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River lab must be allowed to live

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One fascinating aspect of nature is how life can so often thrive in the most inhospitable of environments -- such as fish at the deepest depths of the ocean, or insects in Antarctica.

The University of Georgia's Savannah River Ecology Lab is in a similar inhospitable environment, ever since the U.S. Department of Energy gutted funding for the lab to a scant $1 million a year. Just two years ago, its budget was $8 million.

Even at $8 million, the lab is a bargain. The SREL's mission is to study and monitor the environment around Savannah River Site. It's been executing that mission since the early 1950s, making that area one of the longest continuously studied ecosystems in existence.

With each passing day that habitat is studied, the lab's findings obviously become more valuable, because the findings gleaned from that particular location would be impossible to duplicate elsewhere. The SREL is unique.

And, to the federal government's shame, the lab must scratch and claw to remain open. Even last year, when leading environmental scientists begged Congress to keep the lab funded, those perfectly logical pleas fell on deaf ears. Imagine all the wasteful pork that was funded when hard-earned taxpayers' dollars could have gone toward something so scientifically meaningful.

The SREL's new director, Dr. Carl Bergmann, thought at first that his job would be to shepherd the lab toward closure.

But after he learned firsthand of the facility's scientific importance, the respected organic chemist started researching a formula to produce more SREL funding.

Research grants are but a fraction of what they were a year ago, in no small part because of the hurtful staff departures. Fewer than 50 scientists staff the lab today; this time last year, that complement was 110. When scientists leave, the grant money that funds their fields of study goes with them.

The Department of Energy and other federal agencies that bestow these grants must realize that the ecological studies conducted at the lab are too important to let die.

The lab's world-renowned work needs to continue, and it should have the funding to do it.

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shivas 06/07/08 - 06:03 am
Yes, the right-wing

Yes, the right-wing government of Bush has been on a mission to gut any funding to study the environment, while pumping money into an unjustified war to increase the wealth of oil and war contractorrs. Environmental causes have been labled as too liberal.

SCEagle Eye
SCEagle Eye 06/07/08 - 07:44 am
SREL should continue and be

SREL should continue and be able to monitor the impacts of DOE activities, no strings attached. Likewise, the funding for environmental monitoring by the GA DNR, which was eliminated a few years ago y DOE, must be fully restored. If people in SC can have their environment monitored for releases from SRS the people in GA should have the same. DOE - (re)fund the Georgia monitoring program!

Riverman1 06/07/08 - 07:46 am
Looks to me like Congress

Looks to me like Congress didn't fund it.

homemaker1 06/07/08 - 08:53 am
I'm new to the area. Would

I'm new to the area. Would love to know more about this project.This sounds like a worthy cause. If people get involved and get the right people involved, could we change things?

tomgahunter 06/07/08 - 02:01 pm
Where was Saxby Shameless

Where was Saxby Shameless when we need him??????????

iletuknow 06/07/08 - 09:01 pm
All the major polluters are

All the major polluters are still there: so what good has it done?

Bizarro 06/08/08 - 11:09 am
Part of the expansion of SREL

Part of the expansion of SREL was from the Clinton years of over spending in the area of research. All branches of research are now trimming down to more practical and focused endeavors. It is inevitable for some attrition, however I would also agree that Bush has seemed to go as extreme as Clinton- just in the other direction. Very little balance in govt anymore.

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