Editorial: Designating new Great Lake makes no sense

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 15, 2002

A move to make Lake St. Clair the sixth Great Lake will seem like a silly idea to most Americans. After all, had you heard of Lake St. Clair before reading the previous sentence?

Michigan officials are lobbying to make the diminutive lake the sixth Great Lake, despite the fact that there’s not much great about it. The lake lies south of Lake Huron and north of Lake Erie on the Michigan-Ontario border, next to Detroit. It’s technically part of the Great Lakes chain.

Backers think Great Lakes status could bring more federal funding to the polluted lake and help the shipping industry. Opponents think the move is unnecessary and that the number of Great Lakes should remain at the traditional five.

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The mystique of the Great Lakes has everything to do with size. The lakes are so large that elementary school students learn to spot them on a world map; not many lakes are that big. Lake St. Clair is only 162 square miles; you could fit more than 45 Lake St. Clairs into the smallest traditional Great Lake, Lake Ontario. The largest, Lake Superior, is 31,700 square miles &045; almost 200 times as large as St. Clair.

Designating this lake as one of the Greats is akin to making Hawaii the eighth continent or calling the Mediterrean Sea the sixth ocean. Maybe next, Lake Mille Lacs, or Lake of the Woods, or even Albert Lea Lake could be the seventh Great Lake? Of course not. There’s no need to mess with traditional geography, especially for a purely financial-driven reason like federal funding.

St. Clair certainly has an impact, especally on Detroit, but to give it nationwide recognition as a Great Lake doesn’t make any sense.

Tribune editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s management and editorial staff.