March 24, 2009

With Roughly 700 Miles Of New York Coastline On The Great Lakes, Senators Gillibrand And Schumer Call For $475 Million For Great Lakes Restoration In Budget – Funds Can Go Towards Fighting Invasive Species, Pollution and Contamination

Great Lakes Senators Encourage Full Funding of President Obama’s Budget Request

Washington, DC - New York Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Charles Schumer joined with their Great Lakes colleagues to call for $475 million for the Great Lakes in the budget. In his budget proposal, President Obama requested this money for Great Lakes restoration. New York shares roughly 700 miles of coastline with the Great Lakes.

"The Great Lakes are an indispensable natural, economic, and recreational resource for New York," said Senator Gillibrand. "Restoration of the Great Lakes is critical to preserving our environment and the economic revitalization of our communities. I will work with President Obama, Senator Schumer, and my colleagues in Congress to offers fundamental changes that will help ensure our Lakes have the best chance for improvement and protection."

"Lake Ontario and Lake Erie are recreational, economic, and natural wonders, and we must do everything we can to protect them from pollution, invasive species and other contamination so that future generations can enjoy their beauty and abundance.  From drinking water to fishing to boating to commerce they are a fundamental part of New York's greatness," said Senator Schumer.

The Great Lakes account for 90 percent of the United States fresh water and 20 percent of the world's fresh water supply. More than 40 million people currently rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water.

However, the health of the Great Lakes is threatened by aquatic invasive species, contaminated sediment, nonpoint source pollution, and habitat loss. According to some scientific views, the Great Lakes are at a tipping point. Failure to protect and restore the lakes now will result in more serious consequences.

A study by the Brookings Institute detailed the economic impact on restoring the Lakes and estimated that restoration of the Lakes would have a $50 billion dollar economic impact, through new construction, job creation, rising property values and environmental restoration of local fish habitats.

In a letter to the Budget Committee, the Senators wrote, "Last summer, President Obama made a promise to restore the Great Lakes, and including $475 million in new funding for the EPA is a way to start following up on that commitment.  We have long supported Great Lakes restoration, and we urge you to include language in the Budget Resolution that assumes that within funds provided for natural resources and the environment, there will be $475 million in funding for the Great Lakes."

Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), George Voinovich (R-OH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Russ Feingold (D-WI) joined Senators Gillibrand and Schumer in sending this bipartisan letter.