Great Lakes cleanup pushed
By John Flesher
Published in the Capital Times (WI) on September 9, 2005
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Tight budgets and competition for
scarce dollars are no reason to shortchange a wide-ranging
cleanup program for the Great Lakes, activists say.
Representatives of environmental groups, government agencies,
industry and American Indian tribes opened a two-day strategy
session Thursday on how to win approval of a restoration
plan for the troubled waters.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm and other officeholders responded
with encouraging words but said much depends on ordinary
citizens making clear at the ballot box that the lakes
are a top priority.
"I urge you, wherever you are from, to elect people
... who will follow your instructions," Granholm
told the group of about 240 from across the Great Lakes
region. "Because if you have people in your legislatures
that don't care about it, it is not going to happen."
The conference was sponsored by a coalition, formed by
philanthropist and conservation activist Peter Wege, that
developed a Great Lakes restoration blueprint last year.
An interagency government task force appointed by President
Bush released a draft of another cleanup package in July.
A final version of that plan, expected to carry a $20
billion price tag, is expected by December.
The various proposals identify common problems: invasive
species wreaking havoc with the lakes' food web, contaminated
sediments from long-ago toxic discharges, sewer overflows,
and runoff from farms and urban parking lots.
A Senate bill seeks $6 billion for the lakes over a decade;
separate House measures propose $4 billion in five years.