U.S. Reps. Sander Levin, John Dingell and Dan Benishek are spearheading an effort to persuade the House Appropriations Committee to sustain level funding to continue the important work of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). In a bipartisan letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, the three Michigan lawmakers and 35 other House members called for $300 million in 2014 for the GLRI, a three-year-old effort to protect, restore and maintain the Great Lakes ecosystem. A copy of the letter is below.
"We're making real progress on restoring the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, but there is still a lot more work to do," said Rep. Levin. "Now is the time for everyone who cares about the Great Lakes to stand together and ensure the Great Lakes get the funding they need."
The GLRI provides funding to address vital environmental issues in the Great Lakes, such as cleaning up contaminated sediments, reducing polluted runoff, mitigating habitat degradation and loss, and addressing invasive species such as the Asian carp. The program has invested over $1 billion in Great Lakes restoration over the last three years.
In its budget submission to Congress last week, the Obama Administration requested $300 million in 2014 for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to continue the work, but money is expected to be tight this year, and lawmakers will be confronted with many competing needs when they begin writing the annual spending bills this summer.
Of all the Great Lakes states, Michigan has the most to lose if funding for the restoration effort is cut. A recent report prepared by the Great Lakes Commission noted that the "GLRI is well underway in Michigan, with more than $163 million coming into the state to implement 364 local and on-the-ground restoration projects in the first three years." To see how the GLRI is benefitting Michigan communities, visit http://glc.org/restore/glrimap/
Great Lakes advocacy groups, including the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and the Alliance for the Great Lakes, helped to highlight the need sustained funding for the GLRI in recent weeks and urged members to join the letter, which was signed by 30 Democrats and 8 Republicans. Michigan House members signing the letter included Sander Levin, John Dingell, Dan Benishek, Gary Peters, John Conyers, and Dan Kildee.
Continued bipartisan support for the GLRI reflects a broad recognition that the Great Lakes are both a natural treasure and a vital economic asset for Michigan and the other seven Great Lakes states. The Great Lakes support 1.5 million jobs generating $62 billion annually in wages; provide a home for four million recreational boats and a $16 billion annual boating industry; underpin a $30 billion tourism economy; and create the longest inland deep-draft navigation system in the world, moving 322 million metric tons of cargo annually. The Brookings Institution has projected that fully implementing the regional restoration strategy for the Great Lakes will generate at least $50 billion in long-term economic benefits.
The following letter was sent to Chairman Michael K. Simpson and Ranking Member James Moran of the Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations:
Dear Chairman Simpson and Ranking Member Moran:
As Members of the House who support a strong, healthy and productive Great Lakes region, we respectfully request that you provide $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the Fiscal Year 2014 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. We appreciate the Committee's past efforts to fund this program, and believe Great Lakes restoration needs to remain a priority.
The Great Lakes are the world's largest system of fresh surface water, providing drinking water for more than 30 million Americans. The Great Lakes are also an invaluable environmental and economic resource that produce immeasurable benefits for the region and the nation. The Great Lakes support 1.5 million jobs, generating $62 billion in wages each year. The Great Lakes fishery alone is valued at $7 billion a year. The Lakes also support commerce, agriculture, transportation and tourism, and are home to over 3500 species of plants and animals.
At the same time, the Lakes have struggled with invasive species, toxic chemical contamination, habitat loss, and beach closures. We must do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes and combat these clear and present threats.
We urge you to support this vital investment in the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes. Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.
Sander Levin, John Dingell, Dan Benishek, Louise Slaughter, David Joyce, Gwen Moore, Brian Higgins, Gary Peters, John Conyers, Marcia Fudge, Luis Gutierrez, Charles Rangel, Jerrold Nadler, Keith Ellison, Carolyn Maloney, Mark Pocan, Thomas Petri, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jan Schakowsky, Alcee Hastings, Paul Tonko, Steve Israel, Reid Ribble, Dan Kildee, Brad Schneider, Richard Hanna, Christopher Gibson, Ron Kind, Dan Maffei, Tim Walz, Danny Davis, Rick Nolan, Bill Owens, Tim Bishop, Bill Johnson, Collin Peterson, Chris Collins, Andre Carson