Ohio House Democrats today celebrated welcome news for the state’s imperiled northern coastline, following a statement by Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman released Wednesday guaranteeing full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The initiative, a $300 million program once-targeted to lose 90 percent of it’s funding in President Trump’s proposed 2019 budget, was one of many federal environmental projects under threat this year.
“The elimination of this vital funding would reduce or eliminate much of the research that has been instrumental in our efforts to combat harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes,” said Tim Davis, a professor at Bowling Green State University and a member of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Board of Scientific Directors.
Ohio State Reps. Dan Ramos, Michael Sheehy, David Leland, Tavia Galonski, Kent Smith, Stephanie Howse and John Patterson were among a national coalition of 63 policymakers from the Great Lakes region urging continued federal support for the GLRI in a letter submitted to Congress by the international Great Lakes Legislative Caucus (GLLC).
The letter highlights the critical work funded by the program, including projects to relieve the world’s largest freshwater system of the damage caused by harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie’s western basin and the crowding-out of healthy native habitats by invasive species.
Here’s what Democratic state lawmakers had to say:
“The protection of our Great Lakes must be paramount. For all of us who live along them, we know our health, our economy, and our general well-being are inextricably linked to the health of our Lakes,” said Rep. Ramos (D-Lorain), who serves on GLLC’s executive board. “Proper funding of the GLRI has been instrumental in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. Drastic cuts are tantamount to abandoning not only the Great Lakes, but all of the Americans who live near them”
“Protecting the Great Lakes should be seen as a national priority,” said Rep. Smith (D-Euclid). “It is critical to public health and the American economy. The Toledo Water Crisis of August 2014 can and will happen again if we are not vigilant in our protection of the Great Lakes.” The 2014 crisis and other recent harmful algal blooms continue to drain public infrastructure dollars from local governments along Erie’s western coast in Ohio.
“My colleagues and I can finally breathe a short sigh of relief,” Rep. Sheehy (D-Toledo) added, “But we must keep in mind that while the administration struggles to figure out their priorities, Northwest Ohioans are still desperate for a solution to the devastating sickness of Erie’s western basin.” Sheehy, whose coastal district has already seen critical economic damage inflicted by the crisis, has been one of the lake’s most vocal supporters.
“The Great Lakes are the single most important natural asset for the people of Ohio,” said Rep. Leland (D-Columbus). “We must do everything we can to protect and preserve our Great Lakes, and ensure that they not only survive, but flourish.”
"Our Great Lakes are just that: ‘great,’ as they provide the life-giving water that we are so dependent on for so many pursuits,” said Rep. Patterson (D-Ashtablua). “It is imperative, essential, and absolutely critical, that we continue to appropriate funding for the long-term health of our lakes, and with it, ourselves.”
“Because of the immense impact the Great Lakes have had on our state’s development and economic growth,” added Rep. Howse (D-Cleveland), referring to the 1.5 million jobs and the $62 billion in annual wages directly supported by the lake system. “It is our responsibility that we continue to protect our natural resources so the benefits will be enjoyed for many generations to come.”
“We need to do what we can to preserve our natural resources, and acknowledging that there is a problem is the first step,” according to Rep. Galonski (D-Akron). “Lake Erie provides natural, recreational, and economic benefits to the state of Ohio. By doing nothing to ensure that it is clean and stays clean, we would simply be wasting one of our most unique resources.”