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Michigan's senators push for hike in Great Lakes cleanup aid

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

Detroit — Democratic U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters on Thursday pushed to renew and expand the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding they contend is needed to keep Michigan's waterways clean and vibrant for the public.

At a news conference on Belle Isle, Peters and Stabenow touted the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 as a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the legislation for another five years.

A blue heron catches a fish in Lake Okonoka on Belle Isle in Detroit.

The initiative's funding authorization is set to expire in fiscal year 2021. But Peters and Stabenow want to increased current funding from $300 million to $375 million in fiscal year 2022 and then boost it $25 million per year until it reaches $475 million in Fiscal Year 2026. Stabenow and Peters were joined by three local environmentalists who spoke about the benefits of the funding to areas around Metro Detroit.

The funding has not only helped the Great Lakes but all of the inland rivers and waterways and especially Belle Isle, said Stabenow, D-Lansing.

"All of the projects relate to water quality, restoring native fish populations, we've removed 200 tons of marine debris from Belle Isle," she said. "There's a tremendous amount of exciting work that's going on."

The Great Lakes initiative's funding should be increased because "the needs just continue," Stabenow said.

"We are only at the beginning of what we need to do around Asian carp and protecting our waters," she said. "We have so many new challenges that related to water levels and all of the other issues that are coming as a result of the climate crisis."

Other lawmakers in Michigan's congressional delegation are pushing more money Great Lakes cleanup money as is Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Since the fund's inception, Michigan has financed 880 projects with $762 million to address invasive species, water runoffs and algae blooms, among other projects. There are six of such projects on Belle Isle, Stabenow said.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow speaks, backed by, from left, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, Friends of the Rouge executive director Maria McCormick, Clinton River Watershed executive director Anne Brasie and Friends of the Detroit River chairman David Howell at a press conference at Lake Okonoka on Belle Isle in Detroit announcing the continuation of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative takes place on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

The lakes, rivers and waterways of Michigan are critically important and require the cleanup of toxic sites and fixing of marshlands, said Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.

"This is something that we have to protect. It's a sacred trust that we have to protect for generations to come," he said. "In order to that that, it takes resources."


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