Big Great Lakes cleanup plan gets an OK, but no federal funds

U.S. EPA administrator Stephen Johnson and a bipartisan coalition of Midwestern lawmakers and officials approved a 15-year strategy to restore the Great Lakes on Monday. But the Bush administration says it won’t fund the plan, which may cost up to $20 billion. The strategy to pull the lakes back from imminent ecological collapse involves revamping disintegrating municipal sewer systems, clearing out invasive species, decontaminating severely polluted toxic hotspots, and more. Conservationists say the effort is imperative to the region’s ecology and economy — the lakes supply 35 million North Americans with freshwater, and support a $35 billion boating industry and an estimated $18 billion in yearly spending from hunters, anglers, and wildlife-watchers. Lawmakers vow they’ll pry funding loose from Washington. “There is not a Democratic plan for cleaning up the Great Lakes or a Republican plan for cleaning up the Great Lakes,” says Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). “There are only two choices — action or inaction.”