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Great Lakes Article:

$20 billion cleanup plan needs citizen support
By Reg Gilbert
Buffalo News
Published August 29, 2005

Everybody seems to agree - Lake Erie is one of the best things about living in Western New York. From inexpensive drinking water to swimming, fishing and boating, the lake provides the region with resources and a quality of life not available to many other regions.
Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes are a gift from nature, but they require some care if they're going to provide for our children as they have for us. After a limited recovery in the 1980s and 1990s, Lake Erie is beginning to see hard times again, from a no-oxygen "dead zone" that covers almost a third of the lake each summer, to regular, unexplained outbreaks of disease that now kill thousands of near-shore fish and birds every year.

It's time we bumped up efforts to restore our Great Lakes. Earlier this summer a federal, state, city and tribal task force released a draft plan for fixing the lakes' chronic problems, from beach closings and toxic contamination to invading species such as zebra mussels and Asian carp. The plan is available at www.glrc.us.

The unprecedented $20 billion plan, modeled on the $8 billion cleanup of the Florida Everglades, will be the subject of a public hearing Tuesday evening in Buffalo, one of only six such hearings around the lakes.

Western New Yorkers have a big stake in pressing Congress, the White House and the Great Lakes states to fund this plan. It has some problems, but it's also a great start, proposing:

$13.7 billion to fix city sewage systems to halt raw sewage from spilling into the Great Lakes.

Passage of the National Aquatic Invasive Species Act, a comprehensive federal law to shut the door on new invasive species and reduce the havoc invasives cause Great Lakes fisheries and the role they may play in Lake Erie's recent fish and bird kills.

$2 billion to clean up the most toxic areas of the Great Lakes by 2020, including sites in Western New York at the Buffalo River, the Niagara River and Eighteen Mile Creek.

$1 billion to restore half a million acres of vital wetlands that are a main refuge for wildlife - and a main source of our hunting, fishing and birding opportunities.

Cleaning up the lakes is an investment in the region's economy, our way of life and the futures of our children and grandchildren. Reps. Brian Higgins, Louise Slaughter and Tom Reynolds have all recently co-sponsored Great Lakes cleanup legislation. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Charles Schumer co-sponsored earlier cleanup bills and hopefully will do so again.

The rest of us can do our part by attending Tuesday's hearing, which will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Center for Tomorrow, just off the Maple Road entrance on UB's North Campus, and by letting our leaders know how important it is that they act now to restore Lake Erie and the rest of the Great Lakes.


Reg Gilbert is senior coordinator of Great Lakes United, a coalition of 170 U.S., Canadian and tribal groups dedicated to protecting the lakes.



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