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Sen. Brown, Rep. Kaptur call on Congress to restore slashed funds to Great Lakes, greater efforts to stop spread of Asian carp
Monday, July 29, 2013 6:11 PM


CLEVELAND — Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-9) called on the House of Representatives to make immediate changes to a bill that would slash the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) budget by nearly 80 percent, from $285 million dollars to just $60 million. At Edgewater Park with Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline in the background, Brown and Kaptur made their case that nothing short of the economic livelihood of the Great Lakes region was at stake. On Wednesday, a House committee will reconvene to consider restoring much of the funds that had been cut under the original proposal.

“It’s not right and it’s not smart that the House would propose slashing 80 percent of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding,” Brown said. “This could significantly jeopardize the economy of Northern Ohio and the livelihood of its citizens. The House must act to restore GLRI funds in order to protect Ohio’s drinking water and the thousands of fishing, boating, and recreation jobs that are dependent on clean and safe waters. Congress should also pass the bipartisan Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act, which would ensure that the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, are preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. GLRI funding has helped support the removal of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality.

Brown and Kaptur were joined today by Alan Maier, a Lorain fisherman and charter boat captain whose job and wellbeing depends on the health of the Great Lakes.

Brown and Kaptur also applauded this week’s announcement by the Obama Administration that it will implement a new, $50 million strategy for keeping Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. The plan includes an improved electric barrier in the Chicago area, and testing new tools such as chemical controls, netting, and water guns. The Administration is also conducting a study to measure the effect of permanently separating Chicago area waterways from Lake Michigan.

While more work needs to be done, this decision builds on momentum created when, in May the Senate passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) which included an amendment Brown introduced that would prevent the invasion of Asian carp into the Ohio River. Based on the Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act, and passed unanimously 95-0, the amendment would enable the federal government to have a more effective partnership with state and local entities that are working to slow the spread of Asian carp.

Although several federal agencies have been working to combat Asian carp, none have been designated as the lead agency to coordinate the federal response with state and local partners in the Ohio and Upper Mississippi River Basins. The Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act places the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in charge of coordinating a new federal multi-agency effort that includes the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, and Army Corps of Engineers. These agencies would provide high-level technical assistance, coordination, best practices, and other means of support to state and local governments that are working to protect economies and ecosystems in the Ohio River basin from Asian carp.

Finally, Brown called for passage of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013 (GLEEPA), bipartisan legislation he is co-sponsoring which is aimed at preserving the Great Lakes and bolstering economic growth throughout the Great Lakes region. The legislation is intended to protect the Great Lakes—and the millions of jobs they support—from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species like Asian Carp.

GLEEPA would:

Authorize the GLRI and direct the implementation of recommendations presented in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy of 2005 and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. The bill authorizes the appropriations for the GLRI at $475 million annually.

Reauthorize the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO), the primary office within the agency for handling Great Lakes matters, including the GLRI, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), the Great Lakes Legacy Program, Remedial Action Plans for Areas of Concern, and Lakewide Management Plans.

Reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which was first authorized in 2002 and has been extremely successful at removing contaminated sediment from the U.S. Areas of Concern (AOC).

Authorize the Federal Interagency Task Force (IATF), which brings together 11 U.S. Cabinet and federal agency heads to coordinate restoration of the Great Lakes amongst the different agencies.

Authorize the Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB), which will provide advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator, as Chair of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, on matters pertaining to Great Lakes restoration and protection.

Also joining Brown and Kaptur to speak to these issues, including the positive effect of protecting the Great Lakes on tourism and the economy, was Marnie Urso of the Audubon Society, an organization whose mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems.

“The health of our Great Lakes is critical to the economic revitalization of our country,” Urso said. “Tourism along Lake Erie is big business, generating more than $10 billion in visitor spending within Ohio’s coastal counties and contributing more than $750 million in state and local tax revenues. We applaud Senator Brown and the Great Lakes Senate Delegation for leading the charge on this important Act which will keep the Great Lakes on the road to recovery.”