With congress looking to slash the federal budget any way that it can, regional environmentalists are joining to protect one of the largest funding sources for cleaning up the Great Lakes.
Ideastream's Rick Jackson reports.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative - or GLRI - has had support of President Obama in budgets past.
But with the nation's deficit climbing, federal support for many regional programs is in budget cutters' cross-hairs.
Speculation from Washington insiders suggests funding for the Initiative in 2012 could come in well under the 475 million dollars requested. The President reveals his proposed budget in less than a week.
Jeff Skelding is with the Great Lakes Coalition. He says protecting the lakes is environmentally AND economically vital.
"To cut this program is the exact opposite in terms of the goals that some budget cutters would profess, so we don't think cutting the GLRI is a defensible federal policy option now. In fact it's just the opposite."
Skelding is one of several who spoke at a Monday news conference.... Another, Joel Brammeier, President of the Alliance for the Great Lakes, fears that multi-year projects, some already begun - will stall if money to complete them doesn't materialize.
Specific among his concerns are sewer and infrastructure projects, including some in Northeast and North Central Ohio.
"If resources aren't there to follow up with remediation and solutions on the ground, we're not going to be any better off than where we started - that's why keeping that GLRI funding coming through to communities is so important."
With Congress not having yet ratified the FY11 budget, there is also a possibility some of the $300 million previously committed this year to Lakes Restoration could be lost.
The environmental panel says support thus far `has been' bipartisan for Great Lakes projects that create jobs, clean up toxic hot spots, and support the fishing and tourism industries.
Rick Jackson, 90.3.