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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes Struggle with Growth, Pollution
By Jerry Gasser
www.wgrz.com
Published February 6, 2006

The Great Lakes, America's freshwater coast, continue to struggle with the legacy of pollution, invasive species and other ills inflicted by more than a century of population growth, industrialization, shipping, waste and storm water runoff.

Eight Great Lakes states' governors, and officials representing the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec, signed a pact supporting a plan to clean up the lakes and address other problems such as water conservation and land use.

Water levels in lakes Huron, Michigan and Erie are a constant concern. After rising to record levels in the late 1980s, water levels sharply decreased to below historic mean levels. Low lake levels can negatively affect commercial navigation, recreational boating, marinas, beaches, fishing, visitors and residents.

Urban industrial centers dominate the Great Lakes shores, but its coasts are less threatened than burgeoning regions in the Southeast. In fact, the region is so vast that less than 10 percent of the 295,000-square-mile land mass has been developed.

In Michigan's Lower Peninsula, the Huron-Manistee National Forests and the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore protect wide swaths of land. But Traverse City has been struggling with new demands for housing, shopping, roads and other services after the population grew 52 percent.

The Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council helped galvanize an agreement between government, business and environmental groups to work together toward a plan to cope with the region's growth.

"We run the risk of becoming like the Outer Banks if we're not careful and if we don't take advantage of these opportunities," said Emily Green, head of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes program.

Elsewhere, there are efforts to restore the waterfront of the Great Lakes. In Chicago, a 600-acre parcel is being redeveloped for residential and commercial uses.

"We have a unique opportunity to undo some of the mistakes we've made in the past and turn our face to the water as opposed to our backs," said Dave Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of mayors and officials working to clean up the Great Lakes.

 

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