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Great Lakes lawmakers applaud Bush budget proposal, say more is needed
Associated Press

Great Lakes lawmakers applauded President Bush Wednesday for proposing an increase in spending for Great Lakes cleanup in his 2005 budget, but said the lakes still lack the money and attention that have gone to other environmentally sensitive areas.

Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., said Congress voted to participate in an $8 billion cleanup of the Everglades, a $7 billion cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay and a $2 billion cleanup of San Francisco Bay but has yet to commit to a Great Lakes cleanup.

"The Great Lakes need more than help. They need money," Reynolds told about 150 U.S. and Canadian officials gathered in Washington for an annual round of Great Lakes lobbying.

Reynolds and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., are sponsoring a House bill to create a $4 billion trust fund for Great Lakes restoration. In the Senate, Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, and Carl Levin, D-Mich., are sponsoring a bill to create a $6 billion trust fund. Neither bill has passed a committee since being introduced in July.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the bills are a priority for Great Lakes lawmakers this year. She also said she will try to include a permanent ban on Great Lakes oil and gas drilling in the 2005 budget. A two-year ban is set to expire in 2005.

DeWine said the lakes have suffered because the states surrounding them lacked a unified vision. But he said in the last two years, states have reached a new level of cooperation on cleanup, controlling invasive species and wetlands restoration.

DeWine said Bush recognized that cooperation in his 2005 budget proposal, which includes $45 million for cleaning rivers and harbors that flow into the Great Lakes. If lawmakers approve the proposal, it would quadruple the amount spent in this year's budget.

But lawmakers and other officials said there is far more to be done.

Samuel Speck, head of the Great Lakes Commission, said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs far more money to combat the Asian carp, an invasive species with a voracious appetite that is damaging the lakes' ecosystem. The Army Corps had $1.45 million in its budget to combat the fish this year, including $500,000 for an electric barrier to stop them from swimming into Lake Michigan.

"There won't be a second chance," Speck said.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell said restoration of the Great Lakes also is a critical part of the redevelopment of the region's cities.

"We believe we could be identified as the water belt rather than the Rust Belt," she said.

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