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Groups: “Great Lakes Projects Do Deliver”

February 8, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Environmental, conservation and clean water groups are concerned about the future of hundreds of projects they say are revitalizing Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes; those projects include many in Ohio. Congress is expected to vote in the next few weeks on funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is doing big things for the region, according to Jeff Skelding, campaign director with the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

"It has energized dozens of projects in the Ohio basin of Lake Erie and these are real, on-the-ground, results-oriented water-quality projects that would not be possible without the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative."

Gildo Tori is director of public policy with a regional wetland conservation office of Ducks Unlimited. They're working on restoring a wetland on Catawba Island near Port Clinton, and he says the initiative delivers results.

"It's truly a stimulus program that puts local people to work on local projects, with benefits that are not only local in scope but extend to the entire Great Lakes region and beyond."

Jill Ryan, executive director of Freshwater Future, which works with community-based watershed groups to improve the health of the Lakes, says cuts to funding would halt progress already seen.

"We're just getting all these projects into the pipeline; we're seeing the possibility for great restoration happening at a time scale we haven't seen before."

In Ohio, there are 36 projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, including nutrient studies, shore preservation, habitat restoration and beach water quality improvement projects.

Last year, $475 million was invested into the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to prevent polluted run-off, clean up toxic sediments, control invasive species and restore habitat and wetlands.

Congress has not yet approved the $300 million President Obama requested for the program for the current fiscal year.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH