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ICYMI: Fighting for our Great Lakes

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Washington, March 21, 2017 | comments

Fighting for our Great Lakes
By U.S. Rep. Fred Upton
March 21, 2017 
Holland Sentinel

Whether it's a lazy Sunday on the lake with family, fishing with friends, enjoying a sunset pontoon boat cruise or any number of activities — Michiganders all have a deep, personal connection to our lakes.

This is why it was so alarming to learn of a proposed drastic funding cut for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative under a budget proposal from the White House last week. Having grown up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I've always had a deep appreciation for our Great Lakes and have always worked in a responsible, bipartisan manner to improve the health and beauty of these precious natural resources.

As a fiscal conservative, I also understand that, as a nation, we face serious concerns regarding our national debt. We absolutely do need to make tough choices to balance our budget. But gutting protections for our Great Lakes is the wrong place to do it.

This is the reason I recently joined my colleagues on the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force in sending a bipartisan letter to the new administration urging them to work with the task force in advancing priorities vital to protecting and promoting our Great Lakes. Among the initiatives highlighted was the GLRI. The GLRI is the main federal program tasked with forming a public and private partnership to protect and restore our Great Lakes. Since 2010, Congress has provided more than $2 billion in funding to GLRI to promote the cleanup of toxic hotspots, curb the growth of harmful algal blooms, and promote the overall well-being of the Great Lakes. This funding is also critical in our fight against invasive species like Asian carp, which threaten our delicate ecosystem and must be prevented from reaching our Great Lakes.

In short, the GLRI has proven to be a tremendous success. Not only has it helped our Great Lakes environment, it has helped Michigan's economy. According to a recent University of Michigan study, more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes and Michigan has the highest number of jobs that depend on the lakes. If we cannot protect these natural resources, we lose the ability to attract new business and retain talented workers here at home. We simply cannot afford for Lakes Michigan, Superior, Huron, Erie, and Ontario — the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth — to be spoiled.

The good news? Congress has the final say on all budgetary matters and we're only at the first step in the appropriations process that actually funds the program. As we move forward, I will be fighting hard alongside colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including Great Lakes Task Force Co-Chair Rep. Bill Huizenga, so we can make sure our Great Lakes are properly protected.

— U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, represents Michigan's 6th congressional district. He can be reached through upton.house.gov/contact.

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