U.S. House backs 20% hike in Great Lakes cleanup aid

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — A bipartisan coalition of Michigan lawmakers helped get U.S. House approval of a bill that would renew the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and expand funding more than 20% to $375 million. 

The measure extends for another five years clean-up funding for waterways and related habitats that was set to expire in 2021. The legislation also increases the current funding level for the program from $300 million to $375 million in the 2022 fiscal year and increases funding by $25 million per year until it reaches $475 million in 2026. 

Environmental Consulting & Technology, Inc. senior scientist Marty Boote releases bluegill in the Rouge River near the Eagle Lane bridge at The Henry Ford for the Great Lakes Restoration Celebration, Friday, October 18, 2019.

The measure was pushed by House Great Lakes Task Force co-chairs Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, along with other Midwest lawmakers.

The Democratic-controlled House approved the bill Wednesday on a 373-45 vote. It faces uncertain prospects in the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has a proven track record of success in West Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region,” Huizenga said in a statement. “A recent study by the University of Michigan found that every $1 invested from the GLRI has generated more than $3 in additional long-term economic activity." 

Dingell added that the Great Lakes are "a way of life that support communities and jobs throughout the region.”

“Protecting the Great Lakes is critical. When the GLRI receives the funding it needs, we can properly take care of our region’s most treasured natural resources," she said. "This allows us to create good-paying jobs, enjoy outdoor actives on the lakes, and protects the health and beauty the lakes have to offer.”

A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and other lawmakers.

The restoration initiative was created in 2010 starting at $475 million and was subsequently pared back to $300 million annually by the Obama administration, which periodically sought a 16% cut to $250 million but usually was fought off by Michigan and other lawmakers.

The Trump administration had sought for three straight years to cut initiative funding 90%, but Michigan and other legislators always preserved funding at $300 million in the federal budget.

Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, supports an increase in Great Lakes cleanup aid as do U.S. Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who are to her right.

When President Donald Trump visited Grand Rapids for a March 2019 rally, Michigan Republican U.S. Reps. Huizenga, John Moolenaar of Midland and Jack Bergman of Watersmeet persuaded the president to change the administration's stance.

“I support the Great Lakes,” Trump said at the rally. “They’re beautiful. They’re big, very deep. Record deepness, right?”


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing