CHICAGO (September 29, 2015) – Hundreds of Great Lakes advocates are gathering in Chicago today to kick off the 11th annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference to maintain momentum for federal efforts to clean up the largest source of surface freshwater on the planet—one that provides clean drinking water to more than 30 million people. The conference comes the same week as a U.S. House of Representative subcommittee holds a hearing on federal Great Lakes restoration efforts, which have invested more than $1.9 billion over the last six years to help restore the Lakes.
The conference, hosted by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, runs September 29 through October 1. Follow conference proceedings, including daily coverage by Detroit Public Television, at http://conference.dev-healthy-lakes.pantheon.io/ and www.GreatLakesnow.org as well as on Twitter by following @HealthyLakes.
White House Council on Environmental Quality Chief of Staff Chris Adamo will keynote the conference Tuesday. Other highlights include efforts to restore Chicago’s namesake Chicago River to prevent invasive species transport, improve transportation of goods, and provide opportunities for all of the city’s residents and the region-wide push to reduce runoff pollution which has exacerbated harmful algal blooms like the Lake Erie bloom in 2014 that left more than 400,000 Toledo-area residents without safe drinking water. Read the agenda.
“We’re excited to be in Chicago, which has been on the front lines of Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Great Lakes restoration efforts are producing results—but there’s more work to do. It’s vital that the U.S. Congress authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative so that we can see the job through to the end.”
Restoration Efforts Producing Results in Chicago, Region
Over the last six years, the federal government has invested more than $1.9 billion in more than 2,500 projects though the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff from cities and farms, and combat invasive species. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has chronicled more than 130 successful projects in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, including a new booklet of Greater Chicago area stories available at: http://bit.ly/1L1VoSz
Restoration efforts in and around the Greater Chicago area include:
- The Calumet Conservation Corps is removing invasive plants to restore native fish and wildlife habitat;
- Ravine stabilization around Chicago is preventing runoff and sedimentation into Lake Michigan;
- A Lakeshore Drive wildlife corridor is providing habitat for migratory birds and native wildlife;
- Dune restoration at North Point Marina beach is deterring gulls from colonizing the area to keep beaches open; and,
- Cleaning up PCBs from Waukegan Harbor that have made it possible for the area to be taken off a list of the region’s most-polluted waterways.
Federal restoration efforts like those in Chicago are producing results across the region. According to the U.S. EPA, restoration projects over the last six years have restored or protected more than 148,000 acres of wildlife habitat and wetlands; opened up more than 3,400 miles of rivers and streams for fish; and cleaned up five of the most polluted harbors and rivers in the region, including Waukegon Harbor.
Congress to Hold Hearing, Coalition to Testify
On Wednesday, September 30, in Washington, D.C., the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure’s Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment will hold a hearing on the effectiveness of federal restoration efforts. The hearing stems from the recent release of a report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Policy Director Chad Lord will be providing testimony on behalf of the Coalition, underscoring the effectiveness of the program—and the need for it to continue. A top priority for the Coalition is to see the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative authorized to provide long-term funding to restore the Lakes to health.
“The [Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s] size and scope means it plays a central role in successfully restoring and protecting the Great Lakes,” said Lord in prepared remarks to the Subcommittee. “Rather than just accelerating progress, it has actually catalyzed critical restoration action that likely would have never happened otherwise.”
Bi-partisanship Push to Sustain Great Lakes Efforts
The hearing comes as U.S. public officials work to finalize a budget deal to avert a government shutdown. Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate from the eight-state region have galvanized behind federal restoration efforts and have pushed to maintain federal funding at $300 million annually in the budget.
Today members of the U.S. House, led by U.S. Reps. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), David Joyce (R-Ohio), and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) are sending a letter to President Barack Obama, urging his administration to maintain funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million in his final budget to congress in February 2016.
Signatories include U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Dan Benishek (R-Mich.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Janice Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), Ron Kind D-Wis.), James Renacci (R-Ohio), Reid Ribble (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), John Katko (R-N.Y.), Bill Foster (D-Ill.), John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).
“Federal Great Lakes restoration efforts are working,” said Ambs. “We need to make sure that they continue.”
CONTACT: Jordan Lubetkin, 734-904-1589 (mobile), firstname.lastname@example.org
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of 125 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.