What Do We Want? Restoration. When Do We Want it? Now.

The EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative listening tour team is getting an earful from residents around the Great Lakes. Most of the people that speak up at the meetings are excited about federal interest in cleaning up and maintaining the lakes, but they want to ensure money goes where it is needed quickly and with as little red tape as possible.

The Plain Dealer reports that, Bob Heath, a retired Kent State University professor and VP of the Great Lakes researcher group told officials that there are some great ideas here, but “Don’t just say them, let’s do them. The history of Great Lakes studies and technology has been reactionary — we’ve waited until we see the larger problem and then we start to address it scientifically and technologically.”

Among the 150 people at the Cleveland, OH meeting were those who feared the federal aid may get tangled up in red tape. “I’m hoping that you consolidate the paperwork and oversight,” said Jim White, director of the Cuyahoga River Community Planning Organization. “Otherwise this initiative becomes a federal project managers’ relief act,” he said provoking laughter.

In Lansing, Mich. about 30 of the 300 people in attendance spoke. One of the leading concerns among the audience was a lack of public awareness, according to The Great Lakes Echo . “If we don’t educate people to understand how their day-to-day activities impact the quality of the Great Lakes, our efforts may be lost,” one speaker explained to officials.

For the first year, Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would spend $147 million to clean toxic substances, $105 million for habitat and wildlife restoration, $97 million for near-shore health and non-point pollution and $60 million to fight invasive species. The hope is that it will be renewed each year over the next half-decade in an effort to jump start the restoration work called for in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

The EPA is continuing to hold public meetings throughout the Great Lakes region. HOW’s twitter page has been keeping track of things. To find out what people told the EPA at the Milwaukee meeting click here. The Agency is also looking for public comment on its website through August 19, 2009. The US House has approved funding but the US Senate still has to vote on the GLRI.

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