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Administrator Johnson, Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Summit II Event, Chicago, IL

    Good afternoon. I am pleased to join with our partners to release the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Strategy.

    Last December, right here in Chicago, we accepted the President’s unprecedented charge and promised to devise a strategy that would lead to concrete action.

    Today, we delivered on that promise.

    On behalf of President Bush, and my fellow members of the Federal Interagency Task Force, I offer congratulations to all who have worked so hard to bring us to this historic day.

    By establishing the Federal task force and calling for the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration, President Bush recognized the importance of the Great Lakes and their vitality, not just to the region, but to the entire country.

    The unique nature of these majestic lakes and their role in the cultural, economic and environmental well-being of our nation requires us to take bold action in their defense.

    Today’s strategy will serve as a blueprint for prioritizing future actions to protect the Great Lakes.

    We all know that working separately, environmental progress is limited. That’s why the strategy is the end product of the recommendations of more than 15-hundred representatives from all sectors of the Great Lakes community, and will make the best use of our collective resources.

    The Bush Administration is focused on three principles for guiding our efforts in the Great Lakes.

    First, we want to deliver more efficient and effective federal support, by streamlining the process and better coordinating the more than 140 federal programs that protect the Great Lakes.

    Second, we want to support and advance sustainability practices in federal programs that impact the Lakes.

    And third, based on the strategy being released today, we will further align our efforts and take additional actions to protect the Great Lakes.

    In keeping with today’s blueprint, the Bush Administration is announcing a number of near-term, prioritized actions.

    Meeting our commitments to habitat and species restoration, we will work to meet the President’s goal of wetlands restoration, by joining with the states in an equally shared effort to develop plans that will restore, enhance and protect 200-thousand acres of wetlands in the Great Lakes basin.

    Additionally, in 2006, EPA and the Corps of Engineers will announce a new Regional General Permit for Great Lakes wetlands restoration activities.

    Meeting our commitments to coastal health, next year EPA will work with our state and local partners to develop a standardized approach to help identify sources of contamination at beaches. We will also issue improved national guidance on peak flows at sewage treatment plants. With support from environmentalists and ratepayers, a consensus-based approach will help restrict dumping, reduce overflows, and increase pollution prevention efforts in the Great Lakes and beyond.

    Meeting our commitments to address non-point source pollution, next year the federal government will conduct rapid watershed assessments on critical watershed areas to collect natural resource data. Today, I’m pleased to announce one such project will take place in Maumee Bay, in Ohio.

    Meeting our commitments to water quality and efficiency, I am happy to announce with Mayor Daley the selection of the City of Chicago as the location of a national Alliance for Water Efficiency. The Alliance will serve as a national clearinghouse and advocate for water efficiency research, evaluation, and education – helping to ensure the availability of clean water for future generations of Americans

    Meeting our commitments to address invasive species in the Great Lakes, we will support the authorization of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal electric fish barrier which will halt the progress of Asian Carp. Through our support, we hope to take Barrier One from pilot project to permanent status, and we will explore options with both public and private sector entities for long term operation and maintenance.

    Meeting our commitments to the Great Lakes’ overall water quality, the Federal government is strongly committed to implementing the Great Lakes Legacy Act to tackle contaminated sediment in Areas of Concern. New projects and partnerships will help us clean up some of the most difficult sites.

    And finally, meeting our commitments to working with communities to enhance their recreational, residential and economic values, I am pleased to announce EPA is committing 25-million-dollars to clean up contaminated sediments in Ohio’s Ashtabula River. This funding will be matched by our state and local partners. I would like to thank Senator DeWine, Governor Taft, and other state and local leaders for making this clean-up possible.

    All of this activity is occurring in the midst of new funding, that will come to the Great Lakes Region through the recently signed Highway Bill and ongoing brownfields programs throughout the region.

    President Bush, EPA and the entire federal government are excited about the future of this collaboration and the actions we will take to deliver a cleaner, healthier Great Lakes. We pledge to work with Congress on legislative efforts to restore and protect the Lakes.

    Today’s blueprint is the next step in ensuring the Great Lakes remain an international treasure.

    Once again, I would like to thank all of our partners – tribal, state, local and private sector - for committing to this unprecedented collaborative partnership that will accelerate the pace of environmental progress here in the Great Lakes region.

    Thank you.