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Great Lakes Article:

Congress must protect Great Lakes
Published June 15, 2004

Members of Congress at a congressional forum recently began pushing for real action to head off growing problems with the Great Lakes.

To them, we say, "Amen."

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill, and Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have introduced a bill that would authorize $4 billion a year for Great Lakes restoration projects.

Kirk said Lake Michigan faces a growing threat from mercury pollution, invasive species and polluted harbors. He called for stricter enforcement of the Clean Air Act to lessen pollution from coal-fired power plants and dismissed the notion that sound environmental policy was bad for the economy.

What hurts Lake Michigan, eventually threatens Lake Erie.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who started the Great Lakes Cities Initiative to foster cooperation among cities along the lakes, told the panel the federal government needs to coordinate its policy for the lakes instead of spreading it among multiple agencies.

President Bush last month named a 10-member Cabinet-level task force to coordinate Great Lakes cleanup efforts among states, federal agencies and Canada.

The General Accounting Office last year found that 33 federal and 17 state programs spent more than $1.7 billion on environmental restoration of the Great Lakes, but the efforts were uncoordinated and the results difficult to measure. A report by the new task force on clean-up coordination is due next spring.

While Daley and the members of the panel praised Bush for paying attention to the lakes, they said he has cut funding for programs to help with water and sewer projects and that another study and report is unnecessary.

Ohio's lawmakers have been active and outspoken in pushing for action on the Great Lakes.

They should jump on the bandwagon to build pressure on the federal bureaucracy not to allow lake problems to grow again.

Lake Erie has come a long way in the past three or four decades thanks to tougher pollution standards and greater awareness on the part of the general public, local political subdivisions and industry.

We cannot allow the progress of recent years to be ruined by inaction as new threats develop.

From a growing number of invasive species to new pollution threats, the lakes are at risk.

Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes are an incredible national treasure, and they play a huge role in the quality of life for the millions of people who live in the region.

Reps. Paul Gillmor, R-Old Fort; Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo; and others who serve the Lake Erie area must continue to focus on the lake's value and the responsibility of the federal government to help protect it and its sister Great Lakes.


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