Sustainable Harbors & Marinas
In November 2006, the Lake Michigan Forum proposed an initiative centered on mercury in ports and marinas. After some preliminary investigation, the initiative was reframed with the broader scope of environmental management, providing greater long-term impact to the ports around the Lake Michigan Basin.
Ports facilities are highly concentrated industrial areas near water and contain a variety of facilities including container terminals, boat repair shops, and industries related to the transportation of goods. However, the role of ports and their potential for improvement of environmental quality is relatively unexplored. Ports have a unique position between land and water, government and industry, public and private, and economic and environmental issues, which could be a powerful catalyst in fostering more sustainable practices and improve environmental quality and economic growth around Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes.
Generally, individual ports are represented by quasi-governmental entities know as Port Authorities. The broad role of the Port Authority is as the advocate and spokesperson for the industry by educating elected officials and the public in general on the economic, social and environmental impact of port and marina facilities. Port Authorities also coordinate harbor activities, manage land-side facilities for ships and facilitate inter-modal transport corridors, and manage development activities. However, there are many Lake Michigan communities with small commercial harbors without the legal designation of a Port Authority. As a result, harbor and marina entities often do not speak with a unified voice or share a unified vision for the economic growth and sustainability of the local community.
As a result, the Lake Michigan Forum is encouraging a dialogue between harbor and marina representatives, Forum members and other Lake Michigan stakeholders. Initially, the Lake Michigan Forum would like to discuss how harbors and marinas could improve environmental quality in Lake Michigan. Issues to be explored could include:
- The role of harbors and marinas in mitigating the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species;
- Pollution prevention (source and non-point source) along the shoreline as well as toxics reduction;
- The use of Port Authorities or Port Districts to stimulate sustainable economic development.
To this end, the Lake Michigan Forum created the Sustainable Harbors and Marinas Initiative and tasked the Delta Institute, facilitator of the Forum, with benchmarking the environmental footprint of port and marina operations. Delta employed its ecosystem-based, environmental management systems (Eco-EMS) approach to document the emissions and discharges from marinas, facilities with commercial harbor operations, industrial facilities directly on Lake Michigan, and entities that directly service port operations, such as railroads.
The Lake Michigan Forum hopes that the environmental benchmarking of harbors and marinas will lead to the development of an implementation plan to address identified priorities. The implementation planning process will include the identification of stakeholders to participate in the project and give guidance to the realities of the area and the feasibility of implementation. The stakeholders would assist in creating a local consensus for harbor projects and act as a unified entity while implementing activities in their own operations.