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Great Lakes Article:

Becker says help needed with Great Lakes
Mayor wants federal financial commitment
By Jennie Tunkieicz, jtunkieicz@journalsentinel.com
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Published March 15, 2008

Racine - When it comes to protecting Lake Michigan, Mayor Gary Becker believes the costs can't be limited to just those who live around it.

"This is a national resource," Becker said.

"The local communities can only do so much. You really need the full participation of the federal government on these issues," he said.

Becker is chairman of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, which recently released the results of a survey that shows what local governments have invested in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

More than 140 units of local government responded to the survey and reported investing almost $3.3 billion annually, including $2.5 billion on water quality management and $784 million on ecosystem protection.

According to the Great Lakes group, a conservative estimate is that local governments in the United States and Canada invest more than $15 billion a year in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River basin ecosystem.

"The point of the study was that when you go to Washington, they want to know what you're doing," Becker said.

"It's easy to ask for a boatload of cash, but they want to know what we are doing to address these issues, and the survey found we're doing a lot," he said.

"We're not the ones with all the big dollars, but we're still doing our share."

Local governments have been making needed investments in infrastructure - building things like storm water systems - to help with the long-term health of the lakes, Becker said.

By putting a dollar figure on local investments, Becker said, the hope is that the federal government will at least maintain funding at the same level it has in the past for protecting the lakes.

The Clean Watersheds Needs Survey 2004 Report to Congress, released in 2008 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, found that in both the United States and Canada, local investment was highest in the area of wastewater systems operation, maintenance and infrastructure.

U.S. survey results alone indicate that local government makes capital investments in wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes Basin at more than 10 times the U.S. federal government. Federal funding through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund has been cut by 49% since 2004 and more cuts are proposed for 2009.

Becker said the Great Lakes group hopes the local investment survey will help the cause of reversing reductions in the revolving fund.

"It's important for building and maintaining infrastructure for the Great Lakes," he said.


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