Kaptur scores $19 million in budget earmarks for Erie, Ottawa counties

ERIE COUNTY Need a favor in Washington? You could do worse than asking Marcy Kaptur
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

ERIE COUNTY

Need a favor in Washington? You could do worse than asking Marcy Kaptur for help.

The congresswoman, a Toledo Democrat, had 10 appropriations earmarks benefiting Erie and Ottawa counties in the omnibus budget bill that President George Bush signed into law. The total value of the earmarks is $19 million.

Appropriations bills the House passed in 2007 included many earmarks inserted by Kaptur, with 10 specifically aimed at helping Erie and Ottawa counties.

Kaptur's aides cautioned in October that it's one thing to get an earmark included in a House bill and another to keep it in the final version. But when the omnibus budget bill was approved, all 10 remained. In many cases the amounts were reduced, although one appropriation for a wind turbine at BGSU Firelands increased from $100,000 to $600,000.

"Ten for 10 is pretty good," said Steve Fought, Kaptur's spokesman.

Earmarks are provisions in appropriations bills that benefit a particular lawmaker's district. Kaptur is a longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Here are the 10, with the final amounts:

*$1.175 million to develop a solar energy project at NASA Plum Brook Station.

*$3.2 million to continue Department of Defense testing of an aerostat, a tethered blimp, at NASA Plum Brook Station. Testing at Plum Brook began last year, after Kaptur obtained initial funding for the project.

The two Plum Brook items provide a total of $4.375 million.

"Plum Brook is a special focus of her attention because of the potential for high tech jobs," Fought said.

*$7.5 million for the Brush Wellman Engineered Materials beryllium plant in Ottawa County. It will help build a new processing facility for a key defense material.

*$3.2 million to develop alternative energy projects, such as wind turbines or solar energy, at Camp Perry and the Air National Guard base at the Toledo airport. The money adds to the $7.1 million Kaptur secured for the same projects in the 2006 and 2007 budgets.

*$936,164 for fishery restoration in the Great Lakes. Sports and commercial fishing are important industries in Erie and Ottawa counties.

*$935,180 to continue public works construction to provide clean drinking water for Put-in-Bay.

*$467,590 to dredge the harbor at Huron to keep it available for shipping. Kaptur originally had obtained $1 million for the dredging.

"Dredging projects, simply all of them are getting cut," Fought said.

*$600,000 to continue a project to build a wind turbine at BGSU Firelands.

*$499,220 to restore corroded water mains in Ottawa County.

*$490,000 to provide solar power for the terminal at Put-in-Bay.

Kaptur said the emphasis on alternative energy projects such as wind turbines is based on her belief that alternative energy could play a big role in Erie County's economy. Because of the winds that sweep in from Lake Erie, Kaptur often refers to northern Ohio as the "Saudi Arabia of wind."

"Nothing could be more important to us," she said. "Imagine if farmers in Erie County could create solar fields and wind farms that could power us into the future."