If all goes well, funding for Great Lakes programs, from toxic clean up to the fight to stop invasive species from entering the lakes, will all be rolled into one legislative package that will create a permanent funding source for restoration efforts. US Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and George Voinovich (R-OH) are poised to introduce the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2010 today.
“This monumental legislation adds momentum to Great Lakes restoration and sets in place a framework for the future,” said Lynn McClure, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and Midwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We applaud the President for proposing his Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and we applaud Congress for introducing bi-partisan legislation that recognizes the national importance of the Great Lakes to our economy and way of life.”
The legislation calls for spending on restoration at a rate of $650 million a year for the next half decade. The bill would bundle and codify the $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, $150 million Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the $25 million Great Lakes National Program Office into five-year authorization.
Instead of engaging in an annual battle for funds, the long-term authorization would mean better application and accountability for the federal investment, as well as, enhanced regional coordination.
“Our Great Lakes congressional champions have put forward a bill that is a shot in the arm for the Great Lakes and the economy,” said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “This bill treats the Great Lakes as the landmark they are and offers the prescription needed to help heal the Lakes back to health.”
The lakes support a $7 billion fishery and a $16 billion tourism industry across this region and investing in their restoration could be the economic boon we need.
“This legislation means we all have a say in making sure Great Lakes restoration is done right,” said Jill Ryan, co-chair of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and executive director of Freshwater Future. “Passage of this bill will pay huge dividends for the people, businesses and communities which rely on the lakes 365 days a year. We urge the U.S. Congress to pass this bill, before the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”