House Lawmakers Urge Full Funding of Great Lakes Restoration

Sep 30, 2015 Issues: Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C – A bipartisan group of House lawmakers has written a letter to President Obama calling on the President to include $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the Administration’s next budget request to Congress. 

Forty-six lawmakers from the House of Representatives – 32 Democrats and 14 Republicans – signed the letter. The effort was organized by Representatives Sander Levin (D-MI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY).

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is working.  We’re making real progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes,” said Rep. Levin. “Congress and the Obama Administration must continue to work together to make Lakes restoration a priority.”

The letter states, “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is showing real and measurable results. Since the GLRI was launched in 2010, GLRI funds have been used to support over 2500 restoration projects.” 

The GLRI is an inter-agency program designed to address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes, and works to protect, restore, and maintain the Great Lakes ecosystem. Jobs, recreation and tourism all depend upon a healthy and flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem. Yet invasive species, toxic pollution, growing dead zones, and beach closures threaten the health and productivity of these irreplaceable bodies of water. First announced in 2009, the GLRI has greatly accelerated efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes and their tributaries. To date, Congress has provided strong support for the program, authorizing nearly $2 billion total for various projects.

Even as Congress continues to grapple with the 2016 budget, which is not expected to be resolved before December, funding for the GLRI appears to be on track to receive an additional $300 million next year.  However, there is concern about Great Lakes funding in 2017, especially since the Obama Administration requested just $250 million for GLRI in their last budget request to Congress.  This would have meant a 16 percent reduction in Great Lakes funding in 2016, but Great Lakes supporters in the House and Senate have fought any reduction in GLRI funding. 

The Obama Administration justified its proposed reduction in GLRI funding by suggesting that the program had not spent all the money it had already been given.  In their letter to President Obama, lawmakers disputed that point, citing a recent audit by the General Accountability Office (GAO) which found that nearly all the funds made available for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 had been expended.