Let’s give kudos where kudos are due and right now that is to Wisconsin Rep. David Obey, who used his position as Chair of the House Appropriations Committee to ensure that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) made it through the budgetary process fully funding President Barack Obama’s request of $475 million for FY2010. This is truly a historic achievement as it is the first time that a US President has put a Great Lakes Restoration line in his budget and we hope that that line will continue to reappear year-after-year.
“Up until now, the approach to cleaning up the Great Lakes has been piecemeal. Now, we have a plan that uses the best possible science to comprehensively address the many problems that threaten the health and economy of the Great Lakes,” Rep. Obey stated in a press release.
Rep. Obey is being praised as a Great Lakes Champion in editorials. While many in the environmental and conservationist community questioned the rationale of the decisions made by Rep. Obey and others in the House that supported a deal enabling Great Lakes ships to avoid new stringent air pollution standards, this one rider should not scar a career-long commitment to environmental issues and – in particular – to the Great Lakes. We will get there, eventually, and now we are actually on our way with this infusion of cash into important programs that address the biggest threats to the Lakes.
The health of the Great Lakes and its economy is threatened by contaminated sediment, non-point source pollution, aquatic invasive species, and habitat loss.
“Failure to protect and restore the lakes now would result in more serious consequences,” Obey told the press. “Invasive species alone cost the Great Lakes economy over $200 million annually, making the control of invasive species paramount in restoration and recovery efforts of the region,” he added.
The GLRI is a culmination of work by over 1,500 federal, state, local, tribal and other stakeholders from the region, including the Council of Great Lakes Governors which is chaired by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle. The stakeholder groups spent years drafting the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy Report of 2005 which is the blueprint for how additional federal resources would be spent to address the many threats facing the Great Lakes.
So, hats off, we’d like to thank you, Rep. Obey and the rest of the House and Senate Great Lakes Congressional Delegation that dedicated themselves to making President Obama’s restoration promise come true – at least for 2010.