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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Great cleanup plan for Great Lakes
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 the lakes.

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 resource.

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