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Coalition to Congress: Don’t Cut Successful Great Lakes Programs that Protect Drinking Water, Uphold Public Health, Create Jobs

February 7, 2011
For Immediate Release
 
Contact: Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (734) 904-1589
Amy Beyer, Conservation Resource Alliance, (231) 946-6817
Joel Brammeier, Alliance for the Great Lakes, (312) 939-0838x224
Denny Caneff, River Alliance of Wisconsin, (608) 257-2424 ext. 115
Jill Jedlicka, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, (716)  852-7483 ext. 21
Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future, (231) 348-8200
Gildo Tori, Ducks Unlimited, (734) 623-2001

 

Coalition to Congress

Don’t Cut Successful Great Lakes Programs that Protect Drinking Water, Uphold Public Health, Create Jobs

‘Restoration programs deliver results and offer some of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget.’

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (February 7, 2011) – The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today called on the U.S. Congress to maintain funding for successful Great Lakes programs that protect drinking water, safeguard public health, create jobs and uphold a way of life for millions of people.

“Great Lakes restoration efforts supported by the federal government are improving the lives of millions of Americans in the Great Lakes region,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Restoration programs deliver results and offer some of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget. Cutting Great Lakes funds only stalls action making the problems worse and more costly to solve. We urge Congress to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million in 2011 to protect our drinking water, public health, jobs and way of life.”

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been widely hailed as kick-starting the nation’s effort to restore the Great Lakes—a resource that more than 30 million people depend on for their drinking water. The initiative funds solutions to some of the most urgent threats to the lakes, including toxic contamination, polluted run-off, aquatic invasive species, and loss of habitat and wetlands.

As Congress works to finalize its budget, the stakes are high for the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—which stand to lose thousands of jobs and face more environmental and economic challenges if the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is cut. Currently, the region’s states are putting people to work as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and are starting to see results from activities to restore the Lakes in places like:

--Detroit, Mich., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funds are helping to accelerate clean-up efforts of the Detroit River, which has seen the return of lake white fish and lake sturgeon after years of absence. Restoring the river is a vital component of the city’s redevelopment of its waterfront to create jobs and attract people by offering recreational opportunities.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a shot in the arm for local communities,” said Jill Ryan, executive director of Freshwater Future, which works with community-based watershed groups across the region to improve the health of the Lakes. “Congressional support of Great Lakes programs will greatly increase the reach and pace of the work in the Detroit River and other special places across the region.”

--Benzie County, Mich., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping the Benzie County Road Commission replace failing, eroding culverts with a new bridge that will improve water quality, allow fish passage and save taxpayers money on maintenance and dredging costs.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is helping rural communities address long-overdue problems like failing infrastructure that not only pose a safety problem to people, but also pose severe threats to fish, river health and water quality,” said Amy Beyer, executive director of Conservation Resource Alliance, a Michigan-based organization that restores rivers that feed the Great Lakes. “It’s the best investment we have in northern Michigan, and we sure hope it doesn’t come to a halt with such huge returns at stake.”

--Buffalo, N.Y., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping to clean up the Buffalo River, one the region’s designated Areas of Concern—so-called “toxic hot-spot”—due to high levels of PAH's, PCB’s, lead and mercury in the river sediment that pose a health risk to people and wildlife.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is helping cities make progress on the serious and ongoing problem of toxic contamination,” said Jill Jedlicka, director of ecological programs for the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, which seeks to restore its two namesake rivers. “Federal support is instrumental in moving these river clean-ups forward so that we can protect human health and the environment before the problems get worse and more expensive.”

--Marinette, Wis., and Menominee, Mich., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping the recovery of the endangered lake sturgeon by building structures to help the fish bypass hydro-electric dams and access spawning habitat.

“By improving the health of rivers that feed into the Lakes, we’re improving the health of the Great Lakes themselves,” said Denny Caneff, executive director of River Alliance of Wisconsin, which works to restore the state’s rivers. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a pragmatic, effective program that is providing tangible results to people and wildlife. It would be foolish to cut this successful program now.”

--Chicago, Ill., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping confront one of the most vexing problems facing the Lakes—beach closings—by identifying and knocking out sources of pathogenic pollution.

“Protecting families by keeping beaches safe happens when cash-strapped communities have partners to help share the burden,” said Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, a regional Great Lakes advocacy organization. “Hard-hit cities and towns can’t afford to lose the economic value – upwards of $35 per visit - paid every time a beachgoer steps foot on the sand. With millions of potential visits on the line each year, ensuring we can all swim in the water is a smart investment this year and next.”

--Port Clinton, Ohio, and Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge, Mich., where Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are helping restore wetlands that improve water quality, prevent erosion and flooding, provide a home for wildlife and help support the region’s outdoor recreation economy.

“Restoration projects deliver results,” said Gildo Tori, director of public policy for the Great Lakes-Atlantic Regional Office of Ducks Unlimited, a national wetland conservation organization. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is helping to advance solutions project by project, community by community. We need to be sharing these successes and replicating them across the region—not cutting them.”

In 2010 with support from Congress the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative injected $475 million into solutions to prevent polluted run-off, clean up toxic sediments, control invasive species and restore habitat and wetlands. President Obama requested $300 for the current fiscal year, which runs through September 30.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the cornerstone program in the region-wide movement to restore the Great Lakes and revive the economic fortunes of the region. Conservation groups have praised the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for accelerating restoration efforts over the last several years that have helped to:

  • Clean up drinking water flowing to millions of homes.
  • Prevent run-off and cleaned up pollution to keep beaches open.
  • Provide fish and wildlife habitat, benefitting anglers, hunters, birdwatchers and wildlife recreationalists.
  • Create good-paying jobs in engineering and manufacturing to clean up toxic hot spots and install new sewage treatment facilities, to specialists restoring wetlands, to those in the fishing and tourism industries.

To read more stories about how Great Lakes restoration programs are benefiting people and communities, visit: http://www.healthylakes.org/news-events/report/new-reports-examine-successful-great-lakes-restoration-projects

Great Lakes restoration activities produce $2 for every $1 investment, according to the Brookings Institution. Restoration projects employ people in a variety of fields, from hydrologists to engineers, landscape architects to truck drivers and more. Restoration projects create jobs now and lay the foundation for long-term prosperity.

“We should not stop now,” said Skelding, “because there is still much work that needs to be done to clean up contamination, stop sewage overflows, and rebuild the wetlands that help keep contaminated farm runoff out of the Lakes, to protect the water we count on for drinking, swimming and fishing. We can’t afford to stop these efforts. If the funding is cut, all of these problems will only get harder and more expensive to solve.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 115 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

For more information, visit: www.healthylakes.org


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