Levin, Bipartisan Group of Lawmakers Urge Funding for Great Lakes

Mar 17, 2015 Issues: Environment

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of 51 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 2016 for GLRI.  The letter was spearheaded by Michigan Rep. Sander Levin, along with Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and David Joyce (R-OH).  A copy of the letter is below.

The GLRI is a six-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 $1.9 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, the program has been used to fund more than 2,000 projects nationwide.

In its budget submission to Congress in February, the Obama Administration requested $250 million in 2016 for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to continue the restoration work – a 17 percent reduction from the current funding level of $300 million.  

“This letter shows overwhelming, bipartisan support for restoring the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI). “This has to be a priority as Congress gets to work on the 2016 funding bills. Now is not the time to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

"The Great Lakes are one of our nation’s greatest treasures, so it’s good to see a record number of my colleagues are understanding how important it is that we fund GLRI,” said U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH). “I’m glad the effort to preserve and protect our Great Lakes is clearly growing across state and party lines, and we aren’t going to take our foot off the gas."

“Tens of millions of Americans rely on the Great Lakes for commerce, drinking water, transportation, and recreation—it is critical that we keep these critical resources safe and clean,” said U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), co-chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative continues to make tremendous contributions to improving Lake Ontario for Rochester, which is why we need GLRI to be fully funded for the next fiscal year. Humans can only survive without fresh water for three days, and with twenty percent of all of the fresh surface water on Earth contained in the Great Lakes, we need to keep them clean, safe, and free of invasive species for future generations.”

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.

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, with co-signers, is available here. Text is below:

March 17, 2015

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

We are writing to respectfully request that you provide $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the Fiscal Year 2016 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. 

The Great Lakes are a unique natural treasure and the largest system of fresh surface water in the world.  The Lakes provide drinking water for nearly 40 million people, and are also an economic driver that supports jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation, and tourism. 

More than a century of environmental damage has taken a significant toll on the Great Lakes.  Since the GLRI was launched in 2010, it has made significant progress in addressing the longstanding environmental challenges confronting the Great Lakes.  To date, the program has been used to fund more than 2,000 projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitat, clean up toxic Areas of Concern, fight invasive species, and prevent beach closings. 

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is showing real, measurable results.  We urge you to continue this vital investment in the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes.  The $300 million we are requesting for this vital program is in line with the authorization level included in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act that the House approved last year.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.