West Michigan environmentalists
will believe in a new Bush administration initiative to
protect the Great Lakes when they see the money.
Christie Whitman, head
of the Environmental Protection Agency, unveiled the plan
Tuesday in Muskegon that she said addresses the most serious
problems facing the five lakes, including sediment contamination,
invasive species, loss of habitat and the production of
fish unsafe for human consumption.
But no new money has
been committed, said Steve Brandt, director of the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Environmental
Research Laboratory in Lansing.
Officials with the Lake
Michigan Federation, an environmental group with an office
in Grand Haven, said they will need more convincing proof
of the EPA's commitment to the lake's future.
Tanya Cabala, state
director of the federation, believes the Bush administration
has favored business and commerce over stronger environmental
standards and questioned whether the Great Lakes strategy
would have any teeth.
She said the plan provided
few new ideas, but does offer a forum to coordinate efforts.
"I think (Whitman) took
the opportunity to visit West Michigan to shore up the
EPA's image," Cabala said.
The strategy was created
by the Great Lakes U.S. Policy Committee, a partnership
of senior environmental officials from federal, state
and tribal agencies.
"Everyone who enjoys
the Great Lakes can appreciate the goals the partnership
has set to ensure that the Great Lakes basin is a healthy,
natural environment for wildlife and people," Whitman
said, speaking at the NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental
Research Laboratory field station in Muskegon.
Among the plan's objectives:
Reduce the concentration
of PCBs in lake trout and walleye by 25 percent by 2007.
Restore or enhance
100,000 acres of wetlands in the Great Lakes basin by
by 2010 the further introduction of invasive species,
both aquatic and land-based, to the basin's ecosystem.
Speed up the pace
of sediment remediation, leading to the cleanup of all
contaminated sites, by 2025.
Ensure that 90 percent
of Great Lakes beaches are clean enough to be open 95
percent of the season by decade's end.
The EPA says more than
30 million people receive their drinking water from the
Great Lakes. The lakes have more than 600 beaches on U.S.
Russ Harding, director
of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said
the state will work with the EPA to make the plan successful.
"We need to continue
to be diligent, and we can't backslide on chemical contamination,"
Harding said there continues
to be "great concern" about invasive species.
Part of the EPA's plan
would put a focus on cleaning up 31 polluted harbors on
the United States' side of the Great Lakes. Among those
are the Kalamazoo River, Muskegon Lake and White Lake
-- all of which have contaminated sediments.
Saugatuck City Manager
Gordon Gallagher said he supports any environmental initiative
to clean up PCB-contaminated soil at the bottom of Kalamazoo
Lake and Kalamazoo River.
"I think that would
be terrific. I think cleaning up the river is one of the
community's highest priorities," he said.
Cabala, with the Lake
Michigan Federation, said she hopes the EPA and the state
DEQ also focus on enforcing existing environmental laws,
such as protecting wetlands, and not relaxing standards
for contaminant levels. She said the DEQ wants to relax
a standard for Dioxin.
"The goals are not going
to be met unless we enforce those laws," she said.
Other state environmentalists
and politicians say they are hopeful the EPA strategy
will make a difference in the quality of the lakes.
"I'm certainly optimistic
because at last this magnificent resource has caught the
attention of the U.S. EPA administrator," said Dave Dempsey,
with the Michigan Environmental Council in Lansing.
U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra,
R-Holland, praised Whitman's effort.
"The Great Lakes are
an important resource for Michigan, and indeed, all of
America, in terms of their natural beauty, importance
to tourism and recreation, as an economic corridor, and
as the world's largest source of fresh water," he said.
Hoekstra has introduced
legislation, The Great Lakes Ecology Protection Act, that
seeks to prevent further introductions of non-native species
into the Great Lakes. The bill would require ballast water
and ballast tank sediments be treated to prevent non-native
species from being introduced in discharged ballast water.
Introduced almost a
year ago, the bill is in committee.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report.
This information is posted
for nonprofit educational purposes, in accordance with U.S.
Code Title 17, Chapter 1,Sec. 107 copyright laws.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml.
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for
purposes of your own that go beyond "fair use," you
must obtain permission from the copyright owner.