Levin, Joyce, Slaughter Lead Bipartisan Effort to Fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Mar 30, 2017 Issues: Environment

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Reps. Sander Levin (D-MI), David Joyce (R-OH), and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) today led a bipartisan group of 63 House lawmakers to request $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for Fiscal Year 2018, despite the fact that President Trump’s budget blueprint called for the elimination of the program. The Great Lakes provide drinking water for nearly 40 million people and support jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation, and tourism.  

Investing in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is not just an investment in clean drinking water, jobs, and recreation; it is an investment in the future of the region. Though the Trump Administration may not view the GLRI as a national priority, this group of Members most certainly does,” said Rep. Levin. “We shouldn’t abandon states in the effort to restore the Great Lakes, but instead continue to ensure national coordination through the GLRI. Congress must continue to fully fund this important program so that the entire region can reap the benefits of the Great Lakes.”

 “This is about where we swim, where we fish, where we work, and most importantly where we draw our drinking water,” said Rep. Joyce. “No matter what region of the Great Lakes you live in this potential funding reduction impacts you. We need to continue to fight to protect our Great Lakes, which contains 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water.”

“The Great Lakes are home to 20 percent of all fresh water on Earth with more than 26 million Americans in our region relying on them for commerce, drinking water, and transportation,” said Rep. Slaughter. “Instead of eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as the president has proposed, we should be fully funding this vital program. As co-chair of the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force, I will continue working with members of both parties to ensure we are meeting our obligation to be good stewards of these lakes.” 

In a letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations panel with jurisdiction over environmental programs, the lawmakers are calling for $300 million in 2018 for the GLRI to continue this successful initiative. This is the same amount that the GLRI was authorized in FY16.

The GLRI is a seven-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 GLRI is working. So far the GLRI has implemented 3,400 restoration projects, has successfully cleaned up six toxic Areas of Concern, and is the most important line of defense in preventing Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan. 

The program has invested $2.2 billion in Great Lakes restoration over the last seven years. You can learn more about GLRI projects here.

A copy of the letter is included below and online here:

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

We write to respectfully request that you provide $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the Fiscal Year 2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

The Great Lakes are truly a national treasure.  The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world, holding roughly 18 percent of the world's fresh water supply and 90 percent of the United States' fresh water supply.  The Lakes are also an economic driver that supports jobs, commerce, agriculture, transportation, and tourism for millions of people across the country.

More than a century of environmental damage has taken a significant toll on the Great Lakes, which the GLRI is helping to correct.  Since the initiative was launched in 2010, GLRI funds have been used to support over 3,000 restoration projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitat, clean up environmentally-impaired Areas of Concern, fight invasive species, and prevent beach closings.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is showing real and measurable results, but there is still a great deal of work to do.  The Great Lakes Basin is vulnerable to various pollutants and invasive species, which threaten the health of the Great Lakes.  For example, in 2014 a toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie forced 400,000 residents in the Toledo area to go without home water service for three days. While the GLRI has prioritized monitoring efforts, which help drinking water treatment plant operators and beach managers minimize health impacts associated with these toxic algal blooms, more must be done to better understand and prevent these algal blooms in the future.

The federal government commits significant resources each year to address the challenges the Great Lakes face. In particular, GLRI resources have supplemented agency budgets to fund coordinated efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem, and we must ensure that this important work continues.  Halting this commitment would reverse years of progress, dramatically reduce the GLRI’s impact, and jeopardize the environmental and economic health of the region.

To that end, we urge you to continue this vital investment in the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes by including $300 million for the GLRI in the Fiscal Year 2018 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.