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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes communities will have voice
By Tim Zorn
Post-Tribune, Gary Indiana

Only a few people belong to a new environmental group.

But what the Great Lakes Cities Initiative lacks in numbers, it makes up for in clout.

All its members are mayors, the leaders of U.S. and Canadian cities along the Great Lakes.

Organized by Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, the Great Lakes Cities Initiative wants to influence policies and programs affecting the Great Lakes.

Its members intend to have a say on issues such as safe beaches, lakefront development and sewage discharges.

"We feel itís really the mayors who are on the front lines of dealing with the problems (on the Great Lakes)," said David Ullrich, the Initiativeís executive director.

"We hope the sense of urgency that mayors can bring really will help."

Gary Mayor Scott King is on the groupís steering committee.

He hopes the organization will be useful as Gary seeks new uses for much of the industrial land along its Lake Michigan shoreline.

"A big part of our planning for the redevelopment of the city is a focus on the lakefront, and not just the traditional Miller neighborhood," King said. "Itís going to take partnerships," he added. "Not just in Northwest Indiana, but multi-state."

Legislation introduced in Congress last week would create a Great Lakes advisory board - comprised of selected Great Lakes mayors and governors, as well as federal agencies - to suggest priorities for improvement projects along the lakes.

The House bill would authorize $4 billion over five years for Great Lakes projects.

The Senate bill would set up a $6 billion, 10-year fund.

Ullrich, the Initiativeís executive director, was deputy regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyís Great Lakes region from 1992 until this year.

Two of the new groupís top concerns, he said, are the recurring swimming bans along the lakeshore and the threat of new species ó particularly, the voracious Asian carp entering Lake Michigan.

The Initiativeís office in Chicago will be staffed by the Northeast Midwest Institute, a research organization.

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