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Great Lakes Article:

Dewine pushes lakes bill
The News-Messenger (OH)
Published March 8th, 2005

Federal legislation has been introduced that would create a multi-year grant program that would aid state and municipal governments in projects important to the long-term future of the Great Lakes region.

U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, co-chairman of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has introduced the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

The five Great Lakes are a national resource that contain one-fifth of the worldwide freshwater and many globally rare species, some found only in the Great Lakes, DeWine said.

As co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, DeWine and Levin have worked on legislation and other initiatives to protect the lakes. In recent years, they have secured funding for water level gauges, the electric dispersal barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and sea lamprey control through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

In addition, they have worked to prevent water from the lakes from being diverted abroad and to address harmful algael blooms.

DeWine said, however, that more work needs to be done. Challenges facing the lakes include the approximately 600 beach closings due to E.coli bacteria in 2001 and the nearly 1,400 fish consumption advisories in the Great Lakes, along with the more than 60 aquatic invasive species now in the Great Lakes.

"We need to refocus and improve our efforts in order to reverse the trend of additional degradation of the Great Lakes," DeWine said. "They are a unique natural resource for Ohio and the entire region -- a resource that must be protected for future generations.

The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act creates a $6 billion Great Lakes Restoration Grant Program to augment existing federal and state efforts to clean, protect and restore the Great Lakes. Annually, $600 million would be appropriated through the EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office grants to states, municipalities, and other applicants in coordination with the Great Lake Environmental Restoration Advisory Board.

This board, led by the Great Lakes governors and made up of mayors, federal agencies, Native American tribes, environmentalists, industry representatives and Canadian observers, would provide recommendations on which grant applications to fund and prioritize restoration projects.

The act also permanently establishes the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force that was created by executive order last May. The task force will allow better coordination of federal programs in the Great Lakes.

Additional co-sponsors include Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Mark Dayton, D-Minn. and Herb Kohl, D-Wis.


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