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Ohio's Senators, Environmentalists, Vow To Reverse Obama's Cuts To GLRI

Lake Erie shoreline (Photo: Brian Bull/ideastream)
Lake Erie shoreline (Photo: Brian Bull/ideastream)

By ideastream's Brian Bull

President Obama’s latest budget proposal –again-- requests $250 million for an initiative that protects the waters and ecosystem of the Great Lakes region.  That’s $50 million less than the current budget and regional delegates are pushing back.

It’s the third time the White House has proposed cutting money for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a six-year-old program that’s enjoyed bipartisan support from eight states in the upper Midwest. 

Among those who’d like funding brought back to $300 million is Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. He says there’s no more important natural resource for his state than Lake Erie, which has its challenges.

“It’s always a struggle to keep it clean," says Brown.  "And when this lake is so much shallower....shallow is 30 feet on the western basin near Toledo, it’s so much shallower than Lake Superior, averaging 600 feet deep, and so much shallower than all the Great Lakes, so it’s more vulnerable, it means more attention needs to be paid to it.” 

Brown’s Republican counterpart, Ohio Senator Rob Portman, says in a statement that he’s also disappointed in the president’s “inadequate funding” plan. 

Portman has co-authored legislation that allocates $300 million for the GLRI.  The program addresses issues including wildlife habitat, pollution, and runoff that causes toxic algae in the Great Lakes.

Portman and Brown both say they’ll work with other delegates from the Great Lakes region to get that amount. 

Todd Ambs is director of the group, Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition.  He says they’ll lobby to get funding back to the $300 million level.  The president has twice recommended a cut for the Great Lakes Initiative only to have Congress restore the budget.

Ambs says in the past six years the initiative has provided $2.2 billion towards 2,900 projects:

"To address things like cleaning up toxic hot spots, addressing the problem of aquatic invasive species, working on important habit restoration work, taking steps to reduce excess nutrients that are flowing into our lakes that cause problems like the Lake Erie algal blooms.”