Coalition Endorses New Great Lakes Clean-Up Bill

Date:   April 5, 2006

Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, 734-769-3351
Andrea Keller Helsel, NPCA, 202-454-3332

Coalition Endorses New Great Lakes Clean-Up Bill

On Essential Step in Long-term Effort to Restore

Conservationists today hailed the introduction of a bipartisan bill to restore the Great Lakes by stopping invasive species introductions, halting sewage contamination, cleaning up toxic pollution and restoring wildlife habitat.

"This bill gets it right," said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition. "It offers practical solutions to urgent problems facing the Great Lakes. This bill deserves support from anyone who cares about clean drinking water, safe beaches, and healthy fish and wildlife."

The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act puts into practice priority recommendations of a $20 billion Great Lakes clean-up strategy released in December as part of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a planning process initiated by President Bush in 2004.

"Thanks to leaders in Congress, this bill would put into action the historic blueprint that Great Lakes citizens and government officials developed together last December," said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes office and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters coalition. "The bill's introduction is an essential step in the long-term and ongoing effort to restore the lakes."

A bipartisan group of U.S. legislators introduced the bill, including Sens. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan), and Reps. Vern Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids) and Rahm Emanuel (D-Chicago).

"Great Lakes restoration is an issue defined by urgency, not political party affiliation," said Emily Green, director of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes program. "We will work with Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress to pass the bill and implement its common-sense solutions."

The bill introduction follows a March 16 hearing that examined the implementation of the $20 billion clean-up plan. At the hearing, industry leaders, conservationists and a bipartisan group of local, state and federal officials urged Congress to restore the lakes without delay.

"The lakes are the key to our economy and quality of life," said Reg Gilbert, senior coordinator for Great Lakes United. "The longer we take to restore them, the more expensive the job gets. Great Lakes restoration is the right thing to do for our environment, and it is also economically smart."

The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act would:

  • Stop the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species by enacting a comprehensive national program.
  • Prevent the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes by authorizing the Corps of Engineers to maintain and operate the dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and prohibit the importation and sale of Asian carp.
  • Restore fish and wildlife habitat by reauthorizing the Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act at $20 million.
  • Prevent sewage contamination by reauthorizing the State Revolving Loan Fund and providing $20 billion over five years to assist communities with improving their wastewater infrastructure.
  • Clean up contaminated sediment under the Great Lakes Legacy Act by authorizing $150 million per year.
  • Phase out mercury in products by establishing a new grant program and improving existing research programs.
  • Coordinate and improve Great Lakes programs by establishing the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.

"This bill deals with the most pressing problems facing the lakes," said Cameron Davis, executive director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "It's time we stop addressing these problems on a piecemeal basis and start taking a comprehensive approach to bringing the Great Lakes back to health. The scientific, public opinion, and fiscal case for safeguarding this magnificent national treasure has been made. Now we need to act."

The Great Lakes comprise almost 95 percent of the nation's surface fresh water and supply drinking water to more than 35 million U.S. and Canadian residents. There are eighteen national parks in or near the Great Lakes watershed. The Great Lakes also support a diversity of wildlife, including a world-class fishery, maritime trade, industry, and agriculture.

"Today is a day of hope," said David J. Miller, executive director of Audubon New York. "A little over one year ago, citizens and elected officials vowed to restore one of this country's great natural resources. Leaders in Congress delivered us one step closer to that goal. A lot of work remains, but we will not stop until we succeed in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes for people now and for generations to come."

The Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 85 state, regional and national zoos, museums, aquariums, hunter, angler, and conservation organizations. Headed by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association, the coalition is seeking state and federal support to restore sensitive coastal wetlands and other critical habitat, stop the introduction of invasive species, eliminate toxic hotspots, reduce polluted runoff, end beach closings, and clean up contaminated sediments in our Great Lakes.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation's natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.

The National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization protecting wildlife for our children's future.



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