A draft plan for a five-year, $20 billion cleanup of the Great Lakes was announced yesterday by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. The initiative, created by President Bush in May of 2004, brought together a variety of federal agencies, state agencies, mayors, and governors in order to identify areas have been lagging in the years since the passage of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Clean Water Act in 1972.
Highlights of the plan:
- $13.7 billion from the federal, state and local governments to fund wastewater treatment improvements
- About $2 billion to clean up 31 of the lakes’ most toxic spots by the year 2020
- An increase of between $177 million and $289 million annually for the next five years for Great Lakes habitat and species protection
- Federal legislation that would better protect the lakes from an onslaught of freighter-borne invasive species
- $188 million annually to restore 550,000 acres of wetlands
- $40 million annually to improve riverside areas that can absorb pollution
Environmental groups are supportive of the plan, although they have pointed out that the plan fails to address mercury fallout from the sky, one of the greatest sources of pollution for the lakes. Local Congressperson Vern Ehlers also supports the plan, admitting that the cost is a “huge number” but is nowhere near the $300 billion that will be spent over the next six years on the highway system. Both agree that the success of the plan will be dependent on funding.
The bill faces an uphill battle in Congress, as two recent pieces of legislation requesting a total of $10 billion in funding for Great Lakes restoration efforts, have been stalled in Congress for more than a year. This plan calls for $14 billion in federal funding with the rest coming from states and communities in the Great Lakes region.
The plan, which now enters a 60-day public comment period, will be finalized in December and presented for consideration by the Congress.