Last week was a hectic week for the Great Lakes. The U.S. House introduced two seemingly contradictory bills that would impact the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—one that would authorize the program and fully fund it $475 million, and another that would cut current funding to the GLRI down to $60 million. The Obama administration also released their 2013 strategy to control invasive Asian carp.
Great Lakes Legislation Moves to the House
On last Monday the U.S. House of Representatives proposed their version of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA), almost identical to the Senate’s version, which passed in June. This bi-partisan bill would authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years, at $475 million annually. This proposed annual budget would return GLRI funding to the original allocation level. In subsequent years the GLRI has been funded at $300 million annually. GLEEPA would also authorize various groups affiliated with the GLRI, including the Great Lakes Advisory Board and the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force. GLEEPA was introduced by U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-Ohio) with Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Candace Miller (R-Mich.), Tom Petri (R-Wis.), and Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Proposal Slashes EPA Funding for FY 2014
On the following day, Tuesday, House members of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations subcommittee took up a funding bill that would impact the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. While GLEEPA proposed that the GLRI be authorized and funded at $475 million, annually, the appropriations bill only allocated $60 million for the GLRI in 2014. Currently, the GLRI’s budget is $285 million, decreased from $300 million due to the across the board cuts from the sequester. Relative to current funding levels, the House appropriations bill proposes an 80% cut in funding for the GLRI.
The Buffalo News wrote about the impact this proposed funding could have on clean-up projects in the Buffalo River, and noted:
“Environmentalists said House Republicans have targeted the Great Lakes program for cuts in previous years, but never before suggested slashing its budget by any more than $50 million, much less the $225 million cut proposed for 2014.”
Many sources have covered this story:
Associated Press: Washington Post
Wisconsin Public Radio
Port Clinton News Herald
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Cleveland Plain Dealer
WAMC Northeast Public Radio
Public News Service: Minnesota
Detroit Free Press
The Buffalo News
WBFO 88.7 NPR News and More
The Hill: On the Money
New Asian Carp Strategy Keeps Mississippi and Great Lakes Connected
On last Wednesday, the Obama administration released their 2013 plan for how to keep Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. One detail many were expecting to be included in the plan—separating the Mississippi River basin from the Great Lakes—was not there. In June, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn agreed that the two basins, which were never naturally connected, will need to be separated to keep the invasive fish from decimating the Great Lakes ecosystem. Great Lakes advocates, including the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, are pushing the Obama Administration to endorse and move to implement the permanent separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River by building a permanent barrier to disconnect the two iconic waters. Read the full Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework here.