The Great Lakes Governors, the Great Lakes Commission and the Healing Our Waters- Great Lakes Coalition are joining forces to ask Congress and the President to save the Great Lakes from the Asian carp and continue to invest in restoration.
“The Asian carp have brought us back to reality,” said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, “they threaten to overwhelm a lot of the progress we’ve seen. That threat is not just to the Great Lakes and the fishery, it is also to our unity and our ability to work together. We have succeeded so far because we have pulled together.”
This morning the Commissioners finalized their statement on the Asian carp threat. This encouraging, unanimous decision joins HOW, the Great Lakes Governors, seven of the Great Lakes states and others urging the federal government to quickly complete a study and create a permanent ecological separation between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. This would deal with hundred-year-old manmade connections that changed the flow of the Chicago River to send the city’s refuse away from Lake Michigan. This can be done without destroying the barge industry that now works the system of canals, but it will require forethought and has the potential to create new jobs in the transportation industry.
Another big issue for the citizen lobbyists is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. Last year, the President provided $475 million for GLRI – a new historic commitment to restoration that was supposed to become annual, but this year, his budget request was lowered to $300 million.
Joy Mulinex, Director of the Great Lakes Task Force told the coalition that a number of Members of Congress are disappointed in this reduction and will be proposing the appropriators provide the full $475 million. Mulinex also indicated that the Task Force is trying to find alternative funding streams to fight the Asian carp. The current $78 million put forth by the White House was taken from this year’s $475 million GLRI grant.
“This is about our jobs and our economy,” said Tim Eder, Executive Director of the Great Lakes Commission. “This restoration initiative and the expenditure of the $475 million that we are talking about means jobs and investment in our economy a jumpstart to economic recovery.”
The Great Lakes Governors support the bump and in a letter to Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.), head of the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force, Wisconsin’s Jim Doyle urges the Members to remember that GLRI funding is new funding and should not replace funding for old programs.
“GLRI funding is intended to supplement – not supplant – funding for other important programs. Therefore, we ask you to support priority actions needed to protect and restore the Great Lakes in FFY2011 that are funded outside of the GLRI. The Clean Water Sate Revolving Loan Fund continues to be an important source of funding to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities and protect the great lakes from sewage overflows.”
The majority of this nation’s sewer overflows are in Great Lakes states. Completing Great Lakes restoration includes spending $13 billion – more than half the money needed – fixing waste-water infrastructure. The Stimulus provided $4 billion to the nation to update our water infrastructure and another $2.1 billion was provided for FY2011. We are asking that another $2.7 billion be added for FY2011.
“You are all on the same page,” said Cam Davis, special assistant to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson for the Great Lakes. “This is a real testament to why you are here today and why this is here today and that is the cohesion of the region. This region knows how to play well in the sand box. The fact that you are all going to the hill, you are all here harmonizing your message is so absolutely critical.”
Davis is correct, our past success is intimately tied to our ability to work together as a region. Great Lakes restoration has drawn together the keen interest of government officials, business leaders, chambers of commerce, environmentalists, conservationists and residents.
“Lets demonstrate to the world and show ourselves that we have that unity of purpose, that partnership that allows us to move together in partnership to restore the Great Lakes,” said Buchsbaum.