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House Plan Would Drain 80% of Great Lakes Restoration Funds

PHOTO: Congress is considering legislation that would cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80%. Opponents of the cuts say the GLRI is producing results, but much work remains. Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus.
PHOTO: Congress is considering legislation that would cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80%. Opponents of the cuts say the GLRI is producing results, but much work remains. Photo credit: Sharon Mollerus.
July 24, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Advocates across the Great Lakes region want the U.S. House to reject a bill now working its way through the committee process that would cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80 percent.

Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said the measure would cripple the Initiative, which he calls one of the most successful federal programs in recent history.

"Funding from the GLRI is enabling us to address toxic hotspots, improve public health and protect drinking-water supplies for more than 30 million people in the nation's heartland," Ambs said. "All across the Great Lakes basin, substances that harm water quality have been removed and a dozen areas of concern are gone."

Slashing the funding won't result in any savings long-term, because the projects and work will only become more difficult and expensive with time. He said the bill also would make it much tougher financially for municipalities to upgrade or replace their aging water treatment facilities.

"This House subcommittee bill also slashes funding to help communities fix old sewers, cutting more than 80 percent of the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund," he said.

In addition to restoring funding, Melinda Koslow, regional program manager for the National Wildlife Federation said, the initiative needs to be updated to take the effects of climate change into account.

"By acknowledging this and tweaking restoration practices that already are taking place to include climate-smart practices, funding will be used as effectively as possible to increase the resiliency of the Great Lakes ecosystem," she said, "and not be undermined or destroyed by climate change impacts such as heavier rains or lower lake levels."

The current funding level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is $285 million. The House bill would drop it to $60 million for fiscal 2014.

More information is online at appropriations.house.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN