US Government will seek $50 million for Great Lakes restoration

Vice President Al Gore has announced that he would allocate $50 million for the improvement of water quality in the Great Lakes in the US Government's 2001 budget.

Under the proposal, state and municipalities around the Great Lakes would be eligible for grants to help them improve water quality for drinking, leisure and urban redevelopment.

The scheme would provide $50 million in matching grants to state and local governments to clean up contaminated sediments, control stormwater, restore wetlands, control polluted runoff and buy land to act as green corridors and buffers between urban areas.

The funds would be awarded by the EPA through a competitive grant process. State or local governments would be required to provide at least 40 percent of project costs, resulting in a total investment of more than $80 million.

States or municipalities will use the funds to address existing ‘areas of concern’ as defined in 1987 by the International Joint Commission – a partnership between the US and Canada.

US environmentalists feel the money is insufficient for the job. Shawn Hupka from the Citizens Environment Alliance told edie: “We estimate that the Detroit River alone will cost about a billion dollars to clean up. The initiative announced by the Gore Campaign does not mention what industry’s role will be. This is a crucial oversight. If we don’t make industry accountable for the pollutants that are contaminating our lakes and rivers why would they not simply ignore these insufficient clean up processes and continue to pollute with impunity? Industry pollutes and the ‘tax-payers’ have to clean up their mess? Doesn’t sound like environmental justice coming from the self-identified environmentalist Al Gore.”

There are 42 of ‘areas of concern’ around the Great Lakes Basin where the aquatic environment has been most severely affected. Of the 42 areas of concern, 26 are located exclusively in the US, five are in waters shared by the US and Canada and the remaining 12 are located exclusively in Canada. These areas, often in older, urban communities, have significant water pollution problems that restrict the water’s use for drinking water and leisure activities, making it difficult for the area to attract new industry.

The governments of Canada and the US have been working with local governments, private industry, and community organisations to develop cleanup plans to restore and protect water quality in these 42 areas. While virtually all of these areas have developed detailed restoration plans and initiated significant environmental protection efforts, funding shortfalls have prevented cleanup goals.

The EPA’s budget for the year 2000 includes $17 million for research, demonstration projects and other efforts to support Great Lakes cleanup.

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