Congratulations to the Healing Our Waters Coalition for organizing a terrific Great Lakes Days event in Washington DC. Leaguers played an important part of this group of over 100 Lake lovers who convened in February to get updates on the successes of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, hear speakers, and participate in in-person meetings with elected representatives and staff on Capitol Hill. One of our most effective handouts for making our case is a description of restoration successes from around the Great Lakes region, which can be accessed here .
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is an inter-agency program designed to address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes and works to protect, restore and maintain the Great Lakes Ecosystem. It has traditionally enjoyed bi-partisan support. At our Congressional breakfast both Republicans and Democrats from both Houses addressed the group in support of our work. Unfortunately, President Obama’s current budget requests only $250 million for FY 2017. We were lobbying to have that amount restored to $300 million to maintain the current level of funding because, although GLRI is showing real and measurable results, there is still plenty of work to be done. LWVLMR supports authorization and multi-year funding of $300 million per year for the GLRI and encourages you to contact your federal legislators in support of this position.
The visit was timely as there is heightened concern about drinking water across the states, due to the crisis in Flint, MI. So in addition to the request for GLRI support, we were also asking for a boost to the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs that help local communities upgrade aging water infrastructure to protect drinking water, reduce sewer overflows, and prevent beach contamination.
Additionally, protection against Asian carp and other invasive species coming through the Chicago Area Waterways was sought, with emphasis on speeding up the Brandon Road Feasibility study by the Army Corps of Engineers. Brandon Road is the site of a Lock and Dam on the Illinois River and was identified as a possible choke point to stop the fish in a previous study which we lobbied for.
All of our Great Lakes LWV states except Pennsylvania are members of the Healing Our Waters Coalition. Their annual conference will be September 20-22, 2016 in Sandusky, OH this year and we encourage League members to attend.
I have just returned from Washington, D.C. where Debbie Chub and I represented League of Women Voters of Indiana at Great Lakes Day. This is an annual event where citizen lobbyists from throughout the country come to address the need for continuation of federally funded programs to protect the Great Lakes from pollution and to restore the Areas of Concern, and discuss other important concerns about the health of the Great Lakes.
LWVIN is a member of Healing our Waters, the Coalition that organizes Great Lakes Day. The Indiana team was able to meet with Representatives Stutzman and Walorski as well as staff from the offices of Representatives Carson, Visclosky, Donnelly and Coats. The other Indiana Representatives did not respond to meeting requests.
The first day we were updated on all the marvelous projects that have been completed because of Great Lakes Restoration Funding. Please take a look at the Great Lakes, Great Impact website from the Joyce Foundation which gives you more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). We would appreciate any efforts you can make to gain your legislator’s support for $300 million federal dollars to continue the work of restoring the Great Lakes. Healing Our Waters has put out an action alert with valuable information about how individuals can help.
Debbie and I were also able to attend a most informative hearing called by Representative John Conyers (MI-3) and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee on how federal, state and local agencies can work together to ensure universal access to quality drinking water. The hearing was supported by Representatives Charlie Rangel (NY-13), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Brenda Lawrence (MI-14), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).
This link describes the problem addressed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-conyers/drinking-water-a-human-ri_b_6754308.html
Representative Stutzman is a farmer and was most amenable to our suggestions on the necessity of reducing nutrient outflows from farm lands into our waterways. We expected to spend fifteen minutes with a staff member and instead spent forty minutes with him.
The trip was very valuable.
Jeanette Neagu, Chair
Natural Resources Committee
LWV of Indiana