Leaders agree to work together on Great
Lakes cleanup; some want more funds
Published December 3rd, 2004
CHICAGO (AP) -- Dozens of government and tribal leaders
promised Friday to join forces in protecting and preserving
the Great Lakes from pollution, invasive species and other
environmental dangers, but some participants say more
money and a clear action plan still are needed.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said there have been
eight studies done recently on how to cleanup and protect
the Great Lakes.
"We must be sure that this initiative is not simply
No. 9. It's time for action," she said.
The gathering, where participants signed a declaration
of support for cleaning up the Great Lakes, was prompted
by an executive order issued in May by President Bush.
He named a 10-member Cabinet-level task force, chaired
by Environmental Protection Agency chief Michael Leavitt,
to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts among states,
federal agencies and Canada.
The General Accounting Office found last year that 33
federal and 17 state programs have spent more than $1.7
billion on the environmental restoration of the Great
Lakes. However, the efforts were uncoordinated and the
results were difficult to measure, the GAO said.
"For the first time, we'll demonstrate to the Congress
and the nation that the Great Lakes community speaks with
one voice. For the first time, we will make the restoration
of the Great Lakes a national priority," said Ohio
Gov. Bob Taft, co-chairman of the Council of Great Lakes
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was pleased that, after
significant lobbying by the Great Lakes governors, Congress
last month provided $2 million for the completion of Asian
carp barriers in the Chicago River.
However, she expressed concern about recent federal funding
decisions, including a cut in the federal Clean Water
State Revolving Loan (SRF) funding that will cost states
in the Great Lakes region as much as $88 million to stop
"Restoring our Great Lakes will require an intense
level of commitment from everyone with a stake in the
basins future," said Granholm, who attended the conference.
"We welcome the prospect of a stronger partnership
with the federal government and hope it will include better
federal coordination and more federal money. Americas
Great Lakes deserve at least as much help from Washington
as the Everglades and the Chesapeake Bay."
Leavitt said protecting and improving the Great Lakes
ecosystem is challenging, and collaboration among states
and local leaders is "messy."
"But there's absolutely no substitute," he
U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., said he supports working
together if it is backed with a funding commitment from
Congress. He also stressed that action needs to be taken
soon to reduce environmental threats to the Great Lakes.
"The question will be whether this year will be
remembered as the year in which we speed up the cleanup,
and that should be our goal" he said.
Leavitt said the issue is not just about getting more
money, but also involves using existing resources better.
"There is no question that this will require resources.
This is not simply, however, coming up with a list and
a price tag. This is about learning to do with what we
have, whatever it is, and to use it in the best possible
way," he said.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, co-chairman of the Council
of Great Lakes Governors, said the Great Lakes and states
surrounding them face several challenges. Contaminated
sediment leach pollutants, beach access is restricted
when water quality is poor and exotic and invasive species,
such as Asian carp, threaten the Great Lakes' health.
"These are not one state's issues or one agency's
issues. These are regional and national issues of great
significance. This is not something government can do
alone," Doyle said.
"Today we start on a new path to establish our legacy
of environmental stewardship," he said.