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Gov’t Seeks $50M for Great Lakes

January 10, 2000

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government plans to ask for $50 million in next year’s budget to try and clean up the contaminated muck fouling Great Lakes harbors and river bottoms.

Previewing the plan Monday, Vice President Al Gore said communities with the 31 most polluted sites on the U.S. side of the lakes would compete for the matching funds.

``People want to see the Great Lakes cleaned up,″ Gore said. ``After a while, if an effort this size continues, it’s going to have a huge impact.″

If provided by Congress, the money would be distributed on a 60-40 basis, with the cost shared by state and local governments. In theory, that would provide $80 million for cleanups.

Another $17 million worth of Great Lakes-targeted cleanup programs already is planned, plus the region’s share of Superfund money, Environmental Protection Agency waterways financing and Army Corps of Engineers money for Great Lakes work.

Environmentalists and advocacy groups contend all of that, including the new money, remains far too small to deal with the needs of the 31 polluted sites, which were designated along with a dozen localities in Canada as ``areas of concern″ in 1987 by the U.S.-Canadian International Joint Commission.

Total need is ``in the billions,″ said Reg Gilbert of the international anti-pollution coalition Great Lakes United. Once the $50 million is divided up, he said, each site is unlikely to get enough to make much of a difference.

``It takes $2 million just to build a wall around a 2-acre dump,″ he said. ``But if they dropped (the entire) $50 million into the Detroit Area of Concern it would make a big difference for everyone around Lake Erie.″

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