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Great Lakes Article:

Editorial: Preserving the Great Lakes
Toledo Blade
Published December 18th, 2004


TALK is cheap. Preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes isn't.
And while the Bush Administration is making much of the collaboration among the United States, the Great Lakes states, Canada, and its provinces on these waters, Native American and local officials, federal money allocated to the task is comparatively scant.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, noted that this year's omnibus spending bill includes only $25 million for the program although the Environmental Protection Agency had pledged $45 million. Mr. Dingell also points out that the White House hasn't authorized the maximum annual spending limit of $54 million under the two-year-old Great Lakes Legacy Act.

Analysis aside, it is valuable to have a comprehensive plan to clean up the lakes and the waterways that feed them. The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, which produced the plan, wisely has broadened restoration efforts that had not been coordinated until now. Involving all interested parties in an endeavor of this magnitude beats bureaucratic policy edicts from on high.

Water resources are expected to be a significant issue in this century, as development sweeps through the Sunbelt and places there begin to eye covetously the 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply that lies in the upper Midwest. The lakes furnish fresh water to more than 30 million residents of this country and Canada.

Until money is appropriated - a near impossible task during an unbudgeted war, a soaring deficit, and administration commitment to more tax cuts - the promise inherent in the collaboration is little more than a canard.

The administration claims that the building of coalitions and the ranking of goals will assure that what money becomes available over the next 30 years is spent as it should be. But without real fiscal commitments, they are dealing in pipe dreams.

The lakes need restoration to begin now and proceed apace, just as the reclamation of the Florida Everglades did. People on both sides of the lakes are also entitled to assurances there will be no additional withdrawals of water from them. Only then can the administration justly crow about collaboration.

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