Great Lakes need help-Bill would
By Neil Rhines
Manitowoc Herald Times
MANITOWOC - The eastern boundary of Manitowoc County
needs restoration and increased protection, according
to bi-partisan federal legislation currently before the
Senate Environemental and Public Works Committee.
The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act would go
a long way to preserving the Great Lakes, proponents,
including Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, have said.
An estimated 40 million people rely on the Great Lakes
as their primary source of drinking water.
"This bill would assist in the preservation and
recovery of this vital natural resource," Feingold
said in a letter urging action on the bill.
The bill would create a federal monitoring and data collection
system for water quality.
Also, the bill would create an oversight board and federal
council to coordinate the agencies that oversee the Great
The coordinating of agencies and budgets is like a breath
of fresh air to Russ Tooley.
"From the Centerville CARES point of view, there
are so many overlapping agencies," said Tooley, president
of the grassroots environmental group. "If this would
facilitate agencies working together, I would be all for
Tooley believes a means of streamlining testing methods
would be very beneficial so data can be compared between
various agencies like the Department of Natural Resources,
the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection,
the UW-Milwaukee Great Lakes WATER Institute and others.
Charles Verhoeven, regional water program leader for
the DNR, said the bill sounds great at the outset, and
said that any bill that works to combat invasive species
and improve water quality, among other things, has his
Attempts have already been made at an all-encompassing
database, and Verhoeven said he can see the value in adopting
the same testing methods, but he does have concerns that
a well-intentioned bill could simply create another expensive
"They are dealing the right issues; I don’t know
if they have the right mechanism," Verhoeven said.
Verhoeven said he’d have reservations should the potential
agency adopt a one-size-fits-all mentality to problem
solving, and said that the local and state agencies already
working to solve these problems need to be allowed to
keep their flexibility.
The advisory board and council would be composed of,
among others, the eight governors of the Great Lakes states,
the U.S. Secretary of the Interior and the director of
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Finally, the legislation would establish about $600 million
in grants for each fiscal year between 2004 and 2013 to
help solve problems like contaminated sediment cleanup,
wetland restoration, invasive species control and prevention,
coastal wildlife and fisheries habitat improvement and
water quality improvement.