Participates in U.S. EPA’s Conveners Meeting in Chicago with Presidential cabinet officials, members of Congress, governors, mayors and tribal leaders
CHICAGO—Gov. Rod Blagojevich today joined Presidential cabinet secretaries, members of the Great Lakes Congressional delegation, governors, mayors and tribal leaders in signing the Great Lakes Declaration at the Ceremonial Conveners Meeting held by U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt in Chicago. Gov. Blagojevich pledged his support for developing a clear strategy for actions to protect and restore the Great Lakes through a collaboration process.
“Today’s agreement marks an important milestone in the partnership among the federal government, the states and cities that are so fortunate to have Great Lakes shoreline,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Together we can better leverage our efforts to enhance this national resource we all share. We know that our efforts and additional investments in the Great Lakes will be rewarded many times over.”
Gov. Blagojevich noted that Illinois is working with a variety of governmental and private groups to move forward on several fronts to protect Lake Michigan. Over the years, Illinois has developed regulations to ensure Lake Michigan water is used efficiently and economically. The “Deep Tunnel” project and other infrastructure and sustainable management improvements have vastly reduced storm water overflows and other pollutants from entering the lake.
Last month, Gov. Blagojevich announced that Illinois will join the U.S. EPA’s Coastal Management Program to secure additional funds to protect the state’s 63-mile portion of Lake Michigan’s shoreline.
Recently, Illinois contributed $1.8 million and joined U.S. EPA, the Corps of Engineers and other Great Lakes states in erecting a second electronic barrier to stop Asian carp and other destructive species from invading Lake Michigan. Gov. Blagojevich said today that additional funds are necessary to convert the existing demonstration barrier to a permanent facility and operate both barriers. The state estimates this will cost about $400,000 a year.
In addition, Waukegan Harbor, designated as Illinois’ only “area of concern,” continues to make a steady comeback with the removal of one million pounds of contaminated sediments. Gov. Blagojevich noted, however, that much more must be done at Waukegan and elsewhere along the shoreline to protect the economic and recreational assets that Lake Michigan provides.
Nearly seven million Illinois residents – more than half the state’s population – live in the Northeastern Illinois/greater Chicago metropolitan area and rely on Lake Michigan for drinking water. Great Lakes fishing and shipping industries make significant contributions to the state’s economy.
“Lake Michigan is Chicago’s front yard; its magnificent vistas are a perfect complement to the many amenities that draw visitors from all over to this world-class city,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The Great Lakes are truly a national resource.”
Gov. Blagojevich praised the Illinois Congressional delegation, including Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-5) and Congressman Mark Kirk (R-10), and Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley for their energy and leadership on Great Lakes issues.
“Lake Michigan has an extraordinary impact on our economy and quality of life here in Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “My administration looks forward to accelerating our efforts along with all of you to protect this national treasure for our children and grandchildren.”
Attached is a fact sheet summarizing ongoing state efforts to protect Lake Michigan.