Office of the Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATION
Washington, DC -- Vice President Al Gore announced today that the Administration will propose a new $50 million initiative in its fiscal year 2001 budget to help restore the beauty and livability of our nation's Great Lakes.
Under the proposal, Great Lakes communities -- such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Gary, Duluth, and Buffalo -- would be eligible for matching grants to help them restore and protect their waterways for drinking, fishing, swimming, boating and urban redevelopment.
"The Great Lakes are among our nation's most cherished natural treasures. We have made tremendous progress in restoring the quality of their waters, but much remains to be done," said Vice President Gore. "Today, we are proposing a major new partnership with Great Lakes communities to help restore their treasured lakes and enhance their livability. Working together, we can continue to improve water quality, redevelop some of our nation's oldest urban centers, and protect the health of millions of Americans who use and enjoy the Great Lakes every year."
The proposed initiative would provide $50 million in matching grants to state and local governments to clean up contaminated sediments, control stormwater, restore wetlands, acquire greenways and buffers, and control polluted runoff. The funds would be awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency through a competitive grant process. State or local governments would be required to provide at least 40 percent of project costs, resulting in a total investment of more than $80 million.
States or municipalities will use the funds to address existing "areas of concern" that were defined in 1987 by the International Joint Commission -- a joint partnership between the United States and Canada. There are 42 designated "areas of concern" around the Great Lakes Basin where the aquatic environment has been most severely affected. Of the 42 "areas of concern," 26 are located exclusively in the United States, five are in waters shared by the U.S. and Canada, and the remaining 12 are located exclusively in Canada. All of these areas have significant water pollution problems that restrict fishing, swimming, boating, and use for drinking water. Most are in older, urban communities confronting a range of pollution problems that detract from their livability by making it difficult to attract new industries and restricting access to water and open space.
For over a decade, the governments of Canada and the United States have been working with local governments, private industry, and community organizations to develop cleanup plans to restore and protect water quality in these 42 areas. While virtually all of these areas have developed detailed restoration plans and initiated significant environmental protection efforts, funding shortfalls have acted as a roadblock to achieving cleanup goals. The new grants proposed by the Clinton-Gore Administration would help speed implementation of existing cleanup plans here in the U.S. and within shared waters.
The Environmental Protection Agency's fiscal year 2000 budget includes $17 million for research, demonstration projects and other efforts to support Great Lakes cleanup. The Administration will propose continuing this funding in fiscal year 2001.
Surrounded by rich farmlands and growing urban centers, the Great Lakes are home to over 25 million Americans. Many people use the Great Lakes as a source of drinking water. In addition, millions enjoy the recreational opportunities provided by the Great Lakes each year, including boating, fishing, and sightseeing. The Great Lakes also sustain a rich diversity of birds and other wildlife; an estimated three million birds migrate through the Great Lakes each year, relying on the lakes for their food and shelter.
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