TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A spending bill crafted by
congressional leaders would allocate $300 million to a Great Lakes cleanup
that had been threatened with a massive cut during last year's budget
fight, supporters said Tuesday.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a program dealing with some of
the lakes' most serious environmental problems such as invasive species,
loss of wetlands and other wildlife habitat, toxic pollution and runoff
that causes algae blooms.
It has gotten around $300 million in most years since funding began in
2010. But last year, a House subcommittee proposed slashing the 2014
allocation to just $60 million — an 80 percent cut that Great Lakes
advocates said would gut the program, which has bipartisan support in
The compromise measure released this week also would boost spending on
another program targeted with an 80 percent funding cut last year that
provides loans to communities for improving drinking water and sewage
treatment infrastructure. That program is slated to receive $1.44 billion
in 2014, up from $1.37 billion in 2013. About one-third of that money
usually goes to the Great Lakes region, where sewer overflows are a
"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.
Advocates developed a $20 billion wish list of environmental restoration
needs a decade ago as scientists warned the lakes were reaching "tipping
points" where festering ecological ailments would do irreversible damage.
President George W. Bush signed a bill calling for a wide-ranging cleanup
but provided little money. President Barack Obama's administration
developed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2009, provided $475
million the first year and has sought about $300 million annually since
The program has pumped $1.3 billion into 1,700 grants for on-the-ground
projects and research. They have restored wetlands and other wildlife
habitat; advanced cleanups of harbors fouled with toxic industrial
chemicals such as PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls; and supported
efforts to reduce agricultural runoff that feeds runaway algae.
Millions of dollars have already been devoted to targeting the ravenous
Asian carp by operating an electric barrier near Chicago. The funds also
will pay crews to harvest the fish, an invasive species, in Illinois
waters so they won't slip into Lake Michigan and compete with native
A parade of lawmakers, both Democrats and Republicans from the eight Great
Lakes states, protested when the House Interior, Environment and Related
Agencies Subcommittee proposed the deep cut in July. It was a show of
bipartisan unity that starkly contrasted with the ideological warfare that
caused a partial government shutdown in October.
Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican and subcommittee member, said Tuesday
that the restored funding was "a big win for our region because it helps
ensure our Great Lakes will remain an economic powerhouse and source of
job creation for years to come."
Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, said the
measure would provide enough money to continue healing "one of our
country's greatest treasures."