Congress must act to keep our Great Lakes healthy

Great Lakes restoration activities have enjoyed bipartisan support for many years. There is nothing controversial about a healthy Great Lakes region. Millions of people enjoy swimming, boating, fishing and drinking clean, good-tasting water in eight states, including ours. Earlier this year, nearly 40 members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats – asked colleagues to support $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Unfortunately, a House of Representatives subcommittee has released a bill that drastically cuts funding for Great Lakes programs. The bill slashes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by nearly 80 percent – from the current level of $285 million to a proposed $60 million for fiscal year 2014.

Members of Congress around the Great Lakes region have accomplished great things for our lakes. As a staff member of Freshwater Future, I have seen many benefits around the region. Here in Buffalo, work crews removed thousands of invasive plants from in and around Buffalo Creek and replanted several areas with native plants, restoring a wetland and wildlife habitat.

As part of having a healthy Great Lakes, we also need a strong Environmental Protection Agency to implement environmental regulations that are critical. Cutting funding that is critical to the EPA will result in weaker protections for our lakes.

I understand these are tough fiscal times, but times are even tougher for the health of our Great Lakes. The longer we wait, the more expensive and difficult these cleanups and restorations will be. Our communities can’t wait for clean drinking water, healthy fishing and safe beaches.

Bonnie Danni