Great Lakes restoration receives funding


Staff reports



WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced Thursday full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the government funding measure Congress is expected to pass this week.

Last year, the President proposed eliminating GLRI, and the Senators worked together to ensure it was fully funded in this appropriations bill for the rest of the fiscal year. President Trump’s most recent budget proposed cutting GLRI by 90 percent. The Obama administration also proposed cuts to the program. The package Congress is expected to vote on this week will ensure GLRI is fully funded through the end of the fiscal year.

“Efforts to slash funding for GLRI were met again with fierce opposition from all the Ohioans who rely on Lake Erie for a job, a source of water or a place to be outside with their families,” Brown said. “I’m glad to continue working with Senator Portman to ensure GLRI has its full strength as communities continue their important work to keep Lake Erie clean.”

“The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to Ohio, and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a successful public-private partnership that helps protect both our environment and our economy,” Portman said. “I am pleased that the final bipartisan funding agreement fully funds this critical program, and I will continue to work Senator Brown to protect and preserve Lake Erie and all the Great Lakes.”

Brown and Portman have worked to strengthen the GLRI, a highly successful program that has targeted the most significant problems in the region and jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. Last year, the two helped ensure that the measure included $300 million for GLRI for the remainder of the fiscal year, battling back reported attempts to cut the GLRI.

Brown and Portman said the spending bill also includes language to prohibit the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping toxic material dredged from the Cuyahoga River shipping channel into Lake Erie without the approval from the State of Ohio.

The bill also includes language requiring the Corps to make every effort to release its Chief’s Report for Brandon Road Study by February 2019, which Brown and Portman have repeatedly asked of the Corps. This report is crucial to ensuring that Asian Carp do not enter the Great Lakes and threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. The measure is expected to pass this week. Together, Brown and Portman have fought to hold the Corps to its obligation to dredge the channel, which is critical to local jobs and businesses along Lake Erie.

“Building on full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, this deal will ensure we are doing our part to protect Lake Erie from both the threat of Asian Carp and toxic, dredged sediment,” Brown said. “Dredging of the Cuyahoga River channel is good for local business, good for Ohio jobs and good for the health of Lake Erie. I’m also pleased we are taking steps to encourage the Corps to finally release the Brandon Road Study so we can address the threat of Asian Carp. Senator Portman and I will continue working together to protect the health of our Lake.”

“I am pleased that this bill urges the Corps to complete its Chief’s Report on the Brandon Road Study by February 2019,” Portman said. “As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I have urged the Corps to complete this study to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, which is critical to protecting the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. In addition, the Cleveland Harbor project is vital to all of Ohio and we must ensure that the dredged material is not inappropriately disposed of by dumping it into Lake Erie without approval by Ohio EPA. I will continue to fight to protect the health and ecosystem of the lake while ensuring that the shipping channel is fully dredged, which supports thousands of jobs in the region.”

Brown and Portman have urged the Corps honor its obligation to dredge the Cuyahoga River shipping channel to protect the thousands of jobs that rely on the Port of Cleveland. Legislation they co-authored to keep toxic dredged material from the Cuyahoga River out of Lake Erie was signed into law in December 2016.

In addition, Portman and Brown sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers urging the Corps to complete their Brandon Road Chief’s Report so that federal, state, and local policymakers can determine the most effective measure to prevent further Asian carp movement and protect the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. Last June, an eight pound Silver carp was found just nine miles from Lake Michigan.

The funding bill before Congress also includes $300 million to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Last year, the President proposed eliminating GLRI and the Senators worked together to ensure it was fully funded in this appropriations bill for the rest of the fiscal year. President Trump’s most recent budget proposed cutting GLRI by 90 percent. The Obama administration also proposed cuts to the program. The package Congress is expected to vote on this week will ensure GLRI is fully funded through the end of the fiscal year.

Staff reports