Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and six other Great Lakes state senators wrote today to acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients calling for robust funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the president's 2014 budget request.
"Cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes is not just about being good stewards of the environment; these investments are directly tied to the health of the economy," the senators write in urging the president to request no less than $300 million for the GLRI in his 2014 budget.
In addition to Sen. Levin, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, the letter was signed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan; Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio; Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand of New York; and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken of Minnesota.
The full text of the letter follows:
December 7, 2012
Mr. Jeffrey D. Zients
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Acting Director Zients:
The Great Lakes are one of the world's greatest national treasures and are vital to our nation's economy. The Great Lakes help power our economy by supplying manufacturers and power plants with water; serving a vital transportation route for industrial and building commodities, fuel supplies, agricultural products, and exports; providing drinking water to more than 30 million Americans; generating $16 billion in spending from recreational boaters; and supporting a $7 billion fishery.
President Obama recognized the importance of this vital resource by including a new program -- the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) -- as part of his budget request in fiscal year 2010 (FY2010) at a funding level of $475 million.
The GLRI strategically targets funds to programs and projects that address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes Ecosystem. For example, the GLRI is cleaning up toxics at Areas of Concern where industrial pollution continues to threaten public health, contaminate fish and wildlife, and make waterfronts unusable to lakefront communities resulting in lost revenues to local governments and sources of income for businesses. The GLRI is also working to prevent destructive invasive species such as the voracious Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and destroying its $7 billion fishery. The program also works to protect wetlands and watersheds from polluted runoff which can lead to algae blooms resulting in beach closures, fish kills, and public health problems.
As clear from the examples above, cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes is not just about being good stewards of the environment; these investments are directly tied to the health of the economy. Cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes creates jobs now, and provides an environment favorable for business creation and expansion. In fact, a 2007 study by the Brookings Institution found that every dollar spent on restoring the Great Lakes will yield a two to three dollar return. Clearly, that is a worthy investment.
Unfortunately, funding was cut for the GLRI to $300 million in FY2011 and FY2012. Further cuts to this program would endanger critical restoration projects, that in the end would cost more to correct. The longer restoration waits, the more expensive it will be to address the problems.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to hold funding at no less than $300 million in the President's FY2014 budget request for the GLRI. As you face difficult decisions in the weeks ahead, we hope you will recognize the vital benefits the GLRI provides, and reflect that in the budget.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Kristen E. Gillibrand
Charles E. Schumer