Sander Levin pushes for $300 million for Great Lakes

Apr 17, 2013 Issues: Environment

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin is among a group of 38 House members who are going on the offensive to protect a $300 million allocation for Great Lakes cleanup and restoration projects.

President Obama’s proposed budget includes $300 million for the ongoing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative but lawmakers representing Great Lakes fear that the funding could be on the chopping block as Congress is determined to reduce federal spending.

“We’re making real progress on restoring the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, but there is still a lot more work to do,” said Levin, a Royal Oak Democrat who represents most of Macomb County. “Now is the time for everyone who cares about the Great Lakes to stand together and ensure the Great Lakes get the funding they need.”

The GLRI, which has received more than $1 billion over the past three years, pay for cleaning up contaminated sediments, reducing polluted water runoff during rainstorms, protecting wildlife habitat, and battling invasive species such as the Asian carp.

A letter supporting GLRI funding, by 30 Democrats and 8 Republicans, was sent this week to two key lawmakers who will control the process of funding environmental protection programs in the fiscal year 2014 budget. Michigan House members who signed on were Levin, John Dingell, Dan Benishek, Gary Peters, John Conyers, and Dan Kildee. All but Benishek, who represents the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, are Democrats.

According to Levin, of all the Great Lakes states, Michigan has the most to lose if funding for the restoration effort is cut. A recent report prepared by the Great Lakes Commission noted that the “GLRI is well underway in Michigan, with more than $163 million coming into the state to implement 364 local and on-the-ground restoration projects in the first three years.”

Michigan is home to four million recreational boats and a $16 billion annual boating industry. The lakes move 322 million metric tons of cargo annually and one study estimated that the GLRI would eventually generate $50 billion in long-term economic benefits.

The letter, sent to the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment, Republican Michael Simpson of Idaho, and the subcommittee’s highest ranking Democrat, James Moran of Virginia, was an attempt to provide a quick education about the Great Lakes:

“The Great Lakes are the world’s largest system of fresh surface water, providing drinking water for more than 30 million Americans. The Great Lakes are also invaluable environmental and economic resources that produce immeasurable benefits for the region and the nation. The Great Lakes support 1.5 million jobs, generating $62 billion in wages each year. The Great Lakes fishery alone is valued at $7 billion a year. The lakes also support commerce, agriculture, transportation and tourism, and are home to over 3500 species of plants and animals.

“At the same time, the lakes have struggled with invasive species, toxic chemical contamination, habitat loss, and beach closures. We must do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes and combat these clear and present threats.”