Advocates to Obama Administration, Congress: Maintain Great Lakes Restoration as a Priority

As the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress work to forge a federal budget, more than 125 Great Lakes advocates are in the nation’s capitol today and tomorrow to urge public officials to maintain Great Lakes restoration and protection as a national priority.

The nation cannot afford to stop protecting the Great Lakes, which are the source of drinking water for more than 30 million people,” said Jeff Skelding, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Restoration projects are producing results, but there’s more work to do. If we cut the funding now, it will cost us more later, because restoring the Great Lakes will only get harder and more expensive the longer we wait. We urge the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress to maintain funding at $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”

The gathering of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota citizens comes on the heels of a new report from the Coalition demonstrating how successful restoration projects are yielding positive results for the Great Lakes and communities that rely on these freshwater seas for drinking water, commerce and recreation.

Read the report at: http://bit.ly/WtLWR0 

As part of the annual Washington, D.C., gathering, known as Great Lakes Days, Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, is scheduled to provide a luncheon address to lakes supporters on March 6.

The push to maintain federal support for Great Lakes programs comes as automatic spending cuts are set to take effect due to the breakdown of federal budget negotiations. Without a resolution, the cuts—known as sequestration—will reduce investments in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to around $275 million.

Cutting restoration funds will not save American one penny,” said Skelding. “We can pay to clean up the lakes now—or a lot more later. Kicking the can down the road will only make projects harder and more expensive.”

Since 2009, the U.S. Congress and President Obama have invested $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal effort to clean up toxic pollution, combat invasive species like the Asian carp, restore habitat and reduce runoff from cities and farms. So far, restoration efforts have:

  • Restored sturgeon populations in Lake Huron and the Detroit River;
  • Removed tons of toxic sediments from rivers in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin;
  • Bolstered the Atlantic salmon fishery in Lake Ontario;
  • Established the first Native American national park, on the shores of Lake Superior; and,
  • Advanced efforts to control invasive sea lamprey, which feast on native fish species.

Despite progress in restoring all five Great Lakes, much work remains. Polluted runoff from cities and farms is spawning toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie and causing the lake’s dead zone to expand; outdated municipal sewage treatment facilities discharge billions of gallons of untreated sewage into the lakes annually; and Asian carp remain a threat to invade the lakes via the Chicago-area canals and other waterways in the region.

Restoring the lakes is good for the region’s economy and the environment. Consider:

  • More than 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes, generating $62 billion in wages annually.
  • Every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration generates at least $2 in economic benefit and up to $4 in economic activity through new jobs, development, increased tourism and higher property values.
  • A $10 million restoration project at Muskegon Lake in Michigan produced more than $66 million in economic benefits—a 6-to-1 return on investment—through increased property values, more tourism and higher tax revenues.

“We understand the need for public officials to make budget priorities and invest taxpayer dollars wisely,” said Skelding. “Restoring the Great Lakes not only protects the source of drinking water for 30 million people, it may also be the best return on the federal dollar in the budget.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 120 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. For more information visit http://www.healthylakes.org or follow us on twitter @healthylakes.

March 6 and March 7 Great Lakes advocates will be visiting the offices of U.S. senators and representatives, including:

Indiana
Sen. Dan Coats
Sen. Joseph Donnelley, Sr.
Rep. Susan Brooks
Rep. Larry Buchson
Rep. Andre Carson
Rep. Luke Messer
Rep. Todd Rokita
Rep. Marlin Stutzman
Rep. Pete J. Visclosky
Rep. Jackie Walorski

Illinois
Sen. Richard Durbin
Sen. Mark Kirk
Rep. Danny Davis
Rep. Rodney Davis
Rep. Tammy Duckworth
Rep. Bill Foster
Rep. Randy Hultgren
Rep. Dan Lipinski
Rep. Aaron Schock

Michigan
Sen. Carl Levin
Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Rep. Dan Benishek
Rep. Dave Camp
Rep. John Conyers
Rep. John Dingell
Rep. Bill Huizenga
Rep. Dan Klidee
Rep. Sander Levin
Rep. Candice Miller
Rep. Gary Peters
Rep. Fred Upton

Minnesota
Sen. Amy Klouchar
Sen. Al Franken
Rep. Michele Bachman
Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. John Kline
Rep. Betty McCollum
Rep. Rick Nolan
Rep. Collin Peterson
Rep. Erik Paulsen
Rep. Tim Walz

Ohio
Sen. Sherrod Brown
Sen. Rob Portman
Rep. Joyce Beatty
Rep. Marcia Fudge
Rep. David Joyce
Rep. Marcy Kaptur
Rep. Jim Rennaci
Rep. Tim Ryan

New York
Sen. Chuck Schumer
Rep. Tim Bishop
Rep. Chris Collins
Rep. Joe Crowley
Rep. Eliot Engle
Rep. Chris Gibson
Rep. Richard Hanna
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Steve Isreal
Rep. Peter King
Rep. Nita Lowey
Rep. Dan Maffei
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy
Rep. Charles Rangel
Rep. Tom Reed
Rep. Jose Serrano
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Rep. Nydia Velasquez

Pennsylvania
Sen. Bob Casey
Sen. Pat Toomey
Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick
Rep. Mike Kelly

Wisconsin
Sen. Ron Johnson
Rep. Sean Duffy
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Tom Petri
Rep. Reid Ribble
Rep. Paul Ryan

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