White House Budget Leaves Great Lakes Programs on 'Thin Ice'

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   February 7, 2008
Contact:   Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, 734-904-1589, lubetkin@nwf.org
Cameron Davis, Alliance for the Great Lakes, 312-375-2004, cdavis@greatlakes.org
Nora Ferrell, Valerie Denney Communications, 312-408-2580 x 24, nora@vdcom.com
Tracey McIntire, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3311, tmcintire@npca.org


White House Budget Leaves Great Lakes Programs on 'Thin Ice'

 WASHINGTON, D.C. (February 6) – President Bush’s proposed budget fails to turn the tide against the growing threats of sewage pollution, invasive species and other problems compromising the health of the Great Lakes, the Healing our Waters–Great Lakes Coalition warned today.

“The White House budget leaves the Great Lakes on thin ice and underscores the need for the U.S. Congress to act now to address the serious threats to the lakes. Every day we wait the problems get worse and the solutions more costly,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

“The Great Lakes are our Grand Canyon, our Yellowstone, yet they remain vulnerable and face enormous conservation challenges,” said Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.). “Congress will work to ensure that we protect and preserve this national treasure for generations to come.”

“At a time when our lakes are threatened by increased sewage dumping and mercury emissions, we should be expanding our protection efforts for the Great Lakes, not cutting resources for water protection,” said. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.). “With all the major presidential candidates pledging their support for the Great Lakes, I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Congress to increase funding to keep the drinking water for 30 million Americans clean.”

The Bush Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2009 budget calls for $295 million for Great Lakes programs, a reduction of $56 million, or 16 percent, from current enacted levels.

"Sadly, this President's budget that cuts vital programs combating invasive species and pollution, fails to address the serious problems facing our Great Lakes," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). "From fishing to tourism, communities and families across Michigan rely on the lakes for their livelihood.  Protecting our Great Lakes is not only critical to our economy, but to the very identity of our state and our nation. As a member of the Senate Budget Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to restore this funding and develop a responsible budget that properly invests in one of America's greatest resources” 

“The President's budget proposal is woefully inadequate for making real progress towards the restoration of the Great Lakes, which not only will benefit the environment, but also the economy,” said Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).  “It is completely unacceptable that the President, who has acknowledged that the Great Lakes are a national treasure, would fail to provide enough funding to ensure that restoration priorities are implemented.” 

The Bush Administration’s budget includes more funding for an electric barrier to keep the non-native Asian carp out of the lakes and a modest increase for the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a program to clean up the most polluted harbors in the region.

Programs targeted for the sharpest cuts include those intended to prevent sewage contamination and to battle invasive species.

For the 2009 fiscal year, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition requested:

· $490 million for the eight Great Lakes states to stop sewage contamination. The White House requested $201 million for sewage treatment in the region, a reduction of $48 million, or 19 percent, from the current fiscal year. 

· $21.8 million to control the invasive sea lamprey by funding the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The White House requested $13 million, a $3.49 million reduction, or 21 percent, from the current fiscal year.

· $10 million to restore fish and wildlife habitat by funding the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Act. The White House requested no funding for the program, down from $940,000 in the current fiscal year.

The proposed funding cuts come as recent studies indicate that restoring the Great Lakes have tremendous economic benefits. The Brookings Institution found that a $26 billion investment in the Great Lakes would yield at least $80 billion in economic benefit and activity in the region.

“The White House budget fails to reap the benefits that investing in the Great Lakes will bring,” said Cameron Davis, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Congress’ investment in resuscitating the Great Lakes is an investment in the regional economy, job creation, and quality of life for millions of workers.”

“We must do everything we can to protect the Great Lakes, including the treasured national parks that preserve the unique environment and wildlife of the region,” said Chad Lord, director of the National Parks Conservation Association Great Lakes Program. “Congress needs to act now to provide the funding necessary to protect these American treasures.”

In 2005 the Bush Administration launched a task force of federal, state, local and tribal officials that was entrusted with diagnosing the problems plaguing the Great Lakes and developing a plan to aid them. The result of that effort, the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, offers solutions to improve sewage treatment capacity, stop invasive species, clean-up toxic pollutants and restore fish and wildlife habitat.

President Bush, however, has refused to use his leadership to advance that plan.

“The leading presidential candidates have signed a pledge to restore the Great Lakes, and we expect those candidates to keep their promises,” said Skelding. “But we cannot wait until 2009. Congress must seize the day now and stand up for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their jobs and way of life.”

For more information, visit: http://www.healthylakes.org

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