Star Beacon: Federal lawmakers push back against Great Lakes funding cut

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Star Beacon: Federal lawmakers push back against Great Lakes funding cut

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite a proposal to almost entirely gut $300 million in Great Lakes funding in the 2018 federal budget, Ohio lawmakers are fighting to keep the full amount.

Congressional lawmakers David Joyce, R-14th District, and Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, announced this week the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee’s 2018 spending draft defies a 97 percent cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) proposed by the Trump administration.

“This is about where we swim, where we fish and most importantly where we draw our drinking water,” Joyce said in a Tuesday release. “It is imperative that we continue to protect our Great Lakes, which continues to be an environmental and economic engine for our region.

“Multiple administrations have yet to see the wisdom of protecting this national treasure at the levels it deserves and it is incumbent that the Great Lakes legislators continue to do the heavy lifting to protect it. We have staved off elimination, but, this is just the first step in a long battle to the finish line to protect 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.”

The draft must still be approved by the subcommittee and the full committee before moving on to the U.S. House and Senate.

According to a map on the GLRI website, about $19.7 million has been diverted to Ashtabula County projects since the initiative began in 2010, during the Obama administration.

The lion’s share, about $13.6 million, went toward dredging work in the Ashtabula Harbor from 2010 to 2013. More than $2.7 million has been poured into the EPA’s Ashtabula River Area of Concern since 2010; it and four other water bodies have since had that classification removed.

Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners President Casey Kozlowski said the federal funding is crucial, with few alternatives offering up enough to care for the lake and the region’s watersheds.

“It’s very limited, to be quite honest,” he said Friday. “That’s why it was so important for us to retain this funding as it pertains to the GLRI.

“It would be much more difficult to get some of the work done that’s necessary along Lake Erie in order to protect this great natural resource we have in our backyard.”

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