Take a good look. This is Rep. Norman Dicks (D-Wash). Rep. Norman Dicks is the guy our Great Lakes US House Members have to convince to spend every last cent of the $475 million recommended by President Barack Obama for Great Lakes Restoration.
Rep. Norman Dicks holds the key to the bank because he chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies. While we aren’t sure how much he knows about the Great Lakes or the Great Lakes Collaboration Strategy -the blueprint for restoring 90 percent of this nation’s surface fresh water- we do know he was born and bred in Washington State and his district borders the Pacific Ocean and cradles Puget Sound.
Puget Sound suffers from years of unregulated industrialization that has left dangerous chemicals lining the Sound’s aquatic bed. The Great Lakes suffer from a similar problem – the legacy of the industrial and chemical revolution that left 31 Areas of Concern behind. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would spend $146 million helping to clean these AOC’s up and return the drinking water of 40 million people back to pristine conditions. (We also agreed with Canada five years ago to clean these nasty spots up within the decade – so far, we delisted one AOC.)
Rep. Dicks’ district shares another ailment with the Lakes: near shore health. Roughly 1800 miles of shoreline surround the estuary and the near shore environment needs improvement. One of the factors affecting near shore health is non-point source pollution -also a problem on the shores of the Great Lakes. The GLRI includes $97.3 million to help the Lakes deal with the problem.
Salmon are synonymous with Washington and the Sound. Well, it turns out their habitat is being destroyed by a number of factors including invasive species (nonnative sea life) that change the order of the food chain. The Great Lakes suffer from both habitat destruction and invasive species and both these threats are addressed in the President’s GLRI with $105.3 million going to restoration of habitats and another $60.3 million devoted to fighting invasive species in the Lakes.
So, it appears Rep. Dicks district shares a number of common problems with the Great Lakes making it easier for him to understand why we need this money. It is time for Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to take their colleague aside and let him know we have a strategy developed by numerous stake holders to address each one of these issues. We are ready-to-go as soon as the funds are released. LaTourette and Hinchey sit on this subcommittee with Rep. Dicks. Heck, Appropriations Chair and Great Lakes Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) – an Ex officio member of the subcommittee – should also corner Rep. Dicks and bend his ear a bit on the need for full funding of GLRI.
We need every cent and every job and we need it now. We expect the Great Lakes Reps on the Appropriations Committee to push hard for this and make it happen.