Coalition: Opportunity for Congress to Again Show Leadership on Great Lakes
Cuts in Obama budget set stage for Republicans, Democrats to restore funding to programs essential to region’s drinking water, jobs, way of life.
ANN ABOR, MICH.—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is calling on Congress to restore funding to core Great Lakes restoration programs that protect drinking water, keep beaches open, and are the foundation for the region’s outdoor recreation economy, following the release of President Barack Obama’s budget. For the second year in a row, the Obama administration is recommending cutting federal efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes—a resource that more than 30 million people depend on for drinking water.
“Congress has the opportunity to again demonstrate its leadership in Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts that are essential to our drinking water, jobs, and way of life,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to restore funding to Great Lakes protection efforts that are producing results for the environment and economy in communities across the region.”
The Obama Administration’s budget recommends cutting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million as currently appropriated to $250 million. The initiative supports efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, combat invasive species, and reduce runoff from farms and cities.
“The Obama Administration’s budget is not the final chapter—it’s just the starting point,” said Chad Lord, policy director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate have proven that they will stand up for the Great Lakes—and we embrace the opportunity to work with them again to keep federal Great Lakes restoration efforts on track.”
In a strong show of bi-partisan support, last year 46 Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House of Administration signed on to a letter urging appropriators to restore Great Lakes Restoration funding to $300 million—which they eventually did in the final budget. Read the letter at: http://bit.ly/W05wp6
The administration’s budget also proposes cutting the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a federal initiative that helps communities fix wastewater infrastructure to prevent sewage overflows into the Great Lakes and the rivers and streams which lead into them. President Obama recommends $1.116 billion for the program, a cut of $332 million from the currently appropriated $1.448 billion.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund allocates funding by formula. If enacted, President Obama’s budget would invest about $405 million in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York – a cut of about $125 million from the roughly $530 million that the eight states received in the current budget.
|Great Lakes State||2015 (enacted)||2016 (Pres. Budget)||Percent change||Long term need (EPA Clean Watershed Needs Survey 08)|
|Need expressed in million of dollars unless otherwise noted|
Funding numbers come from current and proposed budgets. Long-term need values come from the most recent EPA estimates of total wastewater infrastructure need over the next 20 years.
Over the last six years, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has invested more than $1.9 billion in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and has been widely credited with accelerating the restoration of one of the world’s most important water bodies.
Federal efforts have supported more than 2,000 projects, which have restored more than 110,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat, opened up fish access to more than 1,900 miles of rivers, and helped farmers implement conservation programs on more than 280,000 acres of rural working lands. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has also funded important work on toxic hotspots around the region and as a result enough cleanup work has been completed to delist five of these formerly contaminated sites—in the previous two decades before the GLRI, only one site had been delisted.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 115 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on twitter @healthylakes.
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