Great Lakes funding threatened by Congress

Jul 24, 2013

After investing more than $1.3 billion to restore the Great Lakes, one Environmental Protection Agency program may be facing major budget cuts. Republicans in the House of Representatives are pushing a budget that reduces funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $285 million down to $60 million.

Todd Ambs, with the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says he was shocked by the House's nearly 80 percent cut proposed.

"When we first saw these numbers, I could only surmise that perhaps somebody miscounted and thought there was only one Great Lake," he said.Ambs says by slashing the initiative's funding it would jeopardize the program's successes. Since it began three years ago, more than 1600 projects have been funded at a cost of about $950 million throughout the eight states bordering the Great Lakes.

Gildo Tori, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, says the results are easy to see.

"It's a truly git-'er-done type of program that focuses on producing positive outcomes by addressing problems through unique partnerships, action oriented strategies and proper accounting and evaluation," Tori said. "We've improved beach access for swimmers, cleaned up toxic sediments and restored the health of the ecosystem. The GLRI is also evaluating and assessing tough problems so we can improve our outcomes for a healthy and productive Great Lakes."

Also at risk is the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which provides money to communities to repair old sewers to protect water supplies. Its funding would decrease from more than $1 billion down to a proposed $250 million.

"Funding from the G.L.R.I. is enabling us to address toxic hotspots from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin, improve public health and protect drinking water supplies for more than 30 million people in the nation's heartland," Ambs said.

A sub-committee in the House has approved the cuts. but there are several members of the House who have already pledged their assistance to retain the funding.