By the end of last week, the US House and Senate passed and the US Presidential signed a bill that contains the first-ever financial commitment – $475 million for FY 2010 – to address the most urgent threats to the Great Lakes. This was a huge victory for the lakes – a surge of cash into on-the-ground programs battling to restore the lakes -but today is a new day and now we have to ensure that the authorizers in Congress provide the full amount of money that was authorized and we have to continue to pursue policies and regulations that will save our lakes from current and future harm. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a spending bill – different from regulatory or policy legislation. Both types of bills are part of the duel track that HOW is committed to pursuing as part of our strategy to restore the lakes.
“Today’s Congressional action provides a tremendous boost to Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery,” Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center said last week. “People, businesses and communities will all benefit from a healthy Great Lakes. We know what we need to do. We have the funds to do it. Now it’s time to get to it, before the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”
A number of Great Lakes Champs worked diligently to push through President Obama’s GLRI. Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Rep. David Obey (D-Wisc.) and Great Lakes members on congressional appropriations committees led the effort to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, put forward in President Obama’s inaugural budget.
U.S. House Appropriations Committee members from the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin include: Reps. Obey, Chaka Fattah (D-Penn.), Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.), Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Carolyn C. Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), John P. Murtha (D-Penn.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), José Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.).
This is certainly a time for thanks to our Great Lakes delegation, but it is also a time to keep pushing forward to attack the problems in our Great Lakes on every possible front. That means putting these funds to work while we continue to fight in Washington for the legislation we need to fight invasive species, clean up toxic hot spots as well as our drinking water, fight pollution and preserve our fresh water for future generations.