Editorial: Great cleanup plan for Great
Published July 13, 2005
Our position is: The Great Lakes are a natural resource
worthy of a joint restoration and protection investment.
A $20 billion proposal to clean up the Great Lakes shows
the magnitude of saving these invaluable waterways. A
task force led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
calls for the coordinated effort to protect and restore
Removing toxic hot spots, controlling invasive species,
eliminating sewage from antiquated sewer systems flowing
into the lakes and restoration of wetlands and buffer
areas around their shores will make other massive environmental
efforts such as restoration of the Florida Everglades
or the Chesapeake Bay pale by comparison in cost and scope.
During hearings leading up to a final report in December,
however, Indiana officials and citizens should strongly
support the effort, even though state and local governments
will have to foot nearly half of the costs.
This may be the state's best hope of securing more federal
help for fixing antiquated sewer systems that discharge
raw sewage into Lake Michigan, as well as obtaining federal
cleanup funds for continued removal of toxic sediments
in the Grand Calumet River and the Indiana Harbor and
Ship Canal -- an effort that could cost nearly $400 million.
From a broader perspective, it is an undertaking that
may be necessary to salvage one of the nation's -- and
Indiana's -- greatest natural resources.
President Bush called for study because of concern that
there has been little coordination between federal and
state programs to clean up the lakes. This Great Lakes
Regional Collaboration draft report warns that although
much pollution in the lakes has been halted and some cleanup
efforts have been undertaken, far more needs to be done
to prevent further degradation of the lakes.
"We have thrived on the richness the lakes have
brought us," the task force said, "but have
not protected them adequately to ensure that future generations
will be able to enjoy them as we have."
Also, invasive species such as zebra mussels continue
arriving in the Great Lakes at the rate of one species
every eight months, threatening all life in the lakes.
None of 31 toxic hot spots identified more than 15 years
ago has been cleaned up, although efforts are under way
in many areas, including Indiana's Grand Calumet River.
Funding the recommendations in this report is essential
to protecting the lakes. As Dave Dempsey, Great Lakes
policy adviser for the environmental group Clean Water
Action, told reporters, "You could paper the walls
of a large mansion with the Great Lakes strategies that
have been introduced over the years and not fulfilled."
It's time to end the talk and clean up this precious