Congress asked to fund long-term Great Lakes commitment


More than 700 advocates from Michigan and across the region gathered in Milwaukee last week for the annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference.

With pivotal decisions to be made by Congress on the future support for the Great Lakes economy and ecology, advocates are pushing for full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes division, said a lot of progress has been made on cleaning up the Great Lakes as a result of the initiative.

“We’ve been able to bring in $1.4 billion over the last four years for Great Lakes restoration,” he explains. “And that’s had an enormous impact on the Great Lakes, but also on our economy, the Michigan economy particularly.”

A U.S. Senate bill would provide $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The House could slash funding to $60 million, but an amendment has been introduced that would boost that amount to $210 million.

The Great Lakes are the largest source of surface freshwater on the planet.

Buchsbaum said new threats to the Great Lakes are emerging all the time, including Asian carp, deadly algae blooms and an aging oil pipeline across the Straits of Mackinac.

“Carries 20 million gallons a day of oil,” he says. “It’s 60 years old. It’s never been replaced and it’s run by Enbridge Company, which is the same pipeline company that brought us the Kalamazoo River oil spill, the million-gallon spill three years ago.”