The State of the Lakes: Still a Bummer

A new report by the US and Canadian Environmental Agencies finds that the Great Lakes ecosystem continues on a rapid decline due to toxic pollution and invasive species and poor sewage management. And don’t forget, all this is happening within the context of climate change – ARGH!

“State of the Great Lakes 2009,” released by the U.S. EPA and Environment Canada, says the overall health of the Great Lakes ecosystem as “mixed” and that means the lakes are still degrading but there is some good news: The prevention of toxic pollution has improved. While that is great, the slow or failed clean up of the existing contaminated sites known as Areas of Concern remain a big problem.

Invasive species continue to pose a dire threat to the lakes. The ecosystem is “severely negatively impacted and it does not display even minimally acceptable conditions,” the report states. This particular threat situation has been labeled “deteriorating.”

How many years do we have to read the same prognosis before we act? Every year, we learn that the problems our fresh water lakes suffer from are getting worse but still no real effort has been made to restore them. Every year, scientists tell us that we are on the verge of no return and that the problems if not dealt with now will cost more to solve if they are even solvable by the time we act.

President Obama has presented Congress with an unprecedented opportunity to do something to begin to fix these problems with his Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The bill has passed the US House and awaits a verdict in the US Senate. In addition, the US House has again pushed through a Great Lakes Legacy Act at triple the funding authorization level ($150 million a year), but it is up to the US Senate to act and in the past they have denied this to our eight state region. Just last week, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich) recommended that the US Senate consider creating a ballast standard to help our states deal with the expensive problems associated with invasive species. We can only hope some kind of invasive species deterrent is passed this year.

The time to act is now. One way you can help would be to attend the EPA hearing nearest you and comment on their five year plan for Great Lakes restoration.

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