WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined six Great Lakes state senators to urge acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeffrey Zients to designate robust funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the president’s 2014 budget request.
“For years, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has helped clean up and keep Lake Erie healthy for generations of Ohioans to enjoy,” Brown said. “We must do all we can to preserve Lake Erie and the thousands of fishing, boating, and recreation jobs that are dependent on its clean and safe waters.”
In addition to Brown, the letter was signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Al Franken (D-MN). “Cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes is not just about being good stewards of the environment; these investments are directly tied to the health of the economy,” the senators wrote in urging the president to request no less than $300 million for the GLRI in his 2014 budget.
Brown has repeatedly called for full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and fought to pass new legislation, the Stop Invasive Species Act, which requires action on permanent solutions to stop the invasive Asian carp from entering Lake Erie. According to the State of Ohio, Lake Erie is responsible for $11 billion in visitor spending alone. The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. GLRI funding has helped support the removal of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality, among other projects.
The Stop Invasive Species Act, cosponsored by Brown and signed into law by the President in July, requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the creation of a plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region. The Stop Invasive Species Act requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to submit to Congress an expedited action plan with options for stopping Asian carp from penetrating the Great Lakes across 18 possible points of entry. The bill requires the Army Corps to submit a progress report to Congress and the President within 90 days of the law's enactment. The full plan would need to be completed within 18 months, meaning the Corps would have to complete its work sometime in 2013.
Brown is also a cosponsor of the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2012, bipartisan legislation aimed at preserving the Great Lakes and bolstering economic growth throughout the Great Lakes region. The legislation is intended to protect the Great Lakes—and the millions of jobs they support—from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species.
The full text of the letter follows.
Mr. Jeffrey D. Zients
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
Dear Acting Director Zients:
The Great Lakes are one of the world’s greatest national treasures and are vital to our nation’s economy. The Great Lakes help power our economy by supplying manufacturers and power plants with water; serving a vital transportation route for industrial and building commodities, fuel supplies, agricultural products, and exports; providing drinking water to more than 30 million Americans; generating $16 billion in spending from recreational boaters; and supporting a $7 billion fishery.
President Obama recognized the importance of this vital resource by including a new program – the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) – as part of his budget request in fiscal year 2010 (FY2010) at a funding level of $475 million.
The GLRI strategically targets funds to programs and projects that address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes Ecosystem. For example, the GLRI is cleaning up toxics at Areas of Concern where industrial pollution continues to threaten public health, contaminate fish and wildlife, and make waterfronts unusable to lakefront communities resulting in lost revenues to local governments and sources of income for businesses. The GLRI is also working to prevent destructive invasive species such as the voracious Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and destroying its $7 billion fishery. The program also works to protect wetlands and watersheds from polluted runoff which can lead to algae blooms resulting in beach closures, fish kills, and public health problems.
As clear from the examples above, cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes is not just about being good stewards of the environment; these investments are directly tied to the health of the economy. Cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes creates jobs now, and provides an environment favorable for business creation and expansion. In fact, a 2007 study by the Brookings Institution found that every dollar spent on restoring the Great Lakes will yield a two to three dollar return. Clearly, that is a worthy investment.
Unfortunately, funding was cut for the GLRI to $300 million in FY2011 and FY2012. Further cuts to this program would endanger critical restoration projects, that in the end would cost more to correct. The longer restoration waits, the more expensive it will be to address the problems.
For these reasons, we strongly urge you to hold funding at no less than $300 million in the President’s FY2014 budget request for the GLRI. As you face difficult decisions in the weeks ahead, we hope you will recognize the vital benefits the GLRI provides, and reflect that in the budget.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.