First Vessel to Dock in Newly Opened Erie Canal Slip Sets Sail to Spread Healthy Lakes Message
BUFFALO, NY – Today, June 9, 2008, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) led the official bon voyage send-off of the Earth Voyager, one of the fastest sailing vessels on the Great Lakes. The Voyager, on a Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives tour, made its first stop in Buffalo, New York at the newly developed site along the historic Erie Canal.
“Containing over twenty percent of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes are an enormous natural asset to this nation,” said Congressman Higgins. “Nearly two centuries ago the Lakes shaped this nation by providing for the early movement of settlers and commerce in America. Now we are at a critical point in history where we must take action today to protect and preserve the Great Lakes as a means to shape this nation’s environmental and economic future. “
The Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives tour, organized by the Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, is designed to raise awareness and call for action on the problems facing our lakes. Healing Our Waters is lead by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association and includes over 100 fishing, boating hunting, birding, conservation and environmental organizations.
The Western New York Division of Citizens Campaign for the Environment helped lead coordination of events during the Earth Voyager’s 5 day stop in Buffalo, NY. Activities included a community forum hosted by the office of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, a Health Lakes, Health Lives Expo, a paddle tour, and a nature and lighthouse tour. In addition to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, local event sponsors include the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, HSBC Bank, and Great Lakes United.
“Congressman Higgins is a Great Lakes champion propelling efforts in Congress to protect and restore the Great Lakes—the backbone to our economy and quality of life in Western New York,” said Brian Smith, WNY Program Director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives tour is a call to all of our leaders in Washington to fund Great Lakes restoration now, before the problems get worse, and the solutions more expensive.”
Congressman Higgins has been a leading advocate for protection and restoration of the lakes. He is a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force and led a local Great Lakes roundtable discussion in Buffalo last November. Last year the Congressman introduced H.R. 3331, a bill to prohibit as a banned hazardous substance, certain household dishwashing detergent containing phosphorus. When discharged into waterways phosphorus causes excessive growth of weeds and algae which rob the water of oxygen that fish need to survive, limit recreational use of waterways and create foul odors. He is also a cosponsor of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, the Beach Protection Act, the Clean Water Restoration Act and the Water Quality Investment Act.
Recently the Brookings Institution found that Buffalo would see economic gains between $600 million to $1.1 billion if the Great Lakes are restored.
As a main water route to the mid-West the Great Lakes shaped the demographics of our nation. When the Erie Canal first opened in 1825 it connected the East to the Great Lakes and brought a surge in population and commerce which lead Buffalo to incorporate as a city in 1832. Buffalo’s strategic position on the Great Lakes contributed significantly to its early rise to prominence; at the turn of the last century Buffalo was America’s largest inland port and the leader in the transshipment of grain and several other commodities.
In addition to his waterside efforts, Congressman Higgins has been an active advocate for waterfront development, securing over $300 million in the last three years for projects that provide new public access to the water’s edge.
The Earth Voyager send-off included a flotilla of vessels from Western New York including the Edward M. Cotter Fireboat and a United States Coast Guard craft.
The Earth Voyager departs Buffalo, NY for stops in Erie, PA, Toledo, OH, Detroit MI, Port Huron MI, Sarnia, Ontario, Chicago, IL, Traverse City, MI, Grand Haven, MI, Milwaukee, WI, Bay City MI, Cleveland, OH and Rochester, NY.