ICYMI: Celebrating our Great Lakes
Celebrating our Great Lakes
Whether it’s a lazy weekend on the beach with loved ones, enjoying a sunset pontoon boat cruise, or any number of activities – Michiganders all enjoy a deep, personal connection with our Great Lakes. I’m no different from anyone else who has grown up along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and share these same fond memories. This week we celebrated Great Lakes Day, a chance to bring together stakeholders from across the political spectrum to discuss issues facing the Great Lakes. As it relates to the work we’re doing in Congress, we’re supporting our Great Lakes in four important ways.
The first way is through consistent funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (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 the 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 watershed. Unfortunately, the administration’s budget proposal slashed funding for the GLRI. However, Congress does have the final say on all budgetary matters and I’m confident that, as we did last year, we will have full funding authorized for the GLRI.
The second way is by combating invasive species such as Asian Carp. The grave threat Asian Carp pose to our Great Lakes is well known. For years, we have been working to protect our ecosystem but with last summer’s report of an 8-pound, 28-inch adult silver carp fewer than 10 miles from Lake Michigan, we are now acting with even more urgency in mind. My Michigan colleagues and I recently sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers urging the immediate release of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam study, a critical next step to ensure we’re safeguarding our lakes. Asian Carp are headed toward the Great Lakes system and we have only a small window of opportunity to stop them.
The third way is by making certain our Great Lakes are not harmed by manmade disasters. We are all aware of the issues surrounding the Line 5 pipeline, which runs under the Straits of Mackinac. A spill – especially during the winter months – would be catastrophic with immediate and long-term harm. I’ve met with officials from Enbridge, which runs the Line 5 pipeline, on several occasions and they know that Michiganders expect improved transparency and action when it comes to our concerns with Line 5. The Great Lakes are far too important of a resource to be threatened by lack of transparency and attention to detail. We must continue to stay on the case.
The fourth and final way is making sure the Great Lakes water infrastructure and economy thrives. According to a recent University of Michigan study, more than 1.5 Million U.S. jobs and $62 billion in wages are directly connected to the Great Lakes. Michigan has the highest number of jobs that depend on the lakes. If we cannot protect our precious natural resources, we will lose the ability to attract new businesses and workers and our robust tourism industry will suffer. While the proposed administration budget did not hold good news for the GLRI, it did hold positive signs for the maintenance of our local harbors. I am strongly encouraged the Great Lakes Navigation Operations and Maintenance budget will be fully funded. This ensures the St. Joseph and Holland harbors will be properly maintained – much to the benefit of our commercial shipping industry. Guaranteeing our harbors remain open and ready for business is essential to jobs and economic activity up and down our coast.