This week, the U.S. House is considering the reauthorization of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a federal program that targets 31 pollution sites on the Great Lakes for cleanup. The project has already had an impact, having removed about 800,000 cubic yards of contaminated ...
This week, the U.S. House is considering the reauthorization of the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a federal program that targets 31 pollution sites on the Great Lakes for cleanup. The project has already had an impact, having removed about 800,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment since its inception. The Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment heard testimony yesterday from environmentalists about the progress of cleanup efforts, and pleas from representatives of Great Lakes states for more funding. In fact, the program has never been given the full $150 million in annual funding that Congress initially approved:
At the current pace, figures provided at the hearing suggested, cleanup of the entire 31 toxic areas wouldn't be completed for another 35 years. But if Legacy Act appropriations were to reach $150 million annually, combined with the Superfund money, the job might be completed in seven years.
While federal dollars are increasingly tight, one subcommittee member, Rep. John Hall, D-N.Y., noted that Congress is appropriating $12 billion a month for the U.S. military engagement in Iraq.
As the fate of the project is decided in Washington, others closer to home are taking a look at new challenges facing the Great Lakes.
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An article today in the Post-Tribune (of Northwest Indiana) offers a glimmer of hope to those who want to see a fully-restored Lake Michigan:
A comparison of 1994-1995 data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with more recent data from Michigan showed that levels of PCBs, polychlorinated biphenyls, have declined, said Gary Kohlhepp with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.
Most of the PCBs that still enter the lake come from the air, especially in the Chicago area. PCBs seem to be evaporating out of the lake at a faster pace than it's coming in, he said.
But the Post-Tribune points to new threats on the horizon in the form of invasive species like "quagga mussels and zebra mussels and Asian carp." In fact, the threat of invasive species has led advocates of the Legacy Act to ask Congress to allow federal dollars to be spent not only on cleaning pollution but also on restoring native fish to the lakes.
As we've previously reported, the cleanup of the Great Lakes would not only benefit the environment but could also pump billions of dollars into Illinois' state economy in increased property values and tourism spending.