Great Lakes Czar and Keynote Speaker Cameron Davis and HOW Co-Chair Andy Buchsbaum repeatedly urged attendees at the Healing Our Waters Annual Meeting to do everything possible to show Washington that investing in Great Lakes restoration gets results.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to make the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) a success,” Davis told the coalition.
For the first time, the US President and Congress have committed a significant amount of money to Great Lakes restoration. The American Recovery Act and Clean Water State Revolving Funds are providing $1 billion for sewage upgrades – a major element of the $20 billion restoration price tag – and Congress is on the verge of approving another half-million for restoration in the GLRI.
Davis lamented that we’re moving forward in unchartered territory when he said, “There is no play book right now – this has never been done in this region.” Davis will be responsible for coordinating the work of multiple federal and state agencies as well as local restoration efforts. But the HOW Coalition is committed to helping ensure that the federal dollars make it to on-the-ground projects.
“Our goal is not to get money for the Great Lakes, our objective is to make sure the Great Lakes are healthy,” Buschbaum emphasized. A feeling of zeitgeist filled the conference hall making it clear that the time is now, the constellation of leadership in the White House and Congress is setting the course for the destiny of Great Lakes restoration.
“We have studied the problems related to the Great Lakes,” Davis said, “the time for studies is largely over. Instead, now is the time to partner up with other projects to gain federal help with implementing our overall strategy. In an effort to help get the money out the door as quickly as possible, Davis encouraged partnerships – bundling projects together – “Partnerships get brownie points,” he said.
And HOW will work feverishly to try and keep the spigot on until the lakes are completely healed. Echoing and reinforcing Davis remarks, Buchsbaum said, “ We have to make sure Congress and the President’s investments in the Great Lakes gets results.” Amen.