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Great Lakes Article:


U.S. urged to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup

By Greg Wright
Chicago Sun Times
05/21/03


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 the environment.

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 said.

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 1998.

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.

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