Coalition Applauds Historic Great Lakes Restoration Bill

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 4, 2010
Contact:   Chad Lord, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 202-454-3385, clord@npca.org
Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 734-904-1589, lubetkin@nwf.org
Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 410-242-2704, JSkelding@nwf.org


Coalition Applauds Historic Great Lakes Restoration Bill

ANN ARBOR, MI — The Healing Our Waters®-Great Lakes Coalition today applauded historic new legislation that promises $650 million annually for the next five years to restore the Great Lakes—the largest federal investment ever to clean up the Great Lakes.

“This monumental legislation adds momentum to Great Lakes restoration and sets in place a framework for the future,” said Lynn McClure, co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and Midwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “We applaud the President for proposing his Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and we applaud Congress for introducing bi-partisan legislation that recognizes the national importance of the Great Lakes to our economy and way of life.”
 
U.S. Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio), along with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), introduced the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act (S. 3073) today in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) with Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced similar legislation (HR 4755) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes are a unique American treasure,” said Sen. Levin. “Nearly a tenth of our population lives in the Great Lakes basin, relying on the life-sustaining drinking water the lakes provide, and reaping economic and recreational benefits from them daily. We must recognize that we are only their temporary stewards and do all we can to ensure that the federal government meets its ongoing obligation to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The bill I am introducing today provides a host of sensible, bipartisan proposals that appropriately treat the Lakes as the great treasure they are. The bill aims to ensure the Lakes will prosper in the long term so that future generations of Americans will be able to enjoy them and benefit from them as we have.”

“Our Great Lakes congressional champions have put forward a bill that is a shot in the arm for the Great Lakes and the economy,” said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chair of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center. “This bill treats the Great Lakes as the landmark they are and offers the prescription needed to help heal the Lakes back to health.”

“The Great Lakes are a precious resource located in our own backyard, so it is imperative that we do everything we can to protect them,” said Rep. Ehlers. “The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act will provide for the removal of contamination within the next ten years in the areas of concern identified in the Great Lakes Legacy Act, and it will authorize funding in support of the important recommendations in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. The longer we wait to address areas of serious contamination, the more difficult and expensive it will be to clean them up.”

“The Great Lakes represent 20 percent of the world’s fresh water supply, and it is about time we put some serious effort into restoring and protecting them,” said Rep. Slaughter.  “The economies of the cities bordering the Great Lakes, including Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Rochester, all of which I represent, are absolutely dependent on them-making this not just an environmental issue, but an economic one.”

The legislation promises $650 million annually for the next five years for programs to restore the Great Lakes, including those to clean up toxic pollution, control invasive species, and restore habitat. The bill includes the largest federal investment to restore the Great Lakes.
 
“This legislation means we all have a say in making sure Great Lakes restoration is done right,” said Jill Ryan, co-chair of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and executive director of Freshwater Future. “Passage of this bill will pay huge dividends for the people, businesses and communities which rely on the lakes 365 days a year. We urge the U.S. Congress to pass this bill, before the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”
 
The legislation:
•   Authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and provides $475 million annually for the program, which was first funded in President Obama’s 2009 budget. The GLRI is a multi-agency federal effort to remove contaminated sediments from the lakes, control invasive species, reduce non-point source pollution, and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
•   Reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act and provide $150 million annually for the other federal program that removes contaminated sediments from the lakes and their connecting waters.
•   Guarantees $25 million annually for the U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office, which oversees several Great Lakes programs for the EPA.
•   Enhances transparency by establishing a leadership board and multi-stakeholder management committee to ensure continued, broad collaboration and partnerships.
•   Creates accountability by requiring federal agencies to incorporate the restoration recommendations from the leadership committee into its annual budgets and restoration plans or explain why those recommendations are being ignored.

The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of all fresh surface water on the planet, and 95 percent of all fresh surface water in the U.S. The lakes support one of the world’s largest regional economies, including a $7 billion fishery and a $16 billion tourism industry. More than 35 million people rely on the lakes for drinking water, jobs and their way of life.

Despite their significance, the Great Lakes remain threatened by chemical pollutants that threaten the health of people and wildlife; invasive species that cost the region at least $200 million per year in damages and control costs; and habitat destruction that hurts water quality, wildlife, and the region’s outdoor recreation industry.

“After decades of assault and abuse, the Great Lakes will not be healed over night,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “It’s going to take a sustained, multi-year effort to nurse the Lakes back to health, which is why the new Great Lakes bill is a big deal. It shows that Congress is treating the Lakes as a national priority. Passing this bill will create jobs, protect public health and uphold our way of life.”
 
A study by the Brookings Institution found that every $1 spent on Great Lakes restoration would yield $2 in economic activity in the region.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 100 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

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

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