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Ocean Policy Could Pave the Way for Healthy Great Lakes

October 28, 2009

CLEVELAND - Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes serve as economic engines for the Midwest region, although experts say they face potentially devastating environmental threats. An Interagency Ocean Policy Task force wants to hear firsthand about these problems, and suggestions for solving them, from Ohioans at a hearing on Thursday in Cleveland.

The task force created by President Obama is charged with drafting a national policy to protect, maintain and restore the country's coastlines. Christopher Mann, senior officer for Pew Environment Group, says restoring the Great Lakes' ecosysten would mean a lot to the region, and the country.

"Fishing in the Great Lakes alone is a $7 billion industry. If you expanded that to include all the boating, camping and lodges that really rely on a healthy environment, it's a huge economic driver. Nobody wants to go to a warm, dead lake."

The much-publicized threats facing the Great Lakes include invasive species, algae and bacterial blooms. But the Lakes' toxic pollution situation is far worse when compared to other bodies of water, warns Mann.

"Unlike the oceans, you don't have nearly as much dilution and as much flow-through as water that just moves things through and dilutes them. And so, that pollution from industrial sources, once it gets in the lakes, it tends to stay there."

Mann says research cites pollution as the cause of multiple types of damage in the Great Lakes region, including drinking water contamination, beach closings, waterborne illness, loss of fishing and tourism revenue, and depressed property values.

The task force is attempting to streamline and unify the 20 federal agencies and more than 140 separate laws that address aspects of the nation's coastal environmental health. The meeting on Thursday (October 29) will be held from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Cleveland Marriott Downtown.

More information about the Ocean Policy Task Force is available online at www.whitehouse.gov/oceans.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH