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Great Lakes Article:

Save the Lakes' is top priority of residents reviewing plan
John C. Kuehner
Plain Dealer

Audrey Wahl provided suggestions Tuesday on a developing multibillion-dollar plan to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

But in reality her message was: Save the Great Lakes.

"We can live without fossil-fuel energy," the Cleveland woman said. "But you can only live several days without clean water. We need to reprioritize what's important."

Wahl was one of several dozen people who provided feedback Tuesday at Cuyahoga Community College's Western Campus in Parma on a nine-point priority list developed by the eight Great Lakes governors.

The list sums up the problems facing the Great Lakes from cleaning up and controlling pollution to stopping non-native species to proposals to divert water out of the region.

The governors created the list at the urging of the Great Lakes congressional delegation. Two separate bills are pending in Congress that would earmark up to $6 billion for protecting and restoring the Great Lakes.

Anyone attending the session at CCC could write suggestions, and experts were at the ready to answer questions. It was the second of eight workshops planned across the Great Lakes states. A similar meeting will be held today in Erie, Pa.

By early summer, the Council of Great Lakes Governors will put the lists together and compare and contrast issues on a state-by-state basis, said Michael Donahue, the Great Lakes Commission president.

But Donahue expects what the congressional delegation will see is that issues that pose problems in Duluth, Minn., are the same as those in Toledo, Cleveland or in Rochester, N.Y.

None of the issues is new. But Donahue said the list will show the federal government there's a groundswell of support for restoration projects on a grand-scale basis, rather than for nickel-and- dime solutions done on a state- by-state basis.

Habitat issues and sustainable- use practices using the resource without depleting or impairing it drew the most comments Tuesday.

Many people urged greater public access to Lake Erie and more public ownership of its shoreline.

"It's like having the Grand Canyon in your back yard and not being able to go see it," said Kurt Krause, Mentor's director of Parks, Recreation and Public Lands.

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