Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ah, But I Diverse

After my brief sojourn to warmer waters, I began contemplating my next Great Lakes topic. Should I learn more about the details of the Great Lake Pact, which went into effect this past December? Should I think about conservation, geology, the cultural history of the people who developed this area, or should I focus on natural history? I wasn’t sure but I found my answer, at least for today, in the Sunday newspapers.

Both the Kenosha News and the Chicago Tribune had articles about the advantage Lake Michigan provides in Chicago’s bid to bring the 2016 Summer Olympics to this area. What seems obvious to me provided the basis of several stories about how the lakefront will be used if Chicago wins. Of course, the lake is an advantage, although I suppose the people Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo also think the landscape of their city has distinct advantages, too.

Some of the advantages Lake Michigan offers are “no brainers”. Plans are to modify the already existing Northerly Island and Monroe Harbor for beach volleyball, rowing, canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. North Avenue Beach would be the site of the Triathlon. In addition, the lakefront and the Chicago skyline would provide cameramen gorgeous scenery to display in between shots of athletic competitions.

A less obvious advantage on the how Lake Michigan can be a security asset was presented in a column by David Heinzmann in the Chicago Tribune. Heinzmann writes that the lakefront and its parks are “an easy to patrol border”. Whether that is true or not is debatable, but the concept looks good on paper. However, Heinzmann goes on to cite a 2007 U.S Department of Homeland Security report that criticizes the lack of cooperation between the City of Chicago and Cook County law enforcement agencies. Seems to me that should be fixable, but then again, it is Illinois politics we are talking about here.

Details of “The Plan” for the Chicago Olympics are presented on the Chicago 2016 website. There is a section of the proposal that touts the use of green technology and green architecture. Chicago and Mayor Daley do have a good reputation in that area already, but when I read the section on Environmentalism and Rivers and Lakes, I found the following statement interesting. It says, “The people of Chicago are no strangers to the challenges of such natural elements. Chicago’s collective determination and ingenious engineering led to the re-routing of the Chicago River, which solved sanitation problems of the late 19th century.”

I have found my next topic. It’s time to spend a little time learning bit more about diversions in and out of the Great Lakes, including the famous one cited above, the reversal of the flow of the Chicago River and the creation of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which was completed around 1900. There are plenty of people who think that this engineering marvel is one of the major causes of changes in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The topic is worthy of some time and effort to understand why.

I began thinking about the Olympics, but ended up back at a water issue. I am easily diverted. But this train of thought should lead me back to the Great Lakes Compact, water conservation, and both a social and natural history of the region. Amazing how everything seems to be related.

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