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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Great Lakes' peril
Toledo Blade
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 funded.

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 tributaries.

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 Act anyway.

We need a better way to fund the legacy act. The Great Lakes are treasures, something we fail to realize at our peril.


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