Press Release

Schumer, Gillibrand Announce Over $2.5 Million Hooked To Restore Fish Habitats Across The Great Lakes In Upstate NY – Through Bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law – To Protect The Environment And Safeguard Aquatic Life Of One Of Upstate New York’s Greatest Natural Beauties

Jul 28, 2023

Senators Secured An Unprecedented $1 Billion, The Largest Ever Single Investment For the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; Now This Funding Will Help Restore & Protect Fish Habitat From Lake Erie To Ontario, Preserving Tourism, Recreation & Fishing Industries

Funding Will Help Restore Great Lakes Aquatic Ecosystems, Cleaning Up Waters And Environment To Support Native Fish & Wildlife  

Schumer, Gillibrand: $2.5 Million+ Investment Is A Great Catch For Great Lakes’ Fish Habitats

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced over $2.5 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding to restore fish habitat across the Great Lakes. This investment comes from the historic funding in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Senators Schumer and Gillibrand championed and which included $1 billion – the largest ever single investment in the GLRI – to breathe new life into one of the greatest natural beauties of Upstate NY.

“For years the Great Lakes and its priceless aquatic life have been reeling from the impacts of pollution, but now thanks to the bipartisan Infrastructure & Jobs Law we championed, which included a historic $1 billion to restore the Great Lakes, we are turning the tide on this trend. I’m proud to have hooked the ‘catch of the day’ with this critical $2.5+ million in funding to protect and restore vital habitat for fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes,” said Senator Schumer. “From the shores of Lake Erie in Buffalo to the scenic rivers flowing from Lake Ontario in Oswego County, this funding will help clean up our waterways, restore fish habitat, and protect our environment.  Investing in the Great Lakes means investing in the future of Upstate New York, and I will continue to fight to ensure that generations to come can continue to enjoy the full natural beauty and economic energy of the Great Lakes.”

“The Great Lakes provide natural beauty and serve as a cornerstone of local economies, attracting tourists from across the country for fishing and recreational activities, and it is critical that we restore and protect its habitats,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This important funding will help revitalize and bring new life to the Great Lakes and I will continue fighting for federal resources to preserve New York’s natural beauties.”

Schumer and Gillibrand said that this funding will go specifically go towards three different projects across Upstate New York:

Project TitleFundingProject Description:
Implementing Priority Fish Habitat Restoration Projects of GLFC Lake Committees$2,433,618The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has partnered with NOAA to carry out habitat restoration projects prioritized by the Lake Committees to restore habitat for native Great Lakes fish species throughout Great Lakes riverine habitats and coastal wetlands. The partnership focuses on restoration and connectivity of coastal wetlands and river corridors to restore fish passage and wetland habitats in support of native populations of fish and wildlife.
Salmon River Phase 3 Projects – Oswego County, NY$306,476This project site is an area where historic hydroelectric generation operations have created an unstable channel and unsuitable habitats for Atlantic salmon. Restoration of natural erosion and sedimentation processes, and reconnection to the floodplain from this project will improve Salmon River habitats for Atlantic salmon and other native species. The project will address restoration of rearing habitat for juvenile Atlantic Salmon and enhance spawning habitat at upstream riffles due to the improved sediment transport at bankfull flows. 
Regional Partnership to Restore Fish Habitat in Great Lakes Areas of Concern$14,503The Great Lakes Commission and NOAA will complete production of a project video highlighting the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park in the Niagara River Area of Concern in Buffalo, New York.

Since its inception in 2010, Schumer noted, the GLRI has already managed to have a positive and significant impact on Upstate New York. The Buffalo River, which is currently listed as an area of federal concern due to excessive pollution, is on its way to being de-listed thanks to a decade long cleanup effort that was funded by the GLRI and undertaken by multiple federal, state, and local agencies. Schumer noted that this should serve as a model for what is possible, particularly with regards to the clean-up of the much larger Niagara River. The GLRI recently allocated $300,000 towards the river’s clean-up, and a cut in funding would have imperiled the progress that has been made. Instead, Schumer said, clean-up efforts like the ones being undertaken in Western New York can continue in earnest.

Schumer has long been a champion for the Great Lakes, fighting off budget cuts to the GLRI in 2019 and working to secure a multimillion dollar increase in authorization levels for the program in 2018. Initiated in 2010, the GLRI has received roughly $3.48 billion since its inception, with the funds distributed across 16 different federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Over the last decade, the GLRI has controlled invasive species on at least 115,000 acres and kept more than 402,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the Lakes. GLRI has also played a critical role in fish and wildlife protection. Efforts to improve the population of Lake Sturgeon are currently underway after a $90,000 investment to study their travel patterns, and the trout population is climbing once again thanks to the investment in bloater chub revival, a critical food source for the popular sport fish. Schumer noted that the $1 billion in funding, the largest the program has ever received in a single appropriation on top of the normal annual appropriation, will help the agencies and their auxiliary partners prepare for the future.

The GLRI has also benefited additional sites in New York State. In September 2017, $900,000 worth of GLRI funds were awarded to the Great Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College to fight invasive threats, including an infestation of hydrilla in Cayuga Lake. In 2015, Clarkson University was awarded a $6.5 million five-year GLRI grant to continue its partnership with SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Oswego to conduct the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program. The funding allowed Clarkson and its partners to continue monitoring Great Lakes fish for contamination from legacy pollutants such as PCBs, banned pesticides, mercury and from emerging chemicals of concern like flame retardants and personal care products. In 2015, Schumer also helped secure $9.5 million in GLRI funding to restore Braddock Bay in the Town of Greece after decades of decline to ecological and recreational activities on the bay.  The USACE used the funding to restore wetlands, habitat and to reconstruct a barrier beach that has been washed away, leaving the bay exposed to Lake Ontario’s damaging waters that destroyed habitat and the bay’s navigation channel needed for boating.