For more than 50 years, the University of Wisconsin-Superior has been a leader in advanced research on freshwater bodies like Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes. From endangered-species monitoring to beach and wetland management to aquatic toxicity testing, our faculty, staff, and students have been national leaders in studying and helping conserve these vital waters to benefit the people, industries, and resources of Wisconsin and the Upper Midwest.
That’s why this year we purchased the only land-based ballast-water testing facility in the Great Lakes region, and one of only two such facilities in the United States. We did so in an effort to further study ways to prevent the spread of invasive species through ballast water.
The facility will allow UW-Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute, founded in 1967, to deploy ballast-water treatment strategies that demonstrate success in a laboratory environment on a larger scale using Great Lakes harbor water. It will provide tremendous new research opportunities for students while creating economic-development opportunities for the region.
To continue this great work, we urge Congress and President Donald J. Trump to, at minimum, fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
We are grateful for the bipartisan support from our congressional delegation, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who recently toured the facility. And we are pleased President Trump has reversed course and declared his support for $300 million in funding.
We’re further excited the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure voted in September to increase funding over five years for the initiative from $300 million to $475 million annually. This is great news for Superior, northern Wisconsin, and Lake Superior.
Broadly, the goal of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, created in 2010, is to speed up efforts to protect and restore the largest freshwater bodies in the world, the Great Lakes.
At UW-Superior, initiative funding supports the Great Waters Research Collaborative, a partnership between the initiative and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration. The collaborative carries out research, development, testing, and the evaluation of technologies and methods to control the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species via commercial-vessel ballast water within the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding has supported 31 staff and 90 undergraduate student employees and provided a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities for students. The work of these students and employees through the collaborative has resulted in testing 70 ballast water-management technologies, the detection of five non-native species, and significant influence in creating policies that protect the Great Lakes.
We’re incredibly proud of the work of the Lake Superior Research Institute, and we’re pleased the UW System Board of Regents bestowed the prestigious Academic Staff Excellence Award to the institute last year. With the purchase of the ballast water treatment system testing facility, the institute is poised to further its influential research, education, and services.
The Lake Superior Research Institute is another example of the “Wisconsin Idea” in action — and more proof that when it comes to higher education, it’s #AllInWisconsin.
Ray Cross is president of the University of Wisconsin System. Renée Wachter is chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Superior. They wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.