$20 billion cleanup plan needs citizen
By Reg Gilbert
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,
$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
$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.