ANN ARBOR, MICH. — In a major victory for Great Lakes and clean water advocates, the U.S. Senate last night unanimously passed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019. The bill allows Congress to continue funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for five years, and increases the program’s annual funding from $300 million to $475 million by 2026. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill earlier this year by a vote of 373 to 45. The legislation heads to President Donald Trump for signature. Passage of the bill is a top priority for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition, said:

“This is tremendous news for the more than 30 million people who rely on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, health, jobs, recreation, and quality of life. Over the past decade, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been producing results for communities across the region, but serious threats remain. This bill recognizes the work we have left to do, and allows Congress to boost funding to tackle these threats before they get worse and more expensive to solve.

“We thank U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) for their leadership and determination to get this bill across the finish line. We also thank U.S. Reps. David Joyce (R-Ohio) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) for their leadership to rally support in the House, as well as the many Democrats and Republicans who worked in a spirit of bi-partisanship to make sure that Great Lakes restoration and protection continues to be a national priority. Clean water is a basic need, and we need to do everything we can to ensure that clean, safe and affordable drinking water is available to everyone.

“We look forward to working with federal elected officials to ensure that this successful program continues to meet ecological objectives while confronting environmental injustices that afflict the most vulnerable communities. We have the opportunity to lift up and help all communities – especially those that have borne the brunt of pollution and environmental harm.”

Support for the Great Lakes Restoration Act has produced strong bipartisan support in the Senate with 13 co-sponsors (in addition to lead sponsor Sen. Stabenow) and in the House with 49 co-sponsors (in addition to lead sponsor Rep. Joyce). The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative invests in local projects in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to clean up toxic pollution, fight invasive species, reduce runoff from cities and farms, and restore fish and wildlife habitat. The initiative has supported 5,449 projects that are helping to better the environment and economy.