Congress authorizes $1.5 billion in Great Lakes restoration over five years, funding for Flint, Mich., to replace lead pipes to restore clean drinking water.
Ann Arbor, Mich. (December 10, 2016) – In a major victory for the people, businesses, and communities which rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs and way of life, the U.S. Congress early Saturday morning passed a bill that authorizes $1.5 billion for Great Lakes restoration investments, as well as funding for Flint, Mich., to help the city replace lead-laced drinking water infrastructure that has prevented the city of 100,000 from having safe drinking water for almost three years. Both items have been top priorities for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
“Make no mistake: This is a huge victory for the people, businesses and communities in the region,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We can’t thank the Great Lakes congressional delegation enough for their leadership. Authorizing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years will mean that, over the long term, restoration projects can be proposed and accomplished. We’ve seen great successes from federal Great Lakes investments so far, but there is more work to do. This bill will help maintain Great Lakes restoration as a national priority.”
The U.S. Senate passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, following passage by the U.S. House on Wednesday. The bill, formerly known as the Water Resources Development Act, authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years at $300 million annually. The GLRI, as it is known, invests in projects to clean up fish and wildlife habitat, reduce farm and city runoff, fight invasive species and clean up toxic pollution.
The bill also authorizes investments in Flint, Mich., to confront the ongoing, three-year drinking water crisis in which many residents are still getting bottled drinking water to drink and to bathe with.
“For too long, the people of Flint, Mich., have been without safe drinking water,” said Ambs. “Now that funding has been authorized, Congress must make the investment necessary to restore safe drinking water. Flint has been a sobering reminder that there are still many communities in our region that are reliant on crumbling infrastructure for their water and we must make these critical investments ahead of time, before a crisis happens.”
As Congress and President-elect Trump contemplate the importance of Great Lakes investments in 2017, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is reminding the Trump Administration that the investment need in wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes region of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, New York, and Minnesota alone has been estimated at more than $77 billion over the next 20 years.
“The success of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has to go hand-in-hand with investments in our water infrastructure,” said Ambs. “Beach closures and drinking water restrictions should be a thing of the past, but they aren’t—which is why our federal elected leaders need to maintain their commitment to funding Great Lakes restoration. This is not the time to rest on our laurels. Cutting funding now will only make projects more difficult and expensive the longer we wait.”
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative authorization language came from Sen. Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Joyce (R-Ohio). This bill and the many Great Lakes provisions in WIIN were widely supported by members of the Great Lakes delegation, including U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), and U.S. Reps. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Candice Miller (R-Mich.), Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), and many others (read the House Great Lakes Task Force letter here). In addition to authorization of the GLRI, other core programs that facilitate the smooth operation of the Initiative are included in the bill. Specifically, the Army Corps’ Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Act and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 140 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.