The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act is set to expire in 2021.
But a bill that just passed the U.S. House would reauthorize it for another five years, through 2026, meaning funding for cleanups, habitat restorations and research projects would continue in and around the eight Great Lakes states.
The bill also increases funding for the initiative to $375 million in fiscal year 2022 and by another $25 million a year for the next four years.
It was introduced by Ohio Reps. David Joyce and Marcy Kaptur on July 25. Joyce is a Republican. Kaptur is a Democrat.
“As someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, I have never been shy about my commitment to protecting and restoring the Great Lakes,” Joyce said in a statement. “I was honored to introduce this bill alongside my colleagues on the Great Lakes Task Force and thank all those who worked across party lines to ensure its passage this evening so that we can protect the invaluable natural resource and economic powerhouse that is the Great Lakes system.”
The bill now needs approval from the Senate. Identical legislation was introduced by Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman on July 25.
“This Initiative is a major success story and the most significant investment ever made to restore and protect our Great Lakes,” Stabenow said in a statement. “That’s why both Republicans and Democrats are united in support. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass our bill immediately.”
Stabenow and Peters are both Democrats. Portman is Republican.
At the end of October, Peters worked with Portman to secure an additional $9 million for the GLRI in 2020. It passed the Senate as part of a government funding bill.
On Oct. 23, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler described the EPA’s goals and priorities for the Great Lakes and the GLRI during a press conference on Detroit’s Belle Isle state park.
A University of Michigan study from 2018 found that each dollar of the GLRI program spent from 2010 to 2016 “will produce $3.35 of additional economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036.” For some communities like Buffalo, New York, and Detroit, Michigan, the impact is higher, with more than $4 of economic activity generated.
A map of all Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects is available online. A list of projects funded by Canada’s equivalent Great Lakes Protection Initiative also is available online.
Featured Image: The habitat restoration at Lake Okonoka on Belle Isle is one of the projects funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Photo by Natasha Blakely