U.S. urged to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup
By Greg Wright
Chicago Sun Times
WASHINGTON--The federal government and states are spending
millions cleaning up the Great Lakes, but the money could
be going down the drain because agencies need to better
coordinate efforts, according to a report released Wednesday
by a watchdog group.
The Great Lakes basin, which includes parts of Illinois,
Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin,
has 148 federal and 51 state programs that focus on restoring
Between 1992 and 2001, federal and state agencies spent
about $1.7 billion to stem pollution and battle erosion
in lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior,
said a report from the General Accounting Office, the
investigative arm of Congress.
''A comprehensive assessment of restoration progress
in the Great Lakes basin cannot be determined with the
piecemeal information currently available,'' the report
Federal, state and even joint U.S.-Canadian programs
and private groups need a unified strategy to clean up
the lakes, the report said. And the groups should create
some decision-making body to prioritize Great Lakes cleanup
and restoration projects, it said.
Little data exists on whether all the efforts are working.
The State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference, a meeting
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has every two
years, pared down the number of indicators to measure
the health of the Great Lakes to 80 in 2000 from 850 in
Data is available on only 33 indicators, the report said.
And the indicators sometimes measure statistics, such
as tons of contaminated sediment removed, and not whether
the actions make water cleaner or improve wildlife habitat.
U.S. EPA officials received a draft of the report in
April. The agency agrees that Great Lakes cleanup programs
could be coordinated better, said Thomas Skinner, EPA
Great Lakes national program manager.
Lawmakers plan to introduce legislation today that would
require the EPA to measure environmental recovery.