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Great Lakes funding restored

Tom Jackson • Jan 16, 2014 at 11:20 AM

Congressional leaders have announced a new bipartisan compromise budget bill that includes $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for 2014, up from $285 million in 2013.

It’s a bill that funds programs to clean up the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, featuring efforts to reduce storm runoff that feeds harmful algal blooms; clean up pollution; restore habitat for fish and wildlife; and keep invasive species out.

In addition, the new budget bill includes $1.44 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, up from $1.37 billion in 2013. The fund provides low-interest loans to communities to pay for sewer system projects, so it also has a direct connection to efforts to clean up Lake Erie and prevent harmful algal blooms.    The House and the Senate are expected to vote later this week on the bill, which would fund the government until Oct. 1, when the next federal fiscal year begins.

Jordan Lubetkin, a spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation on Great Lakes issues, said passage of the budget agreement is expected.

“Congress has to pass this budget,” Lubetkin said. “They are likely to pass a very short continuing resolution that will give them until midnight on Saturday to pass the entire omnibus budget. So we are very pleased and very optimistic”

Environmentalists and Great Lakes lawmakers are pleased with the funding figures, particularly after a House committee a few months ago proposed a severe cut in funding for the Great Lakes initiative.

“I am pleased we were able to restore the funding because the GLRI is the single most important program to help the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, whose district hugs the Lake Erie shore from Toledo to Cleveland, including much of Erie and Ottawa counties.

“Now we need to make sure it focuses on protecting Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms and invasive species” Kaptur said.

“This budget represents a significant victory for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs and quality of life” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “This investment will help support programs that are delivering results in communities across the region”

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