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E-M:/ $28 million saginaw bay settlement -- in spite of deq

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

The following is a great victory for the environment, for Attorney General
Frank Kelley, and for dedicated professionals in the DEQ, DNR and federal
agencies.  It is NOT a victory for DEQ Director Russell Harding, who
delayed this agreement by over three years in part because of his
reluctance to require General Motors to pay for the damage it has done to
the Saginaw Bay with PCBs.

For Release Only On:  November 24, 1998


The Department of Justice and the Interior Department U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service today (11/24) announced that General Motors will spend
over $28 million to restore and protect the Saginaw River and Bay area.
The Saginaw River and Bay are contaminated by PCBs (polychlorinated
biphenyls) and related compounds that the federal government alleges have
been released from General Motors facilities since the early 1970's, as
well as by contaminants released from wastewater treatment plants in Bay
City and Saginaw.

"Today's settlement is good news for the people of Michigan and for all
Americans who care about the quality of our environment," said Lois J.
Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's
Environment and Natural Resources Division.  "Under the settlement, General
Motors will finance the removal of PCBs from the Saginaw River.  That means
a cleaner Saginaw River and Bay, and a healthier environment for people who
live in and around the region."

"This is a great day for birds, fish and all species that depend on the
Saginaw River and its wetlands," U.S. Fish & Wildlife Director Jamie
Rappaport Clark said.  "This settlement begins a cooperative process to
restore and enhance important natural resources and to remedy the presence
of contaminated sediments that are a source of PCBs in the Saginaw River
and Saginaw Bay."

  The settlement resolves lawsuits filed today in the U.S. District Court
for the Eastern District of Michigan against GM and the two cities on
behalf of the natural resource trustees:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(Service), the State of Michigan, and the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.
Specifically, the settlement will result in the removal of contaminated
sediments from the Saginaw River, Michigan, and restore and protect habitat
in the Saginaw River and Bay area.  General Motors and the cities will pay
$28.22 million in direct costs for sediment removal and restoration
projects.  The overall value of the settlement is significantly greater
than this, however, because the restoration projects are designed to
increase recreational use by improving fishing and boating access and by
increasing the quality and quantity of habitat for fish, game, and
watchable wildlife.  
Service Regional Director Bill Hartwig explained that a portion of the
$28.22 million settlement payment will be used for habitat restoration for
fish and wildlife in the Saginaw Bay watershed, known as one of the premier
walleye and waterfowl locations in the Great Lakes area.  "This settlement
is the largest of any case brought by the Department of Interior as the
lead federal agency to recover natural resource damages," he noted.

Dredging in the Saginaw River is scheduled to begin in 1999.  This 1-2 year
project will remove approximately 345,000 cubic yards of contaminated
sediments, or approximately 90 percent of the mass of PCBs in the lower
river.  Although not all risk to natural resources will be removed, experts
believe that additional restoration dredging would significantly increase
physical injury to habitat with little additional removal of PCBs.

The settlement provides for acquisition, restoration and protection of over
1,600 acres of  habitat.  The land will be owned and managed by the State
of Michigan, the Service's Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, and the
Saginaw Chippewa Tribe.  Additionally, restoration is planned for acquired
lands which had been drained long ago for agricultural use, for fish
habitat between Saginaw Bay and Tobico Marsh, and for the Green Point
Environmental Learning Center in Saginaw.  Boat launches and nature-viewing
opportunities will be provided at two sites on the Saginaw River in Bay
City, and at one site on Saginaw Bay near Essexville as part of
compensating the public for injuries associated with the State's resources.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency
responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and
their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The
Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System
comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small
wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national
fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency
enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act,
manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant
fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and
helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees
the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in
 excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.
Visit the Service on the internet for more information:

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and
Natural Resources division.  A notice of the proposed settlement will be
published in the Federal Register.


Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912
http: www.mienv.org

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