A Brighter Future for City’s Forest Preserves?

Elected officials say politics and mismanagement have led to the decay of forest preserves around one of the Great Lakes region’s largest cities. They say a shift in control of the forest preserves and 100-million dollars will correct the problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton reports:

Transcript

Elected officials say politics and mismanagement have led to the decay of
forest preserves around one of the Great Lakes region’s largest cities. They
say a shift in control of the forest preserves and 100-million dollars will
correct the problems. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Jenny Lawton reports:


Cook County’s Forest Preserve District manages 68-thousand acres of
forest preserves in and around Chicago. Commissioner Forrest Claypool
says something needs to be done soon because years of mismanagement
have left the land and its facilities in horrible condition.


“How can you possibly serve in the summertime these thousands of
families who come into the forest preserves and not provide decent
restrooms – not to mention bridges that are about to fall apart, not
to mention picnic shelters that are burned and falling down, and so
covered with gang graffiti that they’re intimidating and create an
impression of this unsafe place to be.”


Claypool says the Cook County Forest Preserve has been a dumping
ground for political patronage… including a recent financial scandal
which cost the agency almost 20-million dollars.


Three county commissioners say they have a 100-million dollar plan to
fix the dilapidated facilities and clean up the forest preserves… all
without raising taxes. The plan calls for borrowing the money by issuing
bonds. But that means they’ll need the Illinois governor’s approval.


County officials say they would save money by gutting that “bloated”
administration of the Forest Preserve District and turning over many
of its responsibilities to the county.


But nature advocates are wary that the shift in control might compromise the forest
preserve’s mission of holding and acquiring natural land.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Jenny Lawton.

White House Pushes Fuel Additive

New ethanol plants are under construction since the White House has mandated that California use ethanol to replace MTBE as an additive to reduce smog. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham has more:

Transcript

New ethanol plants are under construction since the White House has mandated that California use ethanol to replace MTBE as an additive to reduce smog. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


Farmers in the Midwest have seen depressed prices for corn in recent years. That’s why they were thrilled to hear the demand for ethanol might double because California will be required to use corn-based ethanol to replace the now banned MTBE. The requirement came despite the fact that technical staff at the EPA found California could have cleaner air without ethanol. Frank O’Donnell is with the environmental group, Clean Air Trust.


“The Bush administration came in and made a totally political decision to discard the technical information of the EPA’s best scientists and said, essentially, California had to use an ethanol mandate.”


The Clean Air Trust says the Bush Administration was under pressure by Archer Daniels Midland’s lobby engine. ADM produces more than half the ethanol used in the U.S. and was a major contributor to the Bush Campaign. The EPA’s administrator, Christine Whitman, says the decision was simply about enforcing the Clean Air Act. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Controversy Over Clean-Up Funds

The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extrafifty million dollars in clean-up funds, if a Clinton administrationbudget proposal goes through. But some environmental groups don’t wantthe money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to dowould be to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects atjust a few sites. The idea is controversial, as the Great Lakes RadioConsortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:

Transcript

The most toxic hot spots around the Great Lakes would receive an extra fifty million dollars in

clean-up funds, if a Clinton Administration budget proposal goes through. But some environmental

groups don’t want the money dribbled out in small doses. They argue the best thing to do would be

to spend all the cash on comprehensive clean-up projects at just a few sites. The idea is

controversial, as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’ s Chuck Quirmbach reports:


The most polluted parts of the Great Lakes are known as Areas
of Concern. There are over 40 of these hot spots in harbors and
bays, or in rivers that dump into the lakes. At many sites, the
pollution has led health agencies to tell people to be careful
about eating certain types of fish.
But that hasn’t stopped some anglers from doing their thing.


“That was the best cast I’ve
seen today.”


Marl and his buddy Paul are standing underneath an elevated
freeway in Milwaukee. They’re casting their fishing lines into
Lake Michigan for brown trout, perch or whatever wants to bite.


Through Milwaukee’s estuary, that’s the harbor and nearby rivers, is a toxic hot spot, Marl says he

pays little attention to fish consumption warnings.


“Whatever I catch I eat, I eat it on whatever basis I feel like eating it. If I want to eat fish

every night for a week, I eat it… doesn’t seem to affect me in any way.”


But nearby in the Milwaukee harbor, researchers point to pollution that seems to make the casual

approach to fish consumption here quite risky.


(sound of horn)


This tugboat is pushing a barge that’s about to take a load of coal from a huge coal pile at the

water’s edge. The pile is uncovered and during heavy rains or snowmelt, there’s runoff from the

coal into the harbor. Great Lakes researcher Jeffrey Foran says that’s hardly the only pollutant in

the area.


“It’s a virtual alphabet soup of pollution and we can name a few. PCBs, PAHs, contaminants from

sewage runoff historically, metals, cadmium chromium.”


Foran heads the Great Lakes Water Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. He says

there’s actually been some improvement in the surface water quality over the last couple decades.

But Foran warns the sediment in the Milwaukee harbor by and large remains toxic muck, and those

toxins make their way into the food chain. Foran says Milwaukee’s problems aren’t unique.


“If you took the problems and simply dropped the name Milwaukee harbor, you could insert those

problems into probably the majority of areas of concern throughout the Great Lakes basin.”


Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on cleanup work at the various sites, but only one

project – at Waukegan, Illinois – is largely done. So environmental groups hope Congress during its

EPA budget deliberations this spring will approve the extra 50 million dollars in cleanup funds

President Clinton proposed. But Great Lakes United executive director Margaret Wooster says the

money should be targeted to just a few hot spots.


“And do the complete cleanup right. From soup to nuts kind of thing. That is the initial making

sure if there’s a polluter, polluter pays their fair share as has happened in many cases, to good

dredging techniques.”


Wooster also says there needs to be good places to dump the dredged material. Then should come

monitoring to make sure the water body doesn’t become fouled again, if there are more
success stories around the Great Lakes, environmentalists believe
lawmakers will then allocate additional money to finish work on
the other sites. But the Great Lakes community isn’t completely
sold on the targeting of funds. William Smith is a citizen
advisor to the Clinton river area of concern north of Detroit.
He wonders how fast news of complete clean-ups would spread.


“And when these one demonstration projects are done,
they’re distant. You hear about them the transfer of information
is long is coming. And sure it’s nice for some harbor to go after
this. But if you’re looking across the board on the Great Lakes
it would be much better used to go after problems in individual
Areas of Concern instead of 2 to 3 separate sites.”


Smith says
funneling just a million or two dollars to some of Michigan’s
smaller hot spots would move clean-up of those sites forward in a
big way. That’s because state officials would probably match the
federal funds. But whether the federal money is targeted to a
couple sites or divided evenly in all the areas, Smith does agree
with the large environmental groups on one thing. He says the
recreation and drinking water needs of Great Lakes citizens
should prompt Congress to approve the president’s plan.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

Sediment Plume Carries Life to Lakes

  • The USEPA research ship Lake Guardian. (Photo courtesy USEPA Great Lakes Program Office)

For the second year in row, government scientists plan to be onboard a ship
chasing a natural phenomenon on Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Lester Graham reports a sediment plume might be the key to all
life in the lake:

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