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Monroe News: Great Lakes must be a protected asset

October 21, 2018
Opinion Editorial

Here in Michigan, the Great Lakes are central to our state’s identity and way of life. In Monroe County, with Lake Erie right in our backyard, we know that better than most.

The lakes are a destination where families go fishing, boating, swimming, or simply to relax and enjoy their splendor. In addition to recreation, each year they support billions in economic activity and provide drinking water to millions of people. Maintaining a healthy and thriving Great Lakes ecosystem must be a top priority for our state and region.

The driving force behind cleaning up and preserving the Great Lakes is a program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Since 2010, the GLRI has provided $2.5 billion in funding for more than 3,500 restoration projects. According to a new study by the Great Lakes Commission, for each dollar spent on the GLRI, the economy sees $3.35 in return on investment.

Resources from this program go to restoring wetlands, combating harmful algal blooms, and stopping invasive species like Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes. Support for the GLRI unites the Michigan delegation in Congress, and each year we work together as Republicans and Democrats to ensure it receives full funding.

To stress the importance of the GLRI to the Administration, I invited EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler to Monroe County so he could see the benefits up close. I hosted him at Pointe Mouillee, which is the

site of an ongoing wetland restoration project being conducted along with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited. These types of partnerships have proven successful to maximize federal funding and deliver results that improve our environment and economy.

Our work to safeguard the Great Lakes doesn’t stop there. This Congress, along with U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), we successfully passed an amendment to increase funding to combat invasive grass carp, which already have a foothold in Lake Erie. I also joined a bipartisan group of representatives of surrounding Great Lakes states to push for robust funding to combat harmful algal blooms.

I am leading two additional bipartisan initiatives with U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). Last year, we introduced the Great Lakes Agricultural Stewardship Act to promote greater conservation efforts throughout the region. Our legislation incentivises states throughout the Great Lakes Basin to develop voluntary agricultural assurance programs, like the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP), to decrease nutrient runoff and minimize agricultural pollution risks.

Rep. Tim Ryan and I also introduced the Great Lakes Restoration Semipostal Stamp Act, which would create a special postage stamp designed to raise money, at no additional cost to taxpayers, to support the GLRI. By generating even more resources for the GLRI, we can help the program carry out and expand its valuable work.

Thanks to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and additional bipartisan efforts, we are making headway to preserve our treasured Lakes. But there is plenty more to do ahead of us. Working together, we can ensure a healthy Great Lakes ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.

U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg represents Michigan’s 7th Congressional District and is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Education and the Workforce Committee. This op-ed originally appeared in the October 21 edition of the Monroe News.