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GLIN==> NWF News Advisory

For Immediate Release  July 14, 2003

Contact:  Andy Buchsbaum, National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes office, (734) 769-3351, ext. 35

News Advisory On New $6 Billion Congressional Initiative to Restore the Great Lakes

Members of Congress today introduced complementary bills in the U.S. House and Senate designed to restore the Great Lakes. The bills would provide $6 billion to stop the introduction of invasive species like the big-headed Asian carp, restore sensitive coastal wetlands and other critical habitat, eliminate toxic pollution that contaminates fish, reduce polluted runoff, end beach closings, and clean up contaminated sediments.

Healing the Great Lakes is of national importance, and requires a national response, said Andy Buchsbaum, director of NWF's Great Lakes office. The Lakes hold 95 percent of the nation's surface fresh water, and they are in peril. These bills make Great Lakes restoration the priority it deserves to be.

The bipartisan Senate bill was authored by Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Carl Levin (R-MI), and co-sponsored by Senators George Voinovich (R-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). It authorizes the spending of $6 billion over ten years in the eight Great Lakes states according to priorities set by government agencies and a multi-stakeholder Advisory Board.

The Senate bill specifies that the National Wildlife Federation and four other named conservation groups will be designated as five of the stakeholders on the Advisory Board.

The bipartisan House bill was introduced by Representatives Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), and has as a total of 17 sponsors (nine Republicans and eight Democrats). It authorizes the spending of $4 billion over 5 years in Great Lakes states, also according to plans developed by a multi-stakeholder Advisory Board.

With today's action, Great Lakes restoration has moved from a regional pipe-dream to a national priority, a priority that will increase over the next year, Buchsbaum said. The Great Lakes states will be political hot-spots in the 2004 presidential elections. That gives both parties a strong incentive to pass these bills.

The DeWine-Levin bill includes provisions for increased monitoring of the Great Lakes and better coordination among federal agencies doing work in the Great Lakes. Both provisions are attempts to correct deficiencies in Great Lakes protection identified by the GAO in a report released last May.

Until now, all too often our approach has been to slow, or if we're lucky, stop the degradation of the Great Lakes," Buchsbaum said. These bills break the mold: they give the Lakes the chance to improve, to heal.

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