It took congressional dealing, posturing, and sausage-making. But a House committee has restored funding, albeit partial, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for 2014.
The initiative is aimed at cleaning the lakes and battling invasive species. For Lake Erie, it is critical.
President Obama had authorized, and Congress approved, $475 million for the initiative next year. But in this year’s toxic budget negotiations, that allocation was slashed to $60 million.
A Republican amendment provides an additional $150 million for the initiative, bringing the total to $210 million. The measure extends a federal program that sells helium to companies that make fiber-optic cables and smart phones. The $210 million is less than half the previously agreed upon $475 million, which scientists and environmentalists — and a Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee — say was not enough. But it beats $60 million.
The Great Lakes support 1.5 million jobs and generate $62 billion in annual wages. The lakes must be restored and preserved, even as Lake Erie is enduring toxic algae blooms again this year.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, whose district includes Toledo and much of Lake Erie, states the case succinctly: “We’re at the doorstep of one of the most precious places in the world, the edge of America’s freshwater coast. The [initiative] has been our chance to clean up and fix up Lake Erie and the Great Lakes. We need to continue.”