U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin: Congress Funds Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 Million
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has helped our communities clean up their rivers, restore fish habitat and make the Great Lakes healthier for everyone who uses them."
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin today applauded the fact that Omnibus Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015 will support $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
“The Great Lakes are a great asset for our quality of life in Wisconsin but also for our long term economic security,” Baldwin said. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has helped our communities clean up their rivers, restore fish habitat and make the Great Lakes healthier for everyone who uses them—from fishermen to families enjoying the beach. But our coastal communities know there is more work to be done, and this investment will make that work possible.”
Initially funded with a $475 million appropriation in Fiscal Year 2010, funding for the program declined after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011 and forced widespread cuts to the federal budget. Since then, the GLRI received $300 million in both Fiscal Years 2011, 2012 and 2014. Sequestration cut funding for the GLRI to $285 million in Fiscal Year 2013.
Baldwin has supported the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since it was introduced in 2010 as a comprehensive strategy to clean up the Great Lakes. The program is an interagency effort, led by the Environmental Protection Agency, to restore the health of the Great Lakes by combating invasive species, cleaning up polluted sites and restoring water quality.
In the past four years, the program has directed more than $100 million to 216 restoration projects in Wisconsin. In addition, private foundations, non-profit groups and local governments often match funds, further leveraging the federal investment in the Great Lakes. The Brookings Institute has estimated that fully implementing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would yield between $80-$100 billion in benefits across the Great Lakes states, and as much as $2.3 billion in the Milwaukee metro area alone, from increased property values.
Wisconsin projects have worked to reduce beach contamination in Milwaukee and provided fish habitat to restore healthy populations of species including trout and sturgeon in Door County, Milwaukee and Ozaukee County. Projects have removed toxic contaminated sediment from the Sheboygan River and from Milwaukee’s Lincoln Creek, Kinnickinnic River, and the Milwaukee River channel, which is a major step in river restoration.
On Monday, Baldwin announced her support for the Guarding Our Great Lakes Act, bipartisan legislation designed to protect the Great Lakes from the threat of invasive Asian carp.
The Guarding Our Great Lakes Act would take the intermediate steps necessary to safeguard the lakes and work towards a long-term plan through a two-pronged approach. First, it directs federal invasive species control efforts to the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, IL, south of the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS). Second, it directs the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, comprised of eleven federal agencies and chaired by the Environmental Protection Agency, to work with state and local agencies to identify and begin work on water quality and flood mitigation projects that will be necessary for any permanent solution.
In addition to advocating for taking immediate steps to halt the advance of Asian Carp in the Chicago-area, Senator Baldwin has also opposed legislation that would allow oceangoing ships to exchange ballast water in the Great Lakes—a common way for invasive species to enter the lakes.
Next year, Senator Baldwin will serve on the Appropriations Committee and will pressure the Army Corps of Engineers to move faster to help keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. Baldwin believes that now that the Corps have done a thorough review on the subject, construction needs to begin immediately on a permanent solution.