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Posts from — March 2012

The Compact’s Biggest Test to Date: Waukesha, WI

On Wednesday, Clint Bautz and I attended the 19th annual Belle R. & Joseph H. Braun Memorial Lecture at the John Marshall Law School. The lecture, titled The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Implementation of the Great Lakes Compact with keynote by Sara Rollet Gosman, Attorney for the National Wildlife Federation, drew a large room full of lawyers.

While the lecture promised to (and did) provide insight into the formation and implementation of an important environmental policy and earned participants Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits, it quickly became apparent that the lawyers in the room were drawn to the subject for personal reasons. Over coffee and pastries, folks shared with their neighbors stories about how they spent family vacations on the Upper Peninsula, and how they go fishing every weekend, and how their children build bird houses for native breeders. Each had a clear understanding of the important role that this healthy water resource plays in defining the region because of their personal connections to it.

When Congress passed the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact in 2008, the states and provinces surrounding the Lakes were granted the authority to cooperatively govern the use and management of this significant water resource. A legal framework of rules and protocols were set in place, but the details of implementation rested on the individual states to determine. In 2010, each state submitted their respective Water Conservation and Efficiency Program Reviews per the Compact’s provisions.

Today, the Compact faces its biggest test and all eyes are watching Waukesha, Wisconsin.

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March 30, 2012   Comments Off

The World is Watching

The world is watching how the states and provinces surrounding the North American Great Lakes manage their globally-significant resource. Our leadership in cooperative governance, conservation, and efficiency has the potential to serve as a model to regions around the world grappling with finite water sources.

Evidence of this can be seen in the latest issue of Urban Wisdom, a Chinese publication on planning and development, which included two relevant and timely articles (click on title to see the full article):

1. City Connected in Water Areas: Chance of Urban Transformation from a Regional Ecological Perspective, by Zhihang Luo, a designer in SOM’s City Design Practice, who proposes sustainable development strategies to revitalize the 2000-year-old Beijing Hangzhou Grand Canal as a vibrant ecological, economic, and cultural National River Corridor.

2. A Hundred-Year Prospect About the Great Lakes: SOM’s Initiative, an interview conducted by Zhang Yixuan of Philip Enquist, Partner in charge of SOM’s City Design Practice; Josh Hjartarson, The Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation; David Ullrich, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative; and Lynn McClure, National Parks Conservation Association.

The inclusion of these subjects in this well-respected Chinese planning publication emphasizes the urgent need for adopting a shared comprehensive vision for the Great Lakes and taking aggressive action to realize it.

March 29, 2012   Comments Off

Great Lakes Century Vision in Times Square

Let us share this vision, far and wide.

March 27, 2012   Comments Off

World Water Day

Today the world celebrates its most precious resource: water.

The United Nation’s 2012 World Water Day is focused on the fragile balance between water and food security. Many countries around the world are suffering from water shortages so extreme that they cannot produce enough food to support their basic needs.

Wealthy, water-strapped countries have begun to lease large swaths of arable land in more water-rich regions to ensure their own food security, as Saudi Arabia has done in northern Africa. The global strain on water and food will continue to fuel and inflame conflict in water-stressed regions from Mexico to Afghanistan.

For Chicagoans who have the pleasure of seeing the great expanse of Lake Michigan every day, it can appear that water scarcity and the resulting hunger and conflict are distant problems. However the global challenges facing society today know no borders – be it population growth, climate change or water scarcity.

An increasingly thirsty and hungry world is awakening to the reality that fresh water is our most valuable resource and that we must act now to preserve its quantity and quality forever.

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March 22, 2012   1 Comment

SOM City Designers Focus Thinking on World’s Urban Water Supply

Urgent “call to vision” for Great Lakes is building binational support on eve of World Water Day

March 21, 2012 (Chicago, IL, USA) –Dramatically redefining the contextual scale of urban planning, the City Design Practice of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is winning international support in its urgent call for a 100-year vision to protect environmentally and revitalize economically the entire U.S.-Canada Great Lakes region, the world’s largest source of surface fresh water.

The vast binational basin of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River – holding more than 20 percent of the earth’s increasingly precious surface fresh water and sustaining a population of 50 million – has become a passionate public service cause for SOM’s city design studio, and has inspired ecosystem-scale thinking across its global practice.

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March 21, 2012   2 Comments

Great Lakes Century Video

On the eve of World Water Day, SOM is pleased to launch the Great Lakes Century video, which debuted at the 7th Circuit Bar Association Foundations’ Great Lakes Symposium.  This powerful video, produced in collaboration with the award-winning design firm Thirst, captures the essence of our bold 100-year vision for the environmental and economic renewal of our region.

Please share the Great Lakes Century video with your friends and colleagues and inspire others to see the Great Lakes Century vision.

March 21, 2012   Comments Off

World Water Day 2012

On Thursday, March 22, the world will celebrate its most precious resource: Water.

For those of us who live in the Great Lakes region, this day represents an important reminder of how fortunate we are. Not only do we live near the largest body of surface freshwater on earth, but we also live on some of the most fertile farmland in the world.

This year’s theme for World Water Day is about the fragile relationship between water and food security. As we wrote about in a recent blog entry, water scarcity is posing a significant threat to many countries’ ability to feed themselves. The Great Lakes and St. Lawerence River basin has an incredible opportunity to rise as a world leader in water and land stewardship and to demonstrate that multinational cooperation can ensure a healthy, sustainable future for the region.

Check out World Water Day’s All You Eat video about how much water goes into your food. And think twice before choosing the burger over a salad this Thursday!

 World Water Day 2012 – All You Eat Needs Water Video

Happy World Water Day!

March 19, 2012   Comments Off

Our Shared Vision for the Great Lakes: Where are we now?

Written by Michael Varhalla and Tyler Baumann, Mississippi State University

For some time, advocates, planners, and policymakers have been calling for a movement to restore and preserve the Great Lakes for future generations. The Lakes are an important resource on a global scale, and numerous efforts around the region have been underway; working to answer unknowns, restoring the health of our ecosystem, and marching toward progress in achieving our shared vision…

…but where are we now?

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March 16, 2012   Comments Off