Officials gather for State of Lake St. Clair

By: Julie Snyder | C&G Newspapers | Published June 19, 2015

HARRISON TOWNSHIP — With the Pride of Michigan floating in the background, local officials and business leaders touted the impact that the lake continues to have on the local economy during the second annual State of Lake St. Clair address on June 10.

County Executive Mark Hackel said Macomb County’s Blue Water Economy initiative is the reason for numerous accomplishments since its inception in 2013.

“Lake St. Clair, in my opinion, is the ‘Pride of Michigan,’” Hackel said before a crowd outside MacRay Harbor and Marina in Harrison Township. “It’s the busiest freshwater lake during the summer months anywhere in the state and anywhere in the country.”

The Pride of Michigan is an 81-foot former U.S. Navy ship that now operates as a research and training vessel for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps with support from the Nobel Odyssey Foundation.

The State of Lake St. Clair address coincided with Michigan Boating and Fishing Week, and was the lead-in to a June 13 Celebrate the Lake event at MacRay. Events held that day included boating education displays, children’s activities and boat rides.

Hackel said there are 64 public and private marinas and hundreds of businesses that sell or service boats in Macomb County, all of which provide more than 5,700 jobs connected to the “blue water economy.” He said communities around Lake St. Clair, which provides Macomb County with 32 miles of coastline, see an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion.

Gerard Santoro, project manager of Land and Water Resources at Macomb County Planning and Economic Development, also spoke.

He said the 41 miles of the Clinton River, which runs through Macomb County to the lake, was once listed as an area of concern and was classified as one of the most polluted rivers in the state. He said the Clinton River Watershed Council has been working on efforts to protect and improve the river’s water conditions.

“We are making much progress,” he said.

Santoro said the Environmental Protection Agency has promised $20 million in federal funds to help support 11 projects designed to improve water quality, including retention basin expansions, sewer separations, storm sewer cleaning and rapid sampling, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that was recently launched by the federal government will focus on current efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

Steve Remias, president of MacRay Harbor and Marina and the Lake St. Clair tourism initiative, said occupancy at MacRay and other surrounding marinas is at a 10-year high, as is boating in general on the “Heart of the Great Lakes,” and boat sales are up 13 percent from last year.

Remias also spoke of the upcoming events to continue improving tourism, including the Clinton River Canoe Classic on June 27, AquaPalooza on July 25-26 and the ongoing Circle the Lake tours.

“Michigan’s Blue Economy is doing well,” he said. “Water levels are up and fuel prices have stabilized. And there are a lot of boaters coming in from Ohio and Canada. That’s a good thing for Macomb and the regional economy.”