From the Helm . . .
Someone once said, “You don’t know what you had until you lost it.” It has been nearly twelve years since the mighty Chinook salmon all but disappeared from Lake Huron. Sitting on the pier head at the mouth of the AuSable River in Oscoda, with eyes closed I see the ghosts of a hundred boats trolling for August salmon. The north and south break walls are a beehive of activity with anglers casting for the returning salmon. The sounds of boat engines and cries of “Fish on! Fish on!” grip my soul. I open my eyes. The only cries are of a herring gull drifting on the winds across empty waters. There are no boats. There are no pier anglers. There are no salmon. All that remain are the sounds of sea birds and the crashing of waves against the pier heads.
Tragic though it is, the loss of Lake Huron’s salmon pales in comparison to the potential for far greater losses of catastrophic magnitude. Lying hundreds of feet below the surface in northern Lake Huron is a pipeline pumping millions of gallons of oil a day through pipes that have outlived their intended lifetime. Should they rupture, the Coast Guard has said, “It does not have the capacity or resources to handle the size of an oil spill that could result.” This pipeline needs to be shut down before disaster strikes.
Of even greater consequence could be a nuclear waste site our Canadian neighbors want to build within a mile from Lake Huron. Scientists studying the project say it’s a bad idea. The danger of radioactive leakage into the lake is of unthinkable magnitude for both marine and human life.
While not on the same disaster scale as the former two, the state’s desire to explore aquaculture in the Great Lakes is not without its consequences (Be sure and read Capt. Jim Fenner’s take on this on page nine). Such a practice would create tons of fish offal on the lake bottom not to mention the potential dangers already proven inherent in other such ventures. Pen-raised fish will escape by the thousands (already proven in other studies), running the risk of not only carrying disease to our native stocks but breeding with them and creating an inferior new strain of fish that, in time, could destroy a given native species altogether.
To ignore the risks involved with a decades old, deteriorating oil pipeline, and the consequences of a nuclear leakage and aquaculture project gone afoul is living with one’s head in the sand. Add the 187-plus invasive species already in the Great Lakes and one can only wonder when those once pristine waters will cease to support any form of marine or animal life—humans included.
As an organization and as individuals we must say “ NO MORE!” to those who would put our Great Lakes in peril. If they refuse to listen, vote them out of office and put those in who will do the will of the people. If we don’t, disaster will strike. It merely becomes a matter of when. I do miss the salmon, but losing the lake itself is unthinkable.
Capt. Terry R. Walsh, President