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Cuts will stifle progress made on lakes cleanup

The Buffalo News has rightfully condemned the 80 percent cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative being proposed by a House subcommittee. If implemented, the draconian cut would stifle progress toward a renaissance of Buffalo’s waterfront, and push the lakes a step closer to a point where problems become irreparable.

The initiative is an extremely successful, bipartisan program that is delivering real results for both our environment and economy. Habitat restoration projects are causing fish to return to rivers after decades-long absences; toxic cleanups are helping communities redevelop their waterfronts, inspiring new business development; and efforts to control invasive species are creating new recreational opportunities. A conservative estimate is that every dollar invested in the initiative yields at least $2 in economic returns. It doesn’t take an economist to tell you that’s a fantastic investment.

Slashing the program will not save the nation a single, solitary penny. In fact, it will cost taxpayers much more in the long run, because projects will only become more difficult and expensive the longer we wait. Make no mistake; the serious problems facing our lakes will have to be addressed. In New York State alone, the lakes supply 80 percent of the state’s fresh surface water, support 4 million jobs, and sustain a $2.27 billion recreational fishery.

If the House strategy for economic recovery includes more raw sewage overflows, fish consumption restrictions, beach closures, invasion of the Asian carp, degraded drinking water quality and inaccessible waterfronts, it should continue with this cut. If not, full funding must be restored.

Brian P. Smith

Program and Communications

Director, Citizens Campaign

for the Environment