Taft oversees session on Great
By Tom Henry
PARMA, Ohio - Gov. Bob Taft had a roomful of Ohio researchers
and policy-makers playing reporter for four hours yesterday
at Cuyahoga Community College, taking notes from the public
about Lake Erieís top ecological issues.
There were no speeches or grandstanding. People shook
hands and chatted about anything from Asian carp to erosion
as if they were visiting environmentally themed information
booths at a county fair.
The event had a loosely knit format but a deliberate
and underlying purpose, akin to a marketing survey.
Officials said it was another small step in the long
process of trying to convince Congress to give the Great
Lakes the nationís largest chunk of money for an ecosystem
restoration project since a Florida delegation secured
$8 billion for the Everglades in 2000.
Two bills are pending in Congress - one calling for $4
billion in the House and one calling for $6 billion in
the Senate. Sen. Mike DeWine (R., Ohio) and Sen. Carl
Levin (D., Mich.) are the principal architects of the
Great Lakes officials have vowed to work as a bipartisan
political bloc to help this region obtain a multibillion-dollar
package, much as other members of Congress have been trying
to do for Chesapeake Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and other
ecosystems in the wake of Floridaís coup for the Everglades.
Yesterdayís event was Ohioís chance to weigh in on nine
restoration priorities outlined by the Great Lakes Commission,
an agency in Ann Arbor funded by the eight Great Lakes
states to help unify regional policy and lobbying efforts.
"Restoration is not a new concept in the Great Lakes,
but itís been piecemeal and sporadic," Dr. Michael
J. Donahue, the commissionís president and chief executive
officer, said. "Marketing is what itís all about."
Patricia Madigan, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
public information director, said the commission will
use comments from each state to help bolster recommendations
to Congress from the Chicago-based Council of Great Lakes
Governors, which Mr. Taft chairs.
Michigan had its meeting in September. Pennsylvania will
have its today in Erie. Other states are to have them
Dr. Donahue said comments solicited at the forums should
"validate how insightful governors were with their
Those priorities include efforts to curb diversions and
bulk withdrawals of Great Lakes water, protecting human
health, curbing runoff, reducing the use of persistent
toxic chemicals, cutting off pathways for invasive species,
protecting fish and wildlife habitat, cleaning up pollution
hot spots, enhancing communication, and developing wiser
uses of land.
Getting the publicís help in refining priorities could
help show Congress where people want most of the money
to be spent, Dr. Donahue said.
Everglades envy again will be a major theme when more
than 100 officials from the region meet in Washington
next Wednesday for the Great Lakes Commissionís 35th annual
Great Lakes Congressional Breakfast and Issues Briefing,
Dr. Donahue said.
Several Ohio and Michigan officials are to speak, including
Sam Speck, director of the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources, who chairs the commissionís governing board.
"Itís really time this resource gets the national
and international respect it deserves," said David
Ullrich, a former U.S. EPA Midwest regional administrator
who began work in July as the first director of the new
Great Lakes Cities Initiative.
Toledo Mayor Jack Ford helped form that group as a vehicle
for unifying the regionís city officials on Great Lakes
issues. Its goal is help city officials network, much
as Mr. Taftís council aims to help unify Great Lakes governors.
During a Nov. 14 speech at the University of Toledo,
Mr. Taft urged President Bush to support the $6 billion
"He told us in getting ready for that speech that
he wanted it to be his major policy speech," Ms.
Madigan said yesterday.
Mr. Bush has not responded specifically to that request.
But U.S. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt announced Jan.
29 that Mr. Bush has recommended the region get $45 million
of the maximum $50 million allowed under the Great Lakes
Legacy Act for the 2005 fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.
The Great Lakes Legacy Act is a separate five-year bill
that Congress passed two years ago for sediment projects.
The region received $10 million of the maximum $50 million
that would have been allowed during the first year of