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Great Lakes Article:

Congressmen call for $4 billion fund to protect Great Lakes
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Great Lakes, source of drinking water for 28 million people, need the protection of a $4 billion federal trust fund to keep the water clean and keep out invasive species, two congressman said Wednesday.

Reps. Thomas Reynolds, R-N.Y., and Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., are pushing new legislation designed to create a multibillion-dollar restoration fund, modeled on a similar program launched in 2000 to protect the Florida Everglades.

Reynolds said past localized efforts to keep the lakes clean have been moderately successful, but the scope of the waters -- some 94,000 square miles, including lakes Superior, Huron, Michigan Erie, and Ontario -- require federal action.

"It's certainly an environmental message, but it's more than that, it's 20 percent of the fresh water in the world," said Reynolds. "The Great Lakes need more than help, they need funding."

Reynolds said he and Emanuel would introduce a bill designed to provide block grants to fund everything from research programs and data gathering to preventing urban and agricultural runoff from entering the water supply.

The measure would also fund programs to keep out invasive foreign species and to protect and restore wetlands.

Emanuel, a former adviser in the Clinton administration, has been pressing for a federal trust for the lakes since he entered Congress earlier this year.

David Higby, a project director for the group Environmental Advocates of New York, said a federal fund is "long overdue, and should protect the Great Lakes watershed for generations to come."

Pollutants like mercury and PCB's are still a serious concern, especially for New York, because much of the pollution filters down through the St. Lawrence River, Higby said.

"What the congressmen are talking about would supply the kind of scientific information that is required to truly make informed decisions about water management in the Great Lakes," Higby said.

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