased runoff into the Great Lakes and has voted for budget packages that would cut funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and asian carp protections.
"There's so much right now that needs to be done with runoffs and different types of contamination going in the Great Lakes. It's not the time to turn the clock back," McDowell said. "So we need a congressman who is going to defend the Great Lakes and stand up for the Great Lakes and our way of life here in northern Michigan."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.