The Great Lakes have come a long way from the mess they were in during the 1960s and 1970s, but they could be better -- and even if not, we have to keep them from getting worse.
That's why we need to take a second look at President Bush's spending proposal that would cut funding requests to clean and maintain the lakes.
It's not all about environmental issues, either.
Although we're generally more conscious of the need to protect the environment than we used to be, it's because we've come to appreciate the economic benefits of protecting it.
Whether you believe the sport fishing industry or the commercial fishing industry is more important to the regional economy -- or they're both important -- you have to acknowledge neither industry gets very far in a dirty lake.
Nor will someone pay top dollar to live next to a dirty lake.
And don't forget the drier regions of the nation that want Great Lakes water to drink.
Then there's the lakes' value as a commercial highway. Although trains have taken a bite out of that pie, much of the commodities on which the nation's industry depends -- coal, grain, iron ore, stone -- move on the giant freighters that lose hundreds, sometimes thousands, of tons of carrying capacity when the water level drops, or a channel is not dredged deep enough.
Considering the Congressional budget recommendation late in 2007 to build a new lock at Sault Ste.Marie, Mich., to handle larger ships, someone thinks that's important.
The budget request for dredging the Great Lakes to clear the way for shipping would be cut by 35 percent -- from this year's $140 million allocation to next year's $89.3 million request.
Already, we've seen cuts in the funding for the dredging of Huron's harbor, where freighters unload stone and iron ore and, until recently, grain. In Sandusky, freighters' ability to carry away West Virginia and Kentucky coal affects power plants and auto factories in Michigan and Ontario.
This isn't about pork. It's about a prime economic driver for an entire region, one whose economic health affects the economy across the nation and the world. In that regard, it shouldn't be too hard to see the importance of taking care of them, and developing them properly.