U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand today announced the U.S. Senate has passed the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), which authorized $300 million per year, for the fiscal years 2017 through 2021, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). This five-year reauthorization will provide $1.5 billion in total for the initiative, which has funded hundreds of projects along the Great Lakes, including many in Upstate NY along waterways like Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The GLRI was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, and has funded projects in New York to improve water quality, combat invasive species, and restore wetlands and other habitats. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have long supported funding for the GLRI through the appropriations process.
“It is imperative that we properly monitor, preserve and rehabilitate the shores of our Great Lakes so residents and visitors can enjoy these invaluable Upstate NY resources for years to come,” said Senator Schumer. “Protecting New York’s most vital resources – like Lake Ontario and Lake Erie – remains a top priority of mine and I am committed to ensuring we get the highest level of funding for the GLRI program. We worked hard to pass this bill that has long supported vital projects across Upstate NY and its waterways, and now I’m hopeful that this bill will earn strong bipartisan support in the House and quickly become law.”
“The Great Lakes are an important natural, economic, and recreational resource for New York,” Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “The restoration of the Great Lakes is critical to preserving our environment and revitalizing our economy. Through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative we can continue to make a targeted effort to safeguard and restore our freshwater ecosystems, and reserve the natural beauty of the Great Lakes for future generations.”
Schumer and Gillibrand called this funding authorization a major win for the State of New York. According to the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Congress has allocated more than $2.2 billion over the last seven years to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Senators said this federal initiative, in past years, has provided funding to worthwhile projects aimed at restoring and protecting the Great Lakes.
For example, Schumer and Gillibrand secured nearly $9.5 million in GLRI funding last year to fund the current Braddock Bay Restoration project in Rochester. 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. Over $170 million in GLRI funding has also been used to restore the Buffalo River, which suffered from years of legacy pollution, rendering it unusable for recreational purposes until recently. GLRI funds have also supported wetland and habitat restoration at Times Beach, now a prime attraction at the Outer Harbor in Buffalo.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010, and has funded projects in New York to improve water quality, combat invasive species, and restore wetlands and other habitats. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have supported annual funding for the GLRI through the budget and appropriations process, and are both cosponsors of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015, which if passed, would reauthorize and fully fund the GLRI.