Federal government must take lead in restoring
Great Lakes, environmentalists say
By John Flesher
The Associated Press
Published May 27, 2004
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) Even with its soaring
budget deficit, the federal government should take the
lead in cleaning up and restoring the Great Lakes environment,
advocates said Thursday.
Wrapping up a three-day conference, more than 70 scientists
and leaders of environmental organizations called for
a stronger federal role in protecting the lakes.
"The Great Lakes are not being managed as the national
treasures they are," said Tom Kiernan, president
of the National Parks and Conservation Association. "The
federal government is letting this region down."
The conference in Grand Rapids was organized by philanthropist
and conservation activist Peter Wege. Among those attending
were leaders of groups such as the Natural Resources Defense
Council, the Wilderness Society and American Rivers.
While nursing the Great Lakes back to health will be
a long-term and complex process, the conference participants
said three areas needed immediate attention: water quality,
exotic species and toxic pollution.
They recommended $20 billion in federal funding, with
an additional $10 billion from the states, for water quality
projects such as rebuilding decaying wastewater systems
that discharge raw sewage into the lakes during storms
like those in southern Michigan this month.
Other proposals included curbing emissions of mercury,
greenhouse gases and other airborne toxins; restoring
wetlands; and rewarding pollution prevention efforts.
The government should hold accountable those responsible
for introducing invasive species, which compete with native
plant and animal life and alter the Great Lakes ecological
balance, the groups said in a joint statement.
They asked Congress to set a deadline of 2015 for cleaning
up the most heavily contaminated sites on the Great Lakes.
Those responsible for the pollution should be held financially
responsible, and at least $400 million in federal funds
should be appropriated yearly for cleanups, the statement
Members of Congress from the region have pushed for increased
Great Lakes funding as large sums have been devoted to
other major ecosystems such as the Everglades and Chesapeake
Pending bills would create a trust fund of up to $6 billion
for Great Lakes environmental restoration.
President Bush this year included $45 million in his
proposed 2005 budget for cleaning rivers and harbors that
flow into the lakes, four times as much as the previous
And he named a Cabinet-level task force this month to
coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts.
But conference participants said those steps weren't
"We think more needs to be done than forming special
advisory committees of bureaucrats," said Larry Schweiger,
president of the National Wildlife Federation.