U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) vowed to continue his fight to protect Great Lakes Funding as the State of the Great Lakes 2017 Report was released today. The report describes Lake Erie's ecosystem as "in poor condition and the trend is deteriorating," due to the threat of harmful algal blooms.
In May, Brown blasted President Trump's budget for eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a highly successful program that jumpstarted efforts to protect, maintain and restore the integrity of the Great Lakes. The budget also reduces funding for agricultural conservation programs and eliminates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Sea Grant Program, which funds Ohio State Stone Lab on Lake Erie. Stone Lab plays a critical role in monitoring and protecting Lake Erie.
"As a kid, I can remember how polluted Lake Erie was. This report demonstrates that, while we have made huge strides in cleaning up our Great Lakes, there is still more to do," said Brown. "I will continue to work with my Ohio colleagues -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to protect Lake Erie from dangerous proposals to zero out the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Any cuts to Great Lakes funding threaten the health of Lake Erie and the millions of Ohioans who rely on it, putting jobs and our water supply at risk."
In the government funding measure passed earlier this year, Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) helped ensure that the measure included $300 million for GLRI for the remainder of the fiscal year, battling back reported attempts to cut the GLRI by $50 million this fiscal year.
Last week, Brown introduced a pair of bills to protect and restore Ohio fisheries, which support Ohio's tourism industry and local jobs.
The Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act would support infrastructure updates that will improve Great Lakes fisheries and restore habitats. The bill would provide grants to repair or replace aging dams, culverts and roads that inhibit the movement of fish populations across the Great Lakes Basin. The bill creates a grant program under which a group of appointed state and tribal representatives review proposals for infrastructure projects to help improve fisheries.
The Great Lakes Mass Marking Program Act would help better monitor the health of fish populations in the Great Lakes through better scientific tracking technology. This will help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources make decisions to support and rehabilitate sport fish populations in the basin. This program was initiated in the Great Lakes on a limited scale in 2010, and would be fully established in statute under this legislation.
Brown has worked to strengthen the GLRI -- a highly successful program that has targeted the most significant problems in the region and jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes.
As the first Ohioan to serve on the Senate Agriculture Committee in more than 40 years, Brown helped to establish the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) in the 2014 Farm Bill which created voluntary partnerships between agricultural and conservation groups aimed at helping farmers improve soil health, protect water quality, and restore wildlife habitats.
In March 2016, Brown announced a $41 million investment through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) in additional Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) funding to help protect the western Lake Erie basin from harmful algal blooms and improve water quality. In fiscal years 2008 - 2015, NRCS obligated a total of $314 million in technical and financial assistance for conservation throughout the Great Lakes region through foundation Farm Bill Programs.
Last Congress, Brown cosponsored the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015 (GLEEPA) -- a bill that would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and codify the program into statute. In December, Brown successfully fought to include authorization for GLRI in the Senate water bill.