Editorial: Preserving the Great Lakes
Published December 18th, 2004
TALK is cheap. Preserving the integrity of the Great Lakes
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.