Impressed by stretches of inviting aqua waters, businesses and houses along the shore and scores of boats sailing the lake, state representatives are eager to push Lake St. Clair as a Pure Michigan attraction.
At the invitation of State Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, House Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas of Midland took an hour-long boat tour Thursday afternoon of the lake, heading into the mouth of the Clinton River.
Stamas and Forlini also were joined by representatives from the popular Belle Maer Harbor marina, Lake St. Clair Tourism Initiative, Clinton-River Watershed and Patch. House Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh of Livonia and Harrison Township Supervisor Kenneth Verkest also were on hand following the tour.
Promoting the lake as a statewide attraction
Forlini called the meeting–originally held for Lt. Gov. Brian Calley who had to cancel because of a family emergency–in order to champion the lake for economic and recreational growth.
"Lake St. Clair is a great tourism opportunity for us to develop," Forlini said. "I want to see us get a piece of those Pure Michigan dollars."
"We have the greatest fishing around the world," he said of bass fishing. "I don't think we on the east side recognize what a gem that we are on."
He said he hopes to have signs posted along I-94 and other highly traveled expressways to advertise the lake, increase jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing and boating, as well as welcome a hotel/resort on the lake.
Pollution calls for action, local and state leaders say
But Forlini acknowledges the lake is riddled with pollution stemming from the dumping of untreated or partially treated waste–mainly from local municipalities–into the Clinton River that spills into portions of the lake, creating murkiness and bacteria in the water.
"If a petrochemical plant did it, we would go and sue them," he said of the dumping. "But, instead, it's municipalities doing it."
"As long as we keep allowing those communities to dump that sewage, we're never going to get ahead," Belle Maer Harbor General Partner Eric Foster said.
Although there's 836 boat slips used at his marina and a loyal population of boaters who enjoy the lake, Foster said, pollution gives the local waterway a bad rep.
"The biggest complaint you get is the problem on the south side of the (Clinton) river with the ," he said.
The dumping of waste into the river, PCBs in St. Clair Shores, muck along the lake shore in various sections and E. coli causing beach closures are among the main problems plaguing the lake.
Forlini and others said they want legislation passed that fines municipalities that dump into the river. Currently, there is no penalty for that sort of dumping, he said.
Rallying for help
Calling the tour of the lake "awesome," Stamas said he was impressed that long stretches of water were a beautiful, bright blue.
"Had I had my swimming trunks on, I would have jumped in," he said.
Speaking of trying to draw tourism to Macomb County by promoting the lake, he said, "we're going to share it with other representatives and get Pure Michigan's attention."
"Unless you know where Lake St. Clair is, we don't even draw people to it," he said.
As for a desire to end pollution-causing dumping, Verkest said: "It's not a state issue, it's a local issue. But the state can help."