More than 100 Great Lakes supporters are in Washington, D.C., to urge members of Congress to support federal efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes—a resource that more than 30 million people depend on for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life. The visit, Feb. 25-26, is part of Great Lakes Days, an annual event hosted by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and Great Lakes Commission.
Activists from the eight-state region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York will be urging U.S. senators and representatives to restore funding to core Great Lakes programs following the Feb. 2 release of President Obama’s budget, which recommended cuts to programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The GLRI, as it is known, has been widely credited over the last six years with reinvigorating federal restoration efforts by supporting more than 2,000 projects that have restored more than 115,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat; opened up fish access to more than 3,400 miles of rivers; helped farmers—in combination with other programs—implement conservation programs on more than 1 million acres of rural working lands; and accelerated the cleanup of toxic hotspots by delisting three formerly contaminated sites —in the previous two decades before the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, only one site had been delisted.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has documented more than 120 Great Lakes restoration success stories. Read the latest compilation of stories that demonstrate how federal Great Lakes restoration investments are helping communities.
“Federal Great Lakes restoration investments are producing results for communities across the region—and we’re here to make the case to members of Congress that now is not the time to scale back these successful efforts,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Much work remains. The good news is that Republicans and Democrats in Congress have rallied around Great Lakes restoration efforts in the past—and we look forward to working with them once again to make sure that the nation maintains its commitment to the Great Lakes.”
Last year, President Obama’s budget contained similar cuts to programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides communities low-interest loans to fix old sewers. Congress rejected those cuts and restored funding.
Members of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition will be making the case that the need is as great as ever to address toxic hotspots that have led to fish consumption advisories and drinking water advisories; habitat loss that hurts the region’s outdoor recreation economy; farm runoff that is fueling harmful algal blooms like the one last summer in western Lake Erie that left nearly 500,000 people without safe drinking water; sewage contamination that closes beaches and threatens public health; and aquatic invasive species that undermine the region’s fishery, economy and quality of life.
“The bottom line is: Our work is not done,” said Ambs. “Serious threats still persist and only underscore the continued need to invest in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other core Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts.”
Great Lakes supporters will be asking members of Congress to support a robust Great Lakes restoration and protection agenda, including to:
- Authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by passing legislation like H.R. 223 or S. 504 that puts in place a permanent Great Lakes restoration framework to guarantee continued restoration success.
- Support successful farm conservation programs by maintaining funding for the Farm Bill’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program and ensure it’s targeted at high priority watersheds.
- Curb sewage overflows and protect clean drinking water by maintaining funding for Clean Water State Revolving Fund at current levels and match the President’s request for the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.
- Keep Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species out of the Great Lakes, by passing legislation directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to shore up our defenses at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Chicago.
- Stand up for clean drinking water by allowing the U.S. EPA and Amy Corps of Engineers to finalize its clean water rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for many streams, wetlands, and other waters critical to communities and wildlife alike.
“We’re asking members of Congress to support smart investments and smart policies that will help restore the health of the Great Lakes and benefit millions of people,” said Ambs. “This agenda continues the good work we’re seeing and will benefit the environment and economy.”