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Great Lakes Article:

Proposed federal budget includes Great Lakes funds
By Kenneth Patchen
Wilmette Life

The proposed $2.4 trillion federal budget contains $45 million to clean a few of the 31 polluted areas on the Great Lakes -- including, possibly, Waukegan Harbor.

This proposed $35 million funding increase for the 2005 federal budget would be sufficient to clean up four to six areas on the Great Lakes now polluted with PCBs, heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency statement about the funding.

If Waukegan Harbor is selected to receive funds for its hazardous cleanup, the positive impact on property values is estimated to be about $53,000 per home in Waukegan and $800 million total in Lake County, said U.S. Rep. Mark S. Kirk, R-10th, of Highland Park, .

"That makes this project second only to O'Hare Airport in ability to generate new Illinois jobs," said Kirk, who supports efforts to restore the Great Lakes.

Kirk said a clean water harbor with recreation and redevelopment value would increase the value of nearby property.

State Sen. Susan Garrett, D-29th, said it is important to inform Washington legislative leaders about the continuing need to support many restoration efforts on the lakes related to beaches, bluffs, pollution and the water itself.

Kirk will sponsor hearings in May or June for increased funding for block grants to states through the Great Lakes Restoration Fund to focus more than $500 billion over five years on problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The lakes are the world's largest freshwater system but suffered from more than 897 beach closing in 2002 and more than 1,500 advisories about eating fish caught in the lakes. About 20 percent of the shoreline on all the Great Lakes has polluted sediment. The lakes provide drinking water for 28 million people.

Kirk has high expectations for the impact of funding of a Waukegan Harbor cleanup.

"We can't make new lakefront harbors," he said.

On example of the economic impact of a clean harbor is in Kenosha, Wis., he said. The city bought 70 waterfront acres and precipitated a revitalization impact on the harbor area. If Waukegan Harbor were to be decontaminated, he said, the economic impact would exceed what occurred at the north end of Fort Sheridan where rehabbed historic homes have attracted high prices.

Since his first day in office, Kirk said, he has been working for more funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act. Last year, on a flight with President George W. Bush on Air Force One, he had an opportunity to discuss problems in the Great Lakes and thinks that helped secure this higher level of funding.

The proposed $45 million budget allocation is the result of a bipartisan effort to address problems in the Great Lakes region led by Kirk and 16 co-sponsors from Great Lakes states.

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