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Great Lakes Article:

EPA Plans Watershed Protection Program

By John Heilprin
Associated Press
Monday, January 28, 2002; Page A19

The Bush administration will ask Congress for $21 million for fiscal 2003 to create a new program within the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at restoring pollution-damaged streams and rivers.

With the new program, the agency plans to choose 10 watersheds that deserve more protection through grants to states, tribes and local communities, EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman said last week.

"The biggest challenges we face in water now is from nonpoint source pollution and the best way to address that is a watershed-based approach," Whitman said in an interview.

She announced the program during a visit to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Unlike pollution leaking from industrial and sewage treatment plants, nonpoint source pollution comes from many sources. Rainfall or melted snow moving on the ground picks up natural and man-made pollutants, such as fertilizers, toxic chemicals from urban runoff and acid drainage from abandoned mines.

Some of the watershed problems include loss of habitats, an overload of nutrients, pathogens and the introduction of nonnative species.

If the new program is approved, Whitman said, EPA officials would work closely with governors, tribal officials and local representatives to expand watershed-protection training and education.

Congress now appropriates money to protect specific watersheds such as the Chesapeake Bay, San Francisco Bay, Long Island Sound and the Great Lakes.

"The existing funding for watershed protection has been unorganized and spread unevenly," said Tom Schueler, executive director of the Ellicott City-based Center for Watershed Protection.

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