Can a Funding Boost From the Obama Administration Save the Great Lakes?


When I was living in Chicago as a youngster, I never went swimming in Lake Michigan. There were always rumors about toxic chemical levels in the lake and killer carp that had infested the the biggest name in the Great Lakes. I might change my mind next time I go home if the Obama administration's $2 billion plan comes to fruition to clean up the Great Lakes by eliminating toxic contamination and invasive species.

The plan sets aside $2.2 billion over five years and is detailed in a 41-page plan released yesterday. It calls for a "zero-tolerance policy" for invasive species, including the Asian carp, the feared fish of my youth.

From the NY Times:

The plan envisions spending more than $2.2 billion for long-awaited repairs after a century of damage to the lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world's freshwater.

Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, released the blueprint at a news conference on Sunday in Washington.

Among the goals is taking a "zero-tolerance policy" toward future invasions by foreign species, including the Asian carp, a ravenous fish that has overrun parts of the Mississippi River system and is threatening to enter Lake Michigan.

Others include cleaning up the region's most heavily polluted sites, restoring wetlands and other crucial habitat, and improving water quality in shallow areas, where runoff from cities and farms has led to unsightly algae blooms and beach closings.

The funding comes on top of $475 million that Congress appropriated last year for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. President Obama pledged during the campaign to spend $5 billion on the Great Lakes over 10 years. He's half way there.

The plan also stoked hopes for a comeback of the lake sturgeon, which can reach 8 feet and 200 pounds. If they get off the endangered species list I'm taking my pops, who still calls Chicago home, fishing.

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