Editorial: Great Lakes' peril
Published February 21st, 2005
Tired of the constant warnings about eating the fish and
engaging in recreational activities on the Great Lakes?
Then let your congressmen know.
Nothing is likely to change unless Congress provides the
money needed to clean up the greatest bodies of fresh
water in the world.
The lakebeds are full of sludge that poses a danger for
waterlife and wildlife, and represents a direct threat
to tourists who come to get away from it all. Some of
the sediment has been cleaned up, but there is far more
to do, and it won't happen unless the project is better
The legacy we leave future generations will be irretrievably
damaged if this problem isn't more vigorously addressed
now. The $50 million for the Great Lakes Legacy Act in
the President's proposed budget isn't enough to make a
dent in the 10 million to 30 million cubic yards of sludge.
So far, less than 10 percent of the gunk - which accumulated
over many decades when businesses and communities on the
lakes treated them as open sewers and toxic dumps - has
been cleaned up.
The lakes will get worse unless clean-up efforts are
accelerated. Congress passed the act about two years ago;
it's designed to clean up the lakes' harbors, bays, and
However, based on past experience, congressional infighting
over the President's proposed budget could mean the legacy
act won't get $50 million. Last year, Congress only gave
half of the $45 million proposed, and the previous year,
it got a paltry $10 million of the $15 million proposed.
The apparent indifference in Congress isn't helping.
Thanks to the mess, the lakes' environment has become
gradually more unsuitable for fish spawning, mollusks,
acquatic plants, insect larvae, and other forms of life.
Doing nothing ignores the real message that the lakes
are in trouble.
Congress must consider a new approach. One other appalling
fact: Much of the funding for the legacy act is taken
from other environmental programs such as the Clean Water
We need a better way to fund the legacy act. The Great
Lakes are treasures, something we fail to realize at our