A coalition led by the federal government is proposing a massive restoration effort for the Great Lakes. Environmental groups say they like most of what’s in the plan, but they’re worried the money to carry it out might not be there. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more:
A coalition led by the federal government is proposing a massive restoration effort for the Great Lakes. Environmental groups say they like most of what’s in the plan, but they’re worried the money to carry it out might not be there. The Great Lake Radio Consortium’s Michael Leland has more.
The draft plan from the government’s task force makes dozens of recommendations. The recommendations include spending billions to modernize municipal sewer systems near the Lakes to cut down on pollution, new federal laws to fight invasive species, and cleaning up some of the Lakes’ most toxic spots.
Andy Buchsbaum is with the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office. He says a lot’s been done over the last few decades to clean up the Lakes, but there are signs the Lakes are still sick.
“So what you’re seeing is you are seeing real depression of the yellow perch in Lake Michigan, you’re seeing problems with whitefish – they’re sicker and leaner – and you’re seeing some crazy things happen with walleye. Right now there is a good walleye fishery in places, but they were depressed for awhile, and the fluctuations are getting wilder and wilder.”
President George Bush created the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration last year. The task force includes several federal agencies, along with state, local and tribal officials from the region. It also includes representatives from business and conservation groups.
Its members say the group’s draft proposal represents a great opportunity for governments to work together to coordinate the dozens of programs underway throughout the region to restore the Lakes. It can also help bring new money to carrying out those programs. Scott Hassett heads the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“So if there’s a realistic likelihood of getting the kind of resources and money and brining them to bear, these eight states have to come up with a unified plan, it is a very important point in the process.”
It’s still up in the air how much all this will cost. Environmental groups estimate about twenty billion dollars over the next five years, though the EPA says it’s too soon to put a price tag on the proposal.
Tom Kiernan with the National Parks and Conservation Association. He says the plan is a good one that will make a difference, if Washington and the states commit to paying for it.
“But now we must call the question as to whether federal and state governments will fully fund this plan. If they fully fund the plan, the health of the Lakes and our collective quality of life will improve. If they do not, the Great Lakes as we know them and love them will continue to slowly die.”
The task force will collect public comment on the proposal during the next two months. It also plans to hold five public meetings on the plan throughout the Great Lakes region. The final document’s due out in December.
For the GLRC, I’m Michael Leland.