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Great Lakes Article:

Great Lakes lawmakers pushing for Hefty clean up funds
By Malia Rulon
Associated Press

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 initiative."

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 Council.

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 Schumer, D-N.Y.

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.

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