Levin, Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urge Funding for Great Lakes

Apr 8, 2014 Issues: Environment

A bipartisan group of 46 House lawmakers have joined together to urge a key House committee to provide sustained funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over environmental programs, the lawmakers called for $300 million in 2015 for GLRI.  The letter was spearheaded by Michigan Reps. Sander Levin and John Dingell, along with Reps Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and David Joyce (R-OH).  A copy of the letter is below.

The GLRI is a five-year-old effort to protect, restore and maintain the Great Lakes ecosystem.  The inter-agency program provides funding to address vital environmental issues in the Great Lakes, such as cleaning up contaminated sediments, reducing polluted runoff, mitigating habitat degradation and loss, and addressing invasive species such as the Asian carp.  The program has invested $1.6 billion in Great Lakes restoration over the last five years.

The GLRI casts a broad net to collect the best ideas from local units of government, environmental organization, citizens groups, and universities.  The program provides federal resources to fund local solutions that respond to local restoration priorities.  The GLRI grants are competitively awarded.  To date, Michigan has received 547 GLRI project grants – far more than any other state.

In its budget submission to Congress in February, the Obama Administration requested $275 million in 2015 for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to continue the restoration work – a nine percent reduction from the current funding level.  

“We’re making real progress on restoring the Great Lakes, but there is still a lot more work to do,” said Rep. Levin.  “Now is not the time to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

Great Lakes advocacy groups helped to highlight the need for sustained funding for the GLRI in recent weeks and urged Members’ offices to join the letter, which was signed by 37 Democrats and 9 Republicans.  Michigan House members signing the letter included Sander Levin, John Dingell, Dan Benishek, Gary Peters, John Conyers, and Dan Kildee.

Continued bipartisan support for the GLRI reflects a broad recognition that the Great Lakes are both a natural treasure and a vital economic asset the Great Lakes states.  The Great Lakes are the source of drinking water for 40 million people, and hold 95 percent of our nation’s supply of fresh water.  Jobs, recreation and tourism all depend upon a healthy and flourishing Great Lakes ecosystem. 

A PDF copy of the letter is available here. Text is below:

March 28, 2014

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member Moran:

As Members of the House who believe that a healthy economy in our region is intrinsically linked to the health of the Great Lakes, we respectfully request that you provide $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the Fiscal Year 2015 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. 

The Great Lakes are the world’s largest system of fresh surface water, providing drinking water for nearly 40 million people.  The Lakes are also an economic driver, supporting 1.5 million jobs and generating $62 billion in wages annually.  The Great Lakes fishery alone is valued at $7 billion a year.  The Lakes also support commerce, agriculture, transportation, and tourism.  For all these reasons, we believe Great Lakes restoration must remain a priority.

More than a century of environmental damage has taken a significant toll on the Great Lakes, which have struggled to overcome toxic substances contamination, habitat loss, invasive species, and beach closings.

In the short time that the GLRI has been in place, it has made significant progress in addressing the longstanding environmental challenges confronting the Lakes, particularly in the areas of combating invasive species like the Asian carp, protecting and restoring thousands of acres of habitat, and cleaning up toxics and Areas of Concern.  More work needs to be done.

We urge you to continue this vital investment in the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes.  Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.