Coalition to Attend White House Briefing on Great Lakes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition members will be meeting today with senior White House and Obama Administration officials at a Great Lakes summit to discuss the accomplishments and priorities of the current administration.

The gathering followings a meeting Monday between coalition leaders and Obama Administration officials in the West Wing of the White House, at which time Great Lakes advocates put forward an agenda to maintain momentum for restoring the lakes by: Continuing to fund restoration programs through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; boosting federal assistance to help communities combat sewage overflows; enacting strong protections against ballast water invaders; confronting the algae bloom epidemic in Lake Erie; and moving more aggressively to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River to prevent the spread of Asian carp and other invasive species between the two bodies of water.

We look forward to meeting with Obama Administration officials to discuss how we can work together to support Great Lakes restoration projects that benefit the environment and economy,” said Jeff Skelding, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Restoration efforts are producing results, but there is more to do. Continued leadership by President Obama and the U.S. Congress will be essential to restore our lakes, protect our drinking water, create jobs and uphold our way of life.”

The gathering, sponsored by the White House Council on Environmental Quality’s Office of Public Engagement, comes as coalition members from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin conclude two days of meetings with U.S. congressional offices as part of Great Lakes Days.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition views 2012 as a pivotal year in the effort to restore the Great Lakes, as the fate of key water issues hinge on actions by the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress. Among them:
• Funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other clean water programs;
• Reauthorizing the Farm Bill, the largest funding source for federal conservation programs;
• Finalizing EPA guidelines dealing with clean water protections and Coast Guard and EPA rules addressing polluted ballast water discharges; and,
• Acting to prevent the advance of Asian carp, which are on the doorstep to the Lakes.

“This is an important year for the Great Lakes,” said Skelding. “President Obama and the U.S. Congress have played very important bi-partisan roles over the last three years to advance Great Lakes restoration. We are counting on them to not waver in that commitment. If we scale back our commitment now, projects will only become more difficult and expensive to solve the longer we wait.”

The establishment of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2009 as part of President Obama’s inaugural budget has been widely hailed as a catalyst for region-wide action to nurse the lakes and interconnected system of rivers and wetlands back to health. Over the last three years, the initiative has infused more than $1 billion into restoration programs that are putting people to work to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollution, confront invasive species and reduce runoff pollution from cities and farms. President Obama established the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as a means to follow through on his 2008 campaign commitment to invest $5 billion in restoration activities and institute a “zero tolerance” policy toward invasive species.

The federal government’s investment in the Great Lakes is delivering results in communities large and small across the region. However, there are many signs that the Great Lakes still need help. Persistent beach closings, outbreak of toxic algae in Lake Erie and steady advance of the Asian carp are reminders that there is still much work to do to restore the Lakes.

“There’s a lot of great work being done across the region, and there’s a lot more to do,” said Skelding. “We view the White House meeting as a sign that the Obama Administration understands the importance of healthy Great Lakes to the region’s communities and economy. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration to fund successful programs and to enact strong policies that protect the Great Lakes for people now and for generations to come.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 120 environmental, conservation and 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 http://healthylakes.org

For Immediate Release:
February 29, 2012

Contact:
Jordan Lubetkin, 734-904-1589

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