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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes need money, not more lip service
The Bay City Times
Published Sunday, June 6, 2004

President George W. Bush is focusing federal attention on the Great Lakes.

The cabinet-level Great Lakes Interagency Task Force is charged with coming up with a plan by May 31, 2005, for cleaning and protecting the lakes.


Another plan.

After decades of study, years of reports and a century of concern, the Great Lakes are treated to yet another pile of paperwork.

While a group with the president's authority to coordinate restoration of the Great Lakes may be helpful, what's really needed is money.

A bill in Congress proposes as much as $6 billion over eight years to clean and stop pollution, guard against exotic pests and restore wetlands and watersheds.

The green of cash is where Washington can have the biggest impact on the Great Lakes now.

But with a federal budget squeezed with the demands of the war on terror and with rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, there doesn't appear to be much enthusiasm on Capitol Hill for new spending on the Great Lakes.

So we get Bush's plan to draft a plan to coordinate every plan that has come before.

A show of concern, but no show of money.

For sure, we welcome the new interest in the Great Lakes.

We're just disappointed that - yet again - it may not mean much for the inland seas for years to come.

There is very little disagreement about what the Great Lakes need.

First, there are the hoards of invasive species that are altering the ecology of the lakes.

Zebra mussels are here to stay. So are alewives, gobies, lampreys and other invaders. The horror of giant Asian carp is on the threshold of the Great Lakes in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal.

They must be stopped.

Toxic hot spots such as the Saginaw River and Bay may need further cleaning. This need is outlined in the International Joint Commission on the Great Lakes' Areas of Concern reports.

Discharges of untreated sewage must be stopped. Halting polluted farm runoff is the next big task for cleaning the waters.

We know what needs to be done.

That's why sportsmen's and environmental groups across Michigan and the Great Lakes basin are cool to the president's new task force.

Stop yakking about it and show us the money.

The Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay were restored only after billions in federal dollars were poured into them.

If Bush's task force gets the Great Lakes the money they need, then great.

But we can't get excited about another year of waiting.

The time for talk is over.

We want to work on our waters.



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