What Makes a Lake Great?
What Makes a Lake Great?
What makes a Great Lake great? That may sound like a Zen riddle, but it actually is the question at the heart of an earnest legislative battle brewing between Rep. Fred Upton, R- Mich., and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., each of whom is seeking to define "greatness" where lakes are concerned.
The brouhaha began when Leahy moved recently to include language in a Sea Grant College reauthorization bill designating Lake Champlain, a lake that abuts the western border of Leahy's home state, as a Great Lake. The Sea Grant program dispenses roughly $50 million a year to Great Lake universities, like those in Upton's home state of Michigan, for research on how to promote healthy coastlines. President Clinton is expected to sign the legislation soon.
Other schools can participate in the federal program, but only through partnerships with Great Lakes-designated schools. Vermont has participated in that manner, but if enacted, Leahy's provision would allow Vermont schools to apply directly for the federal grant monies. As such, Upton earlier this week moved to counter Leahy's action, introducing legislation that would reverse the designation of Lake Champlain as great.
To hear Upton tell it, greatness, where a lake is concerned, has a lot to do with size. "Lake Champlain isn't nearly a 'great' lake," Upton said in a statement, "In fact, it is nearly one-fifth the size [in square miles] of Lake Ontario, the smallest Great Lake." But Leahy spokesman David Carle quickly responded that Upton's claims are, well, all wet.
"Lake Champlain tops Lake Erie in terms of water volume," Carle declared.
Moreover, he added, Lake Champlain was the scene of a pivotal 1776 Revolutionary War battle in which British troops who were trying to take control of the waterway were roundly defeated by American troops.
"If it weren't for Lake Champlain, then our police would all be wearing high fuzzy hats and bright red jump suits right now," said Carle.
On a more serious note, Carle pointed out that the Environmental Protection Agency, the Agriculture Department and the Interior Department all currently recognize Lake Champlain as a Great Lake, thanks to a 1990 bill that Leahy wrote designating it as such.
But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the agency that administers the Sea Grant program, has not yet recognized Lake Champlain's greatness.
Upton, who so far has gathered only a handful of cosponsors to promote his cause, hopes the majority of his House colleagues will see things his way.
"Lake Champlain may be a big lake, but it's no Great Lake," he said.
NEXT STORY: Las Vegas at Odds with Feds