(Chicago, IL) Dec 22, 2020 – Molly Flanagan, Alliance for the Great Lakes’ Chief Operating Officer & Vice President for Programs, released the following statement in response to the passage of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Authorization Act of 2019 on Monday and the omnibus bill in Congress last night, which includes the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) and other key initiatives:

“The Great Lakes received some important gifts to end 2020 with the passage of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Authorization Act on Monday and the inclusion of critical project authorizations and funding in the omnibus spending bill passed late last night.

The GLRI Authorization Act passed unanimously in the Senate on Monday. The House of Representatives passed the bill earlier this year by a vote of 373 to 45. It allows Congress to keep funding this critical program and increases its authorized funding for the next 5 years beginning at $375 million in FY 2022 and increasing by $25 million per year until it culminates at $475 million in FY 2026. These funds provide direct support for on-the-ground restoration projects across the region. It’s great news for Great Lakers who depend on the lakes for their drinking water, jobs and recreational opportunities. We’re also pleased that Congress has set the GLRI up for success in FY21 with a $330 million appropriation in the omnibus bill — a $10 million increase over last year’s funding. The Alliance for the Great Lakes thanks Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and David Joyce (R-OH) for their leadership in this successful effort to continue prioritizing the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes.

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) passed as part of the omnibus bill also includes key initiatives that will help protect the health and vitality of the Great Lakes and the communities that rely on them. The bill authorizes the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency study with a focus on natural infrastructure as a way to help communities deal with fluctuating lake levels. Notably, it also authorizes construction of a project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to fortify the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Joliet, IL to help stop invasive Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan. If they break through, these harmful fish would damage our regional economy and devastate the Great Lakes ecosystem and we’re encouraged to see Congress is serious about addressing the problem.

WRDA also adjusts the cost sharing for the project to put more of the onus on the federal government than impacted Great Lakes states (80% federal/20% non-federal) which will decrease the financial burden on states that are already seeing budget shortfalls as the economy continues to struggle. This is also important because the new technologies being developed to stop Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species will ultimately benefit many other states across the country as they deal with their own threats.

Safe and clean water for the Great Lakes has taken on even greater importance in the midst of the ongoing pandemic. In this turbulent political climate, it’s heartening to see that champions from both sides of the aisle came together to help ensure the long-term health of the Great Lakes for next year and beyond.

As we look to the future, we are eager to work with the new Congress to continue to advance these priorities and others — in particular addressing our rapidly crumbling water infrastructure and clean water and water affordability crises — and we call on the incoming Biden administration to include funding for these projects in his proposed budget next year.”

###

For media inquiries, contact Jennifer Caddick at jcaddick@greatlakes.org