Whitman Announces Plan to Protect Great Lakes

The Great Lakes U.S. Policy Committee yesterday unveiled an ambitious new plan to protect and restore the Great Lakes, "Great Lakes Strategy 2002: A Plan for the New Millennium."

"Since President Bush and I took office, we have been highlighting the need to use partnerships to solve the environmental challenges we face. Thanks to the work of a great partnership, today is an exciting day for the health and safety of the Great Lakes," said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Christie Whitman, when she announced the plan in Muskegon, Mich. "The Great Lakes Strategy that we have developed is a perfect example of what we can accomplish by working together toward a common goal."

Calling the Great Lakes "American treasures," Whitman said the strategy provides a framework for specific actions to protect and restore the lakes over the next several years.

The Great Lakes Strategy addresses the most serious problems in the lakes such as contaminated sediments, invasive species, loss of habitat and fish that are unsafe to eat. It establishes several goals, including cleaning up all 31 polluted harbors on the U.S. side of the lakes, designated as "areas of concern," by 2025; reducing concentrations of PCBs in lake trout and walleye by 25 percent in five years; and having 90 percent of Great Lakes beaches clean enough to be open 95 percent of the season by the end of the decade.

"We're raising the bar because our Great Lakes deserve nothing less," said Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Russell Harding. "Reaching these bold goals demands unwavering resolve on the part of all stakeholders. I am confident that the past decade's successes will inspire us to take our commitment to the next level. The Great Lakes are truly a global treasure and the parties represented here today will exercise their stewardship with vigor and passion."

The U.S. Policy Committee, a partnership of senior environmental officials from federal, state and tribal agencies, developed the plan. In addition to EPA, the committee has representatives from the eight Great Lakes states, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the U.S. Forest Service, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and more than 30 tribal governments.

The Great Lakes are the largest body of fresh water in the world, supplying drinking water to more than 30 million people. There are more than 600 beaches on the U.S. shores.

The Great Lakes strategy can be found online at www.epa.gov/grtlakes/gls.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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