Great Lakes cleanup plan introduced
By Ken Thomas
Published on the Cantonrep.com on April 7, 2006
WASHINGTON - A plan developing in Congress to clean up the Great Lakes would try to reduce the threat of invasive species, restore fish and wildlife and improve water quality — all at a price palatable to budget-conscious lawmakers.
Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, introduced legislation Wednesday that would allocate $10.5 billion over five years to the polluted Great Lakes and just over $13 billion to a nationwide fund for sewage cleanup and wastewater system improvements.
CRITICAL FOR FUTURE
Supporters of the $23.54 billion measure said it was necessary to restore an ecosystem critical to the Great Lakes region’s water supply, economic future and tourism industry.
“If Congress does not act to keep pace with the needs of the lakes, the current problems — such as invasive species and contaminated sediments — will continue to build, and we may start to undo some of the work that has been done,” Levin said.
Environmental groups said the proposal would put into law much of a Great Lakes restoration plan that was issued in December based on the input of members of Congress, governors, mayors and 1,500 activists.
The proposal was sought by President Bush, but many activists complained that he didn’t come through with needed funding.
They said the White House’s 2007 spending plan would cut the $2.4 billion allotted for the Great Lakes for 2006 by $221.8 million, or 9 percent.
Fourteen of 22 programs related to the lakes’ restoration would lose money.
In a hearing last month, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate’s environment committee, raised concerns about the potential cost and a lack of clear priorities.
But Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office, said lawmakers from Great Lakes states were firmly behind the plan and noted that it would lead to a multiyear, long-term program to restore the lakes.
“This is not just a cost — it’s an investment that we’re looking at here. And investments have returns,” Buchsbaum said.
The bill would try to:
-Reduce the threat of invasive species by putting ballast water treatment technology on ships by 2011 and specifically target Asian carp, an exotic fish species that can grow to 100 pounds.
-Reauthorize a program to restore fish and wildlife habitat through competitive grants.
-Provide funding to clean up contaminated sediment that pollute fish and place barriers to waterfront development.
“As I have said throughout this process, the problems in the Great Lakes are getting bigger and more expensive, and we cannot make real progress without new dollars,” DeWine said.
A similar measure, sponsored by Reps. Vernon Ehlers, R-Grand Rapids, and Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., was introduced in the House.