Community leaders join MEP in D.C. for Great Lakes Day

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From left: Steve Morse, Cristin Curwick, Monique Doward, Ben Penner, and Cyndi Falconer wait to meet with Senator Amy Klobuchar

Cristin Curwick, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

The hurried clacking of heels against the marbled floors echoed through the halls of Senate and House office buildings, punctuating the fast-paced energy of our D.C. congressional visits. It was easy to get intimidated by the titles “Senator” and “Representative” engraved on plaques next to mahogany doors. However, we entered each of these visits with our shared priorities and fear melted as our voices carried the weight of our communities. 

It’s not every day that we have a chance to speak to our elected officials about the challenges facing our communities, but thanks to the Healing Our Waters Coalition every year on Great Lakes Day, we can do just that. Our Executive Director, Steve Morse and I were joined by Kettle River’s City Councilmember Monique Doward, City of Duluth’s Utility Programs Director Cyndi Falconer, and winter camelina farmer Ben Penner. Together, we were a force to be reckoned with: experts on our communities and the solutions to solve issues to protect our Great Lakes. We were able to meet with delegation members, or staff of, Senators Klobuchar and Smith and Representatives Finstad, Craig, Fischbach and Stauber. 

Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Kettle River City Councilmember Monique Doward

Although we came with requests for PFAS regulation and the reauthorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, we were also able to provide stories of the positive changes in our communities. Cyndi Falconer described the major strides the City of Duluth has made to replace lead drinking water service lines. Ben Penner discussed agricultural solutions to environmental water quality problems including using winter cover crops, such as winter camelina, that can protect and restore our water while providing low carbon fuel options. Monique Doward explained the struggles faced by small communities to provide safe water and treat wastewater. Our group not only laid out the needs of our community, but also reported on the great successes in healing our Great Lakes neighborhoods.

Our delegation was elated after finishing our rapid fire meetings, trying to squeeze in as much detail about our community needs as possible. We reflected on the experience, highlighting just how important these meetings mean to their community work. Cyndi explained how after the visits she felt we have the power and ability to make change happen, and it was really necessary for our elected officials to hear about what is happening on the ground while they make decisions in D.C. The focus and attention the staff gave us when listening to our concerns encouraged us, and showcased just how much our representatives listen to local voices. Feeling empowered, each of us went home with a sense of relief of being heard, a vigor to keep going, and meaningful new friendships.

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