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Published: Saturday, 11/5/2005

Regional officials rip Bush task force for opposing Great Lakes renewal aid

BY TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Several Great Lakes leaders fired back this week at senior White House officials who have advised President Bush not to follow through with $20 billion for projects aimed at restoring the world's largest source of fresh surface water.

A joint letter sent to the White House yesterday by 41 members of Congress expressed "disappointment by the limitations" that several Cabinet-level members of a presidential task force have attempted to place on the Great Lakes restoration.

The letter, obtained by The Blade and signed by 11 U.S. senators and 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, said the Great Lakes region was "led to believe that the administration would consider some new budget initiatives."

"A serious consideration of the challenges faced in the Great Lakes region requires a commitment of federal resources," the letter stated.

They were referring to a 73-page report issued Oct. 28 by a task force that said Mr. Bush should fund only water-quality improvement work that had been previously budgeted for the lakes region, rather than consider additional funding.

Among those who signed the letter: U.S. Sens. Mike DeWine and George Voinovich of Ohio, both Republicans; U.S. Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, both Democrats; and Democratic U.S. Reps. John Dingell of Dearborn, Mich., and Marcy Kaptur of Toledo.

On Tuesday, a similar letter was sent to President Bush by Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

The trio said in their letter that they were "deeply disappointed" by the presidential task force's recommendation. They said it was a far cry from what Great Lakes officials had been led to believe would happen when Mr. Bush announced in May, 2004 - six months before the presidential election - his plan for an historic Great Lakes restoration program.

The next step of the program was the creation of a priority-setting body called Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, which has involved more than 1,500 people. That group is scheduled to to release next month a final report that details projects necessary to restore the lakes.

A preliminary wish list generated by the group called for about $20 billion over 15 years to address issues from sewer overflows to exotic species.

Mr. Taft and Mr. Doyle are co-chairs of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. Mr. Daley is chairman and director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. Their letter requested a meeting with Mr. Bush's staff before the Great Lakes group's report is finalized.

Contact Tom Henry at:

thenry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6079.



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