The Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition is shuffling off to Buffalo (sorry, I couldn’t stop myself!) this week for the sixth annual restoration conference. Shovel-ready restoration projects and jobs will be the focus of this year’s meeting, because restoring the lakes goes hand-in-hand with reviving the region’s economy. President Obama’s $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has recently announced its first grantees and this initial infusion of grants couldn’t come at a better time.
(Read the conference agenda here.)
Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Mayor of Niagara Falls Paul Dyster will welcome the more than 300 participants at the opening session on Wednesday morning. Cameron Davis, senior advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. While Asian carp won’t be showing up on the menu (would that be mild, medium or hot?) it will be a topic on the conference agenda, along with other critical issues affecting our lakes.
Conference sessions will be front-loaded with information on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: successful proposals, how to apply, how to implement, how to bring grant dollars home to local projects. This will be a time to evaluate the best strategies to ensure that the money is well spent on proven restoration programs.
Buffalo’s proximity to Canada will give the coalition an opportunity to address issues that affect both nations, such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and the Great Lakes Compact.
In recent years, President Obama and the U.S. Congress have made Great Lakes restoration a national priority. For the first time in decades, the federal goverment is making sizeable investments in the Lakes–a shot in the arm to restoration efforts and a solid down-payment on President Obama’s $5 billion commitment to the Lakes.
To ensure that the nation maintains a strong commitment to the Lakes and that federal dollars continue to flow to restoration projects, it is critical that the region demonstrate to Washington that it can invest restoration dollars wisely and effectively. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Let’s show them! See you in Buffalo.