LaTourette adds $50 million to Great Lakes Restoration Funding
U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette (R-OH) today announced that the House of Representatives has approved an amendment he offered to add $50 million to Great Lakes funding in the spending bill that funds the Environmental Protection Agency.
The LaTourette amendment passed last night by a vote of 220-206 and will not add to the debt. The additional $50 million is fully paid for by reducing funding by a like amount in other EPA accounts. Total EPA funding is $7.1 billion, which is 18 percent lower than last year's funding.
LaTourette said the funding from his amendment brings total Great Lakes funding to $300 million, the same as last year. Of the EPA's geographic programs, the Great Lakes will get the largest amount of funding. LaTourette said the Chesapeake Bay will receive $50 million and Puget Sound will receive $30 million for restoration efforts.
"This is a huge victory for the Great Lakes, which contain 20 percent of the world's fresh water. We need to make sure we protect this valuable resource," LaTourette said. "The Great Lakes continue to be the treasure of the world, and there's going to come a time when water is the new oil when it comes to this important resource."
LaTourette said the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is designed to mitigate toxic substances in the Great Lakes, reduce the impact of invasive species like zebra mussels and Asian carp, improve near-shore health, reduce nonpoint source pollution, improve habitat and reduce species loss.
"This program allowed us to finish the cleanup of Ashtabula Harbor and remove decades of toxic sludge, and about 300 other projects are on the docket. I am counting on our Ohio senators to safeguard this funding, and perhaps add to it if they can find offsets to pay for it," he said.
The spending bill, which has about 200 amendments, will likely not be finished in the House until September, and then will go to the Senate. LaTourette was also successful in including a ballast water amendment in the bill which will protect Great Lakes waterborne commerce.
The Great Lakes' $7.5 billion fishing industry supports 800,000 jobs, and waterborne commerce provides a huge economic boost. He said the Lake Carriers' Association in Cleveland has said it would take take 2,800 25-ton trucks, 700 railroad cars or 47 barges to carry the load of one Great Lakes vessel. In addition, one study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that Great Lakes shipping saves about $3.6 billion a year over the next least-costly methods of transportation -- by rail or truck.