Washington— The $1.1 trillion appropriations bill before Congress includes pages of good news for the Great Lakes.
The bipartisan spending agreement allocates more than $350 million for projects that directly benefit the Great Lakes and Michigan waterways, including dredging channels, fending off Asian carp and cleaning up contaminated sediments.
The biggest award is $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that cleans up pollution and restores fish and wildlife habitats. That’s up about $16 million from last year and marks the full budget request from President Barack Obama.
“This budget represents a significant victory for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs and quality of life,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, in a statement.
Michigan lawmakers Tuesday also praised the Great Lakes recognition.
“It’s very significant,” said U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who has championed funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, “because we are seeing real impacts in terms of water quality, what we’re doing on invasive species (and) our ability to act quickly as we have seen various issues rise with Asian carp.”
Congress is expected to vote on the 2014 fiscal year appropriations deal as early as this week. It already approved the overall spending amount of more than $1 trillion in December, but the appropriators filled in gaps for agency spending.
The deal released late Monday also fully funds key Army Corps of Engineers dredging and maintenance projects in Michigan. The nearly $47-million allocation will target 13 projects in Michigan, including $5.8 million for the Detroit River, $3.8 million for the Saginaw River, $1 million for Monroe Harbor and nearly $650,000 for the St. Clair River.
The appropriations agreement includes $3.5 million to fight the invasion of Asian carp into Great Lakes waterways, which has been a bipartisan priority for Michigan lawmakers. Separately, the deal provides a funding boost for the Asian carp electric barriers at the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal that are designed to prevent the fish from entering the Lakes from the Mississippi River basin.
“Great Lakes lawmakers have fought hard to secure additional funding for maintenance of our harbors, for Great Lakes restoration and for steps to fight dangerous invasive species,” said U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit. “The funding included in this legislation reflects that hard work, and we’ll continue fighting for Great Lakes priorities.”
On top of the Michigan-specific projects, the deal increases funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $1.45 billion. The program offers low-interest loans to communities to upgrade sewer systems and control pollution.