By Cynthia Germain
John Rader, Town Chairman of Washington Island, is pleased to be a part of the Great Lakes Island Coalition which allows members to share common issues and solutions. The Coalition has seventeen members that represent year-round occupied islands in the Great Lakes, two of which are in Wisconsin, Washington Island and Madeline Island. This effort was spearheaded by the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes and organized by Central Michigan University and Northland College. Twelve of the islands were represented in the Coalition’s first meeting in September, and all members continue to have conversations about how it will be organized going forward. As member islands have very different demographics, with Manitoulin Island in Canada boasting 13,000 permanent residents and Washington Island having 700 residents, representation may differ. Rader notes that all members have many shared concerns.
According to Rader, Washington Island has benefited from Wisconsin’s allocations for building and maintaining roads, enjoying more paved roads than other, larger islands. Other issues are ongoing for all members such as how electricity is maintained with most having a cable from the closest mainland. Wastewater is a common problem with a variety of current fixes including an island central system, field spreading or trucking off the island to a nearby city with a sewage system. Rural broadband is also a priority concern as Washington Island wants to attract new people who can work from their home, needing high speed internet. The Great Lakes Coalition members continue to have conversations to share new solutions and are set to meet again later next year on Manitoulin Island.