A week after a subcommittee slashed funding from $285-$60 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations passed an amendment to provide $210 million to the program.
The amendment, offered by Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) and Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), passed by voice vote.
The additional funding for the federal program, called an offset, will come from fees collected from extending the selloff of helium rights.
Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) also offered an amendment to increase the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to $283.7 million without providing an offset. Her amendment failed by party line vote.
Members on the committee, including Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Bill Owens (D-NY), Mike Quigley (D-IL) , and Pete Visclosky (D-IN), spoke about the need for the nation to support Great Lakes restoration efforts.
Even Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID), who chairs the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, said that the earlier version of the bill cut Great Lakes programs too drastically.
He went so far as to say the $210 million level is still "probably not enough." He added: "We will work to try to get it to a higher level."
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports efforts in the eight-state region of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York to clean up toxic pollution, reduce runoff from cities and farms, prevent invasive species like the Asian carp, and restore fish and wildlife habitat.
Responding to the amendment, Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:
"This is a welcome step in the right direction. We thank Reps. Joyce, McCollum, and all the Great Lakes members of this committee who are standing up for the Great Lakes. We also were glad to see Chairman Simpson's pledge to work to find more funding for this critical restoration initiative. We look forward to working with our allies in Congress as the budget process unfolds to restore funding to $300 million.
"It is essential that the nation maintain its commitment to the Great Lakes. Our restoration efforts are producing results, but there is more work to do. The re-emergence of toxic algal blooms, ongoing beach closings, state-wide fish consumption advisories, and legacy of toxic contamination are all reminders that the Great Lakes still desperately need our help. Cutting funding will only make problems worse and more expensive to solve.
"Over the last four years, Republicans and Democrats have united to restore the Great Lakes, and we remain committed to working with them to restore a resource that more than 30 million people depend on for their drinking water, jobs, health, and way of life."
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of 120 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
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