One of the most important and rarely used powers of Members of Congress is the power to convene. While we certainly don’t have all the answers, we often are able to bring the people in our communities who do have answers together to solve problems. That’s been the case with my Save the Bay initiative to protect Green Bay and the Great Lakes system.
As residents of northeast Wisconsin, we have been blessed with a truly remarkable resource in the Great Lakes — not only does Green Bay provide a great source of fishing and family fun in the summer, but the Great Lakes are also directly tied to 1.5 million jobs, including the local tourism that sustains many of our coastal communities. They give us drinking water for 40 million people every day and, very importantly, they also provide water for the farms that feed people around the world with milk, cheese, soybeans, cranberries and countless other crops. As a community and a nation, we benefit tremendously from the world’s largest fresh water system.
The runoff comes from industry, residential water use, farming and urban runoff, and the responsibility for reducing it is shared across a broad array of industries and stakeholders. Although our entire community was united in its concern, I saw a need for leadership and started the Save the Bay initiative to help focus efforts several years ago. Our first step was a summit meeting that included representatives from local industry, utilities, agriculture and concerned residents.
Since then, Save the Bay has drilled down into individual working groups of stakeholders from different regions, developed best practices and raised awareness of both the problems and the progress being made toward solutions.
We have partnered with local conservationists to work alongside farmers and industry, and I commend farmers especially for the work they have done in expanding buffer zones, using low-till procedures, installing cover crops, managing manure application, putting row crops perpendicular to a field’s slope and many other best practices. More and more farmers are participating and the results are becoming obvious to those who live along the shore or spend time in or on the water.
The goal of Save the Bay is simple: to bring those closest to the problem together to find solutions. I believe that community-based solutions will almost always be better than blanket policies from the federal government, and I have been incredibly impressed with the progress made by our Save the Bay working groups as the initiative gains traction.
We have a responsibility to protect the bay as a valuable resource for both ourselves and our children, and right now we are making great strides, but we still have a very long way to go in fixing the problem.
The bay of Green Bay and all of the Great Lakes are integral to our community, our economy and our ecosystem. For me and for many others who grew up fishing, swimming and boating in our lakes and rivers, they are an important part of who we are. I commend all those who have joined the effort and will continue to work with all stakeholders to fight these algae blooms and save the bay.
U.S. Rep. Reid Ribble has represented the 8th Congressional District in Wisconsin since 2011. Earlier this year, the Republican decided not to seek re-election.