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Great Lakes Article:

Plan to restore Great Lakes backed
$20.5 billion effort gives cleanup priority
By John C. Kuehner
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Published August 24, 2005


An unprecedented plan to clean up the Great Lakes received a strong reception Tuesday night in Cleveland.

Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and many members of the public endorsed the $20.5 billion comprehensive proposal to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

"While the challenges are great, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come together and speak in one regional voice and make the Great Lakes a national priority," Taft said at the public meeting at the Cleveland Public Library.

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a partnership of federal, state and local governments, tribes and others, created a framework of long-term goals and short-term actions.

The meeting, the fifth of six planned, was called to get public comments about the draft plan. About 20 of the more than 100 people who attended spoke, including Ohio's Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

DeWine issued a warning to the task force not to give Congress a plan with generalities, but a plan with specifics.

"If they are specific, I can say, 'Let's get this done,' " DeWine said afterward. "We have to do this right. We can't miss this opportunity."

The 37 proposed actions fall under eight categories, such as invasive species, habitat loss and storm water run-off problems.

About two-thirds of the plan's estimated price tag will go toward correcting sewage overflow problems, which dump billions of gallons of raw sewage into the Great Lakes annually, and cleaning up polluted sediment at 31 harbors and rivers around the Great Lakes.

The draft plan covers a wide array of issues from protecting the lakes as a drinking water source to restoring the sturgeon, a state endangered fish.

The plan proposes to improve water quality at beaches, virtually eliminating discharges of mercury, pesticides and toxic pollution, and restoring 550,000 acres of wetlands, which serve as water purifiers.

But it does not mention global warming and its impact on the Great Lakes, an omission pointed out by Cleveland resident Randy Cunningham.

The 48-page plan can be viewed online at www.glrc.us.

Comments about the plan can be submitted via the Web; or mailed to: Comments, Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, c/o U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes National Program Office, 77 W. Jackson Blvd. (G-17J), Chicago, IL 60604-3511. The deadline for comments is Sept. 9.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:

jkuehner@plaind.com, 216-999-5325

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