To the Journal editor:
Great Lakes restoration activities have enjoyed bipartisan support for years.
There is nothing controversial about a healthy Great Lakes region. Millions of people enjoy swimming, fishing, and drinking clean water in this area. Earlier this year, nearly 40 members of Congress-Republicans and Democrats-asked their colleagues to support $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Unfortunately, last week a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee released a bill that cuts funding for Great Lakes programs.
The bill slashes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80 percent from the current level of $285 million to a proposed $60 million for fiscal year 2014.
The bill also slashes funding to help communities fix old sewers, cutting the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund from the current level of $1.03 billion to $250 million for fiscal year 2014.
Members of Congress around the region have accomplished great things for our Great Lakes in the past few years and we are seeing those investments pay off.
As a staff member of Freshwater Future, I have personally seen the many great benefits these programs have provided to various local communities on the ground throughout the region.
Here in the Upper Peninsula, a cleanup of the St. Mary’s River removed 500,000 pounds of pollutants, which included such things as chromium and mercury.
The contaminated sediment would have covered an area the size of a football field to a height of 24 feet. Many, many more stories just like this can be found at healthylakes.org.
As part of having a healthy Great Lakes, we also need a strong Environmental Protection Agency to implement environmental regulations that are critical to the health of our lakes. Cutting funding that is critical to the EPA will result in weaker protections for our Lakes.
I offer my sincere thanks to Members of Congress for the work they have done thus far to support restoration funding and I urge them to hold strong and reject the budget cuts to the EPA and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
I understand that these are tough fiscal times, but times are even tougher for the health of our Great Lakes. A healthy and functioning Great Lakes are essential to the longevity of the region’s economy.
If we stop investing in our lakes now, we not only lose the headway we have made, restoration expenses dramatically increase and problems compound even more over time.