It’s Lobby Season and the Great Lakes are on the Agenda

Healing Our Waters Coalition Members are arriving in Washington DC today to launch an aggressive lobbying campaign on Capitol Hill. It is true that HOW comes to the Capitol City to pay our Senators and Representatives a visit annually, but this year, we have a lot of really big fish to fry. The Asian Carp are threatening years of restoration efforts; the White House has cut Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds by $175 million; and we need to support an EPA reauthorization bill.

Since November, the entire nation has been focused on our Asian Carp problem, but we still have not been able to convince the White House to use its authority to close the locks. Closing the locks immediately will allow our region some much needed time to work on a long-term solution such as a permanent separation of the basins. HOW members will be pressing our Congressional team for immediate action to halt the advance of the voracious fish.

Last year, the President proposed $475 million for FY10 restoration work and the House and Senate approved the full amount (a huge victory and credit goes to Wisconsin Rep. David Obey (D) Chair of Appropriations and also Washington Rep. Norm Dicks (D) Chair of the Appropriations subcommittee on the Interior.) This year, the President has recommended spending just $300 million but we argue this is a mistake. When the EPA recently requested proposals for the $120 million in FY 2010 GLRI funds they were prepared to grant, they received 1,050 proposals totaling more than $940 million – that is seven times the amount available. Worthy restoration projects are going unfunded – we have a plan and we know where to plug the money in to get this work done. Fortunately, we have friends in the House and Senate and we are going to take this ask to them: please restore the $175 million to the GLRI for FY11. This is not the time to shirk restoration work – we are making great strides, providing jobs and we are building an economic platform that will take our region into the next century.

HOW believes we need a Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2010 that reauthorizes the GLLA multiyear so we don’t have to constantly ask for reauthorization, it sets u establishes the permanent Great Lakes restoration framework. The focus should be on what is happening on-the-ground in our restoration work. It would create a stakeholder board that sets clear goals and priorities each year that the federal agencies can use to develop their budgets and plans. It would reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act on a multiyear track at $150 million a year so that we don’t have to fight for this annually. This bill is ready to be introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) and Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) in the House.

HOW members will be holding strategy meetings on Tuesday, attending an event at the Canadian Embassy in the evening and then will hit the Hill on Wednesday.

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