Agencies Propose Great Lakes Cleanup
By John Flesher
Associated Press Writer
Published in the Frankfurt Times July 8, 2005
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. - A partnership of federal, state
and local officials proposed a long-term strategy Thursday
for restoring the health of the ailing Great Lakes, an
effort that would cost billions.
The plan makes dozens of recommendations in a bid to
solve some of the lakes' most pressing problems, such
as the invasion of exotic species, habitat degradation
and toxic pollution.
"The unique nature of these majestic lakes and their
role in the cultural, economic and environmental well-being
of our nation requires us to take bold action in their
defense," said Stephen L. Johnson, administrator
of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The partnership released the draft plan for a 60-day
public comment period, after which it will craft a final
version for release in December. Eight U.S. states and
two Canadian provinces border on the lakes, which contain
20 percent of the world's fresh surface water.
President Bush last year ordered the EPA to assemble
the partnership to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts.
The move followed a Government Accountability Office report
describing existing programs devoted to restoring the
lakes as disjointed and producing uncertain results.
Among the partnership's recommendations were restoring
wetlands, streamside buffers and other crucial habitat,
and upgrading municipal sewers to stop the overflow of
raw sewage into the lakes, which often prompts beach closings.
The partnership also advised enacting federal laws to
prevent invasive species from entering the lakes, and
reducing discharge of mercury, PCBs, dioxins, pesticides
and other toxins into the lakes.
A coalition of environmentalist groups praised the plan,
likening it to other federal initiatives that have taken
a comprehensive approach to ecosystem restoration in places
such as the Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay.
But group leaders said success would depend on whether
Congress and state legislatures provide necessary funding
and enact laws to carry out the proposals.
"If they do not, the Great Lakes as we know them
and love them will continue to slowly die," said
Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation
The environmental groups said the combined cost of big-ticket
items in the blueprint would be about $20 billion, including
$13.7 billion to modernize the sewer systems. Ben Grumbles,
the EPA's assistant administrator for the Office of Water,
declined to set an overall price tag, saying it would
depend on how the final draft shapes up.