As reported earlier on this site: The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is set to receive about $300 million as part of the budget deal that will soon to be voted on by the U.S. House and Senate. (The final appropriation will be slightly lower, based on a 0.2 percent across-the-board cut that will be applied to all programs.)
Said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition:
The 2011 budget continues to provide important funding for Great Lakes restoration programs—though the scaled back commitment means that it will take longer and cost more to get the job done. Our goal now is to work with Congress to protect funding to Great Lakes programs in the 2012 budget that protect drinking water, create jobs, safeguard public health and uphold the quality of life for millions of people. If we can’t maintain the funding now, it will only cost more later because restoring the Great Lakes will only get harder and more expensive the longer we wait.
Funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million is a significant achievement, considering that only a month ago, Great Lakes advocates were staring at a House-passed continuing resolution that cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $225 million – a reduction of $250 million, or 52 percent, from the $475 million Congress appropriated in fiscal year 2010.
Great Lakes champions in the U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle—as well as the Obama Administration—deserve credit for holding the line against further cuts in a tough budget and political environment.
The $300 million will allow work to move forward. The challenge will be to ensure that federal officials do not get complacent and allow momentum—and funding—for successful Great Lakes restoration programs to decline.
Bottom line: Great Lakes restoration programs deliver results, and it would be foolish to cut more restoration funding in the future when there is so much work to do.
To read more about successful efforts resulting in a restored Great Lakes, check out the following coalition reports:
- “Great Lakes Restoration: Delivering Results”
- “Faces of Restoration: People Working to Restore the Great Lakes”
- “Progress and Promise: 21 Stories that Showcase Successful Great Lakes Restoration Projects”
Sewage Cuts in Budget
The federal Clean Water State Revolving Fund faces a reduction in this year’s budget—though not as steep as it could have been. The U.S. House budget bill proposes $1.525 billion for the program— a reduction of $575 million, or 27 percent, from last year.
While the cut is nothing to laugh at, the final funding for this essential program is far better than the previous House budget, which recommended funding the state revolving fund at $690 million in the 2011 budget—a cut of 67 percent from what was appropriated by Congress in fiscal year 2010.
The federal program, which helps communities fix old sewers and deal with storm water to prevent sewage overflows into the Lakes, distributes funds nationally based on set formula. The Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin receive, by formula, about 36 percent of Clean Water State Revolving Loan Funds.
Based on that formula, the Great Lakes states stand to receive about $549 million.
The nation cannot afford to not fund successful programs to prevent sewage contamination because there is so much work to do. More than 41 billion gallons of sewage and storm water flood into the Lakes every year, according to a report released last fall.
The good news is that we have solutions. Federal Great Lakes restoration funds have helped the city of Duluth, Minn., fix outdated sewer systems to keep millions of gallons of sewage from entering Lake Superior every year. We can replicate this success in communities across the region if Congress and the White House maintain their commitment to the Lakes.
Read more about how solutions to the region’s sewage crisis can create jobs and bolster communities in “Turning the Tide: Investing in Wastewater Infrastructure to Create Jobs and Solve the Sewage Crisis in the Great Lakes.”