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Published: Tuesday, 4/3/2001

Partners to save a river

Three cheers - well, two, anyway - for the meeting of minds between the mayors of Toledo and Fort Wayne concerning the need to work as partners to protect the Maumee River. Joint announcements of this initiative were made Thursday in Fort Wayne and Toledo, the source and mouth of the largest river that flows into the Great Lakes.

Support of these two cities is essential to any new initiative to safeguard the river and adopt a regional approach to watershed management. There will no doubt be hurdles stemming from the instinct to protect one's own turf or the feeling in some quarters that the notion of governments working together for the public good is somehow a dangerous precedent.

But we see the glass more than half full. Mayors Graham Richard of Fort Wayne and Carty Finkbeiner of Toledo agreed to work toward collaboration to protect the Maumee throughout its entire basin, which includes an area of Michigan as well as Indiana and Ohio. The two cities would seek to support each other's efforts toward water quality improvement and protection in urbanized areas. A regional “summit” of government officials will be held on April 19 in Toledo to kick off the partnership.

The Maumee River is an important recreational resource, and it offers some of the most scenic vistas in the region. It is historically important as well, a water highway for the Indian tribes who lived here and a vital transportation link for the pioneers in the early days of Ohio statehood. Numerous initiatives for basin-wide improvements in water quality have been announced over the years, some of them producing positive results. More often than not, though, the communities and residents along the Maumee have turned their backs on the river, allowing pollution from farm field and storm water runoff, and landfill leachate discharges to degrade water quality.

One can only applaud an effort to look at the Maumee River watershed as a single entity and cooperate to abate polluting discharges. The recent spurt of development along the river between Maumee and Waterville, including the building of a large mall close to the river, will intensify pressures on water quality as well.

It is to the credit of both mayors that they recognize the importance of cooperation by the two largest cities on the Maumee. A watershed management system for the entire river basin is long overdue. Water quality problems have reached the point where they cannot be corrected by a balkanized approach to correcting the river's palpable ills.

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