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GLIN==> Congressional Hearing on Great Lakes Legacy Act Wednesday

Title: Congressional Hearing on Great Lakes Legacy Act Wednesday

For Immediate Release       
May 19, 2008

Cameron Davis, Alliance for the Great Lakes: 312-375-2004 cdavis@greatlakes.org
Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation: 734-904-1589 lubetkin@nwf.org

Congressional Investment Needed in Great Lakes to Help Beleaguered Midwest Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A U.S. House subcommittee is poised to hear testimony Wednesday on legislation that would authorize up to $150 million a year for cleaning up contaminated sediment and restoring aquatic habitat in the Great Lakes.
The move by the U.S. Senate to introduce legislation reauthorizing and strengthening the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 comes just two months after a study by the Brookings Institution projected major financial gains from investing in efforts to bring the Great Lakes back to health.

The legislation (S 2994) would boost funding to revitalize former industrial waterfronts around the Great Lakes through 2013, many of which continue to cope with industrial pollution that has never been addressed.

A U.S.-Canadian list of more than 30 toxic hot spots, or “Areas of Concern,” established 20 years ago remains essentially the same today, with just one site cleaned up and de-listed.

“It’s time to act,” said Cameron Davis, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition.

“It’s time we leave our children a legacy of health, not a legacy of pollution. This legislation is a critical investment that will pay sharp dividends,” said Davis, who is scheduled to testify before the congressional subcommittee Wednesday.

Two recent Brookings Institution studies show that a federal investment in restoring the Great Lakes – including sediment cleanups – will result in about a 3-to-1 return.  This translates to about $3 in short- and long-term benefits for the region for every dollar invested by Congress -- including a potential $26 billion in returns from property value increases in the region’s metro areas, many of them home to contaminated sediments.

Tainted sediments are a chief public health concern in the Great Lakes basin. The contaminants they harbor – such as PCBs, dioxin, mercury and PAHs -- are insidious, stealthily working their way up the food chain to contaminate fish and the people who eat them. The health effects are real, with studies showing links to cancer and reproductive problems in animals and people, as well as lowered IQ’s and developmental delays in children.

The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, developed by 1,500 people representing agencies, public interest groups, businesses and other stakeholders from around the region, has recommended that the act be improved in a number of ways, including:

•       Increasing available funding to a level sufficient to reach the goal of cleaning up all contaminated sediment sites in the AOCs by 2020.

•       Working toward better alternatives for sediment removal and disposal by providing more funding for projects that use innovative demonstration and pilot methods.

Emily Green, Great Lakes program director for the Sierra Club, urged that the legislation be moved forward this year to avoid any gaps in the program and “to allow us to more effectively address one of the worst problems that our region faces.”

“We are only just now beginning to understand and assess the impact of these losses on our economy,” Green said.  “The Great Lakes are an incredible resource, but they could be much more without the negative impacts of their legacy of toxic chemicals.”

“Cleaning up toxic pollution in the Great Lakes is essential to restoring our lakes, our communities and our economy,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “It’s time to clean up these sites before the problems get worse and the solutions more costly.”

The U.S. House Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee will hear testimony on the Legacy Act (S 2994) Wednesday, at 10 a.m. EDT. A live Webcast is expected to be available online at http://transportation.house.gov/subcommittees/WaterResources.aspx.

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Formed in 1970, the Alliance for the Great Lakes (formerly the Lake Michigan Federation) is the oldest citizens' Great Lakes organization in North America. Its mission is to conserve and restore the world's largest freshwater resource using policy, education and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes and clean water for generations of people and wildlife. More about the Alliance is online at www.greatlakes.org.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes 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 more information: http://www.healthylakes.org/

Susan Campbell
Communications Manager
Alliance for the Great Lakes

Visit http://www.greatlakes.org