America’s Great Waters Coalition Urges Senate to Reject Cuts to Clean Water Programs

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   March 15, 2011
Contact:   Mékell Mikel, National Wildlife Federation, 703.438.6273, Mikell@NWF.org
Alison Zemanski, National Parks Conservation Association, 202.384.8762, azemanski@npca.org


America’s Great Waters Coalition Urges Senate to Reject Cuts to Clean Water Programs

Washington, D.C. – A national coalition of conservation organizations, America’s Great Waters Coalition, today urges the U.S. Senate to reject cuts to clean water programs in a U.S. House-passed Continuing Resolution that will significantly reduce protections for America’s Great Waters. The Continuing Resolution slashes more than $2.5 billion from national clean water and regional restoration programs that are putting people to work to help heal besieged waters such as the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, America’s Everglades and Great Lakes. The House budget bill also strips the EPA of its authority under the Clean Water Act to ensure that our waters are safe for drinking, swimming, and recreation.

“We are witnessing a full-out assault on the waters that millions of people depend on for their drinking water, public health, jobs and way of life,” said Adam Kolton, Director, National Advocacy Center, National Wildlife Federation. “We urge the Senate to repel these attacks on the waters that define who we are as a people and a nation.”

More than 115 organizations belonging to the Great Waters Coalition are today sending letters to Senators, urging lawmakers to reject cuts and riders that will stall restoration efforts. The letter states: “[W]e urge you to reject extreme provisions in the House-passed Continuing Resolution that threaten to undermine the restoration and protection of our Great Waters and the millions of jobs and other economic opportunities that depend on them. Far from a legitimate effort to cut wasteful federal spending, the House CR cuts restoration funding by more than 50 percent and includes anti-restoration riders that block our efforts at reducing pollution and otherwise ensuring safe and clean drinking water for communities all across the country.” To view full text, click here.

The House-passed budget contains some of the steepest funding cuts and severe policy roll-backs in years. If allowed to pass in the Senate, the bill would undermine efforts to protect and restore America’s iconic rivers like the Ohio, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri and Rio Grande; giant freshwater ecosystems like Lake Champlain, the Everglades, and the Great Lakes; and coastal bays, estuaries, and gulfs like Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, and the Gulf of Maine.

“Good water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and its thousands of miles of tributary streams and rivers is a critical economic and quality of life issue for the mid-Atlantic region,” said Doug Siglin, federal affairs director for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “No one, including the region’s business community, wants to see deformed fish and polluted beaches and riverbanks. Narrow proposals to reduce federal spending by targeting the longstanding federal-state-local partnership for clean water in the Chesapeake region are shortsighted and misguided. The same is true for the nation’s other great waters. We stand together with our colleagues around the country in opposing cuts that have only a minimal impact on the federal budget but undercut the clean and healthy natural resource base on which America’s prosperity and quality of life depend.”

The steep cuts in the House-passed bill to clean water programs come despite the increasing awareness that environmental restoration and protection efforts provide economic benefit for people and communities—and despite a growing body of evidence that restoration programs provide some of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget. In fact, a recent study commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) found that every federal dollar invested in national parks generates at least fourdollars of economic value to the public.

“In 2009, Everglades National Park, one of America’s Great Waters, employed nearly 3,000 jobs and brought more than $165 million of visitor spending to the state,” said Dawn Shirreffs, Everglades Restoration Program Manager for NPCA.  “Unfortunately, anti-restoration amendments are being slipped into federal budget packages which will degrade water-quality, increase the cost of Everglades restoration efforts, and fail to protect one of America’s most treasured places – Everglades National Park.”

Despite their geographic diversity, many of the nation’s iconic waters face similar threats that impact people, communities, businesses and municipalities. As communities confront long-standing problems such as polluted runoff, sewage overflows, and invasive species—they must also deal with emerging threats such as pharmaceutical byproducts and emergencies such as the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us,” said Keith Dimoff, Executive Director, Ohio Environmental Council. “The good news is that we can meet the challenge if lawmakers don’t undermine successful clean water policies. In Ohio, we’ve seen the Cuyahoga River catch fire and heard Lake Erie declared ‘dead.’ Due to hard work and strong environmental protections, we’ve come back from the brink. But our job is not done. Our message to Congress is simple: Don’t quit on the millions of people who depend on these waters 365 days a year for their jobs and way of life.  We have solutions—it’s time to use them, not undermine them.”

About the Great Waters Coalition: The Great Waters Coalition consists of more than 50 local, regional, and national organizations that strive to make the restoration of America’s waters a national priority,  secure sustainable funding for restoration, and enact and ensure the sound implementation of restoration activities. To learn more about the Great Waters Coalition, please click here.

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