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Will Congress preserve Great Lakes restoration funding?

Sleeping Bear Dunes
Rebecca Williams
Michigan Radio
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.

President Obama is asking for $300 million for the Great Lakes in his 2014 budget. That money would go to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

It’s a huge project to clean up pollution, fight invasive species and restore habitat.

Chad Lord is the policy director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. He says there’s been a lot of progress over the last four years.

“All of these results are coming from the investments in new wetlands, buffer strips along rivers, cleaning up toxic sediments in areas around Detroit,” he says.

Lord says you never know what Congress will do, but he says Great Lakes restoration funding has had strong bipartisan support, and he thinks that’ll continue.

“In a time of more acrimonious budget debates, this is an initiative that has kind of risen above that.”

37 members of the U.S. House of Representatives -- from both sides of the aisle -- are asking fellow lawmakers to fund the restoration program at $300 million.  It’s been funded at that level for the past several years.

But the President’s budget also includes big cuts to other programs.  The Clean Water State Revolving Fund gives loans to towns and cities to upgrade their sewer systems. 

“It’s quite clear that part of Great Lakes restoration must include ongoing investments in separating combined sewers which lead to sewer overflows and closed beaches,” says Lord.

The Great Lakes states stand to get $135 million less from this revolving fund than they did in 2012.

Rebecca Williams is senior editor in the newsroom, where she edits stories and helps guide news coverage.
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