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Great Lakes Article:

Bush to propose $45 million for Great Lakes cleanup
By Dee-Ann Durbin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush will ask Congress for $45 million for Great Lakes cleanup in his 2005 budget, more than quadruple the amount in this year's budget, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The money would be used to start or accelerate cleanup of four to six rivers and harbors with severe contamination, EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said. Cleanup grants would be awarded through the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a measure that passed Congress in 2002 and authorizes up to $50 million per year for cleanup projects through 2008.

Leavitt made the announcement on Belle Isle in the Detroit River, one of 31 heavily polluted sites the EPA has designated as an "area of concern." Leavitt said the money is intended to help stop pollution before it reaches the lakes, where it's harder to clean up.

Michigan has 13 areas of concern, including the Clinton River, Muskegon Lake and Saginaw Bay. New York has six, Ohio and Wisconsin have four each, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania have one each and Minnesota and Wisconsin share the St. Louis River. Canada has identified an additional 12 areas of concern.

Great Lakes lawmakers applauded the announcement, but said it will be up to Congress to ensure that Bush's proposal becomes a reality. Last year, Bush proposed spending $15 million through the legacy act, but Congress approved only $10 million. Bush sends his 2005 budget to Congress next week.

"The federal budget ... will be tight, but we must not shirk our responsibility to clean up and improve the world we live in," said U.S. Rep. Vernon Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, who authored the Great Lakes Legacy Act.

Some environmentalists were critical, saying Bush is only pledging the cleanup money because it's an election year.

"Since taking office, the administration has been cutting funding for toxic waste cleanup and leaving sites all over the country to threaten public health," said Philip Clapp of the National Environmental Trust. "God help you if you're waiting for EPA to clean up a toxic waste site outside of a swing state."

Funding from the Great Lakes Legacy Act can be used for pollution monitoring and research as well as for cleanup projects. EPA spokeswoman Phillippa Cannon said sites are applying now for the $10 million included in the 2004 budget. This year will be the first year funding is distributed under the act, she said.

Bush also will request $3 million for Great Lakes habitat restoration and $1 million for research into Great Lakes invaders such as zebra mussels and Asian carp.

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