Lakes lawmakers pushing for Hefty clean up funds
By Malia Rulon
WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers from the Great Lakes states have
begun an effort in Congress to secure more than $6 billion
over the next decade to restore and clean the basin.
Frustration over a lack of funding, monitoring and general
oversight of pollution problems have spurred lawmakers
into calling for a comprehensive cleanup plan.
A bill introduced Monday by Sens. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio,
and Carl Levin, D-Mich., would authorize grants to states
and local communities to do the cleanup work.
"It's time to move. We've had a lot of talk about
this recently and, frankly, I'm tired of the talk,"
DeWine said. "We need to get a bill in and start
moving on this."
DeWine admitted that the legislation is a "bold
bill with a serious price tag," but said the list
of needs is long. Among them, stopping invasive aquatic
species from taking over coastal ecosystems and cleaning
contaminated sediments from lake bottoms.
The funds needed to take care of these problems is not
known, but lawmakers hope the $6 billion figure is both
realistic and enough to clean most of the basin. A similar
campaign to clean up the Florida Everglades netted $7.8
billion from Congress in 2000.
"Now we're starting to talk real money," said
Dennis Schornack, chairman of the U.S. section of the
International Joint Commission, which monitors cleanup
work on the Great Lakes. "This is just more evidence
of the growing momentum for a significant Great Lakes
Under the DeWine-Levin bill, an advisory board of Great
Lakes governors, mayors, local officials, environmentalists,
and representatives from federal agencies, Native American
tribes, industry and Canada would oversee the work, which
would be coordinated by the Great Lakes Federal Coordinating
The Great Lakes National Program Office would develop
indicators of water quality and other environmental factors
to monitor the cleanup.
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, who is chairman of the Great Lakes
Council of Governors, commended the bill and said it "would
allow us to make significant progress toward making our
Great Lakes truly great again."
The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio,
Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Dick
Durbin, D-Ill., Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., and Charles
The bill comes after a May report by the General Accounting
Office, the investigative arm of Congress, criticized
the federal government and states for failing to coordinate
Great Lakes cleanup programs.
Voinovich, who is chairman of the Senate subcommittee
on oversight of government management, planned to hold
a hearing on Wednesday about the lack of coordination.