The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), aimed at cleaning up a wide range of environmental concerns, is about to run out of time with much work left to do, but Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) moved last week to give the conservation project a second chance. A similar bill in last month’s session of the lame duck Congress passed the House but lost momentum in the Senate and stagnated. The GLRI explains that the threats to the Great Lakes’ ecosystem are grave and if not addressed will destroy the legacy of the massive natural resource to future generations. They call for establishing a “standard of care” that will allow this generation to pass on the ecosystem better than they found it so that their children and grandchildren may enjoy its benefits.
President Obama first authorized the GLRI in 2010 which has since then spent approximately $1.6 billion on more than 2,000 cleanup efforts covering eight states. Toxic cleanup, reduction of industrial and farm runoff, habitat improvements and elimination of invasive species around the Great Lakes. Although Joyce acknowledges that the initiative has made significant progress on protective measures, he reiterates that much work remains to be done, underscoring the critical need for the extension of the law so that the work can continue. He urges his fellow legislators to take a stand with their vote and make it clear that the Great Lakes have value and merit worth protecting for the sake of their descendants.
An important focus for GLRI is preventing and cleaning the toxic pollution that has built up in some areas of the lakes including all types of runoff. They want to promote population strength in native species by eliminating competition for food supplies from invasive species. They plan to restore several wetland areas while seeking accountability and opportunities for further learning in conjunction with their corporate partnerships. Responsibility for carrying out the GLRI mission is shared by federal agencies working together with states and other governing bodies, including universities.
If passed, Joyce’s bill would give the GLRI a five year extension and authorize a yearly expediture of $300 million to continue the conservation efforts. The initiative’s website states that the money would be allocated toward cleaning up some “areas of concern” around the Great Lakes, habitat restoration for the protection of native species, including the control and prevention of invasive species that disrupt the food chain as well as curtailing runoff that drains soil nutrients and instigates noxious algal blooms in the watersheds.
The first time around, the Great Lakes bill passed with bipartisan support in the House but failed to go anywhere in the Senate. Joyce is hoping that a second chance will give it the boost it needs speed up the assurance of protection for the world’s largest collection of fresh surface water. The resources available through the GLRI would continue to be available to federal agencies to help them alleviate the threats to the ecosystem. It would also act as a catalyst to progress toward long lasting goals for the Great Lakes habitat.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser