Chicago, IL (October 2)—Lackluster leadership by the U.S. EPA and insufficient funding by Congress are hampering progress to restore the Great Lakes, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition asserted in the first public meeting convened since the release of an historic clean-up plan two years ago.
The public meeting in Chicago was convened by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, a federal body charged with spearheading the effort to restore the Great Lakes, the largest surface freshwater source in the world.
“The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration served as a rallying point two years ago, but that rally has fallen short,” wrote the Healing Our Waters Coalition in its prepared comments. “The GLRC needs to be jump-started with a strong commitment to action that is commensurate with the job at hand.”
The Great Lakes are seriously threatened by sewage contamination, invasive species and toxic pollution—problems which are addressed in a comprehensive plan put forward by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration in 2005 that has since been introduced as federal legislation currently stalled in Congress.
“We have manageable solutions contained in the GLRC Strategy,” wrote the coalition. “However … we have not made sufficient progress in adopting those solutions. The lack of progress in implementing the GLRC Strategy is in large part a result of weak leadership from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – the de facto lead agency for the GLRC, as well as from a lack of funding from Congress.”
The coalition urged federal leaders to rededicate themselves to restoring the lakes.
“It is incumbent for the EPA, Congress and President Bush to seize the opportunity to restore the Great Lakes now, because the longer we wait, the problems get worse and the solutions more costly,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We have solutions. It is time to use them.”
The coalition urged:
1. EPA to re-engage the region by holding a series of public Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy Implementation Working Sessions.
2. Congress to hold EPA accountable for its lack of leadership by convening oversight hearings on the implementation of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.
3. Congress to pass and fund the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act.
The public meeting in Chicago comes months after a bipartisan group of Great Lakes legislators wrote terse letters to U.S. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson and President George Bush, urging them so exert leadership in the effort to restore the lakes.
Established by President Bush via executive order in 2004, the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration brought together citizens, business representatives, government officials, Tribal leaders and advocates in an unprecedented process that culminated in the release in 2005 of a comprehensive plan to restore the Great Lakes.
“We have a roadmap,” said Skelding. “It is time for elected officials to follow it, because delay will only make the problems get worse and cost citizens more money. It is time for the EPA, Congress and White House to stand up for our lakes, our public health, our economy and our way of life.”
For more information, visit: http://live-healthy-lakes.pantheon.io/
The Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives Campaign is directed by the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition. The coalition consists of more than 90 zoos, aquariums, museums, and hunting, fishing, and environmental organizations representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
For Immediate Release:
October 2, 2007