Sen. Rick Jones named ‘Great Lakes Champion’

Sen. Rick Jones

Sen. Rick Jones

LANSING, Mich. Sen. Rick Jones was named 2015-16 Great Lakes Champion by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters on Thursday.

Jones was specifically recognized for his leadership in the effort to ban commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes and Michigan inland waterways and to shut down a 64-year-old oil pipeline beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

“In Michigan, it is my constitutional duty as a senator to protect our greatest natural resource —the Great Lakes,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “While it is an honor to be named a Great Lakes Champion for defending our lakes and waterways, the real reward is knowing that I am doing all I can to ensure Michigan has clean water for drinking, fishing and outdoor recreation for generations to come.”

When it became clear in 2015 that some companies were interested in opening up factory fish farms in the Great Lakes, Jones introduced Senate Bill 526 to ban net pen fish farming in the Great Lakes and connected waterways in Michigan. Net pens are cages that house farmed fish in lakes and streams.

“Allowing commercial fish farms in the Great Lakes is too much of a risk for virtually no reward,” Jones said. “They are proven sources of pollution, invasive species, disease and fugitive fish that could wreak havoc on Great Lakes fisheries. Fish farms can release massive amounts of waste into the water that could threaten our fishing and outdoor recreation industries as well as the drinkability of our water.”

Jones sponsored Senate Bill 880 in 2016 with the aim to stop future oil pipelines from running through the Great Lakes and shut down Enbridge’s Line 5, a 64-year-old pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. It would have required operators of current oil pipelines to undergo a full risk analysis by a qualified independent third party. If the analysis concluded that risks were high, the pipeline would be shut down immediately.

“The bill was about securing the safety of our waters,” Jones said. “Roughly 40 million people rely on drinking water from the Great Lakes. I do not believe that it is a question of if the line will fail, but when. Providing Canada with a shortcut for its oil is not worth the risk of an oil leak that would devastate the health of the world’s largest collection of fresh water.”