A moment with the Congressman
Lake Erie is of paramount importance
Rep. Jim Renacci
Last week, President Trump unveiled a budget proposal that would cut the budgets of a number of federal programs. While decisions to cut funding to popular programs are never easy, it is vitally important that we as a country make tough choices to restore our nation’s fiscal health. However, these choices should strike the appropriate balance between wise, fiscal decision-making and weighing the benefits of these programs.

One particular program that has proven well worth its investment is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). GLRI is a federal, inter-agency program that brings together federal and state agencies, as well as business and industry leaders, to address problems facing the Great Lakes and to restore and maintain the Great Lakes Ecosystem. GLRI has provided Lake Erie with more than $1 billion in funding since 2010. These funds have aided in the restoration of fish and wildlife habitats in our state and combat the threats posed to these habitats by invasive species. GLRI has also enabled Ohio to combat the growing threat of algal blooms. In 2011, a single bloom covered one-sixth of Lake Erie, devastating fish populations and dealing a heavy blow to the fishing and tourism industries. Just three years later, a similar bloom in western Lake Erie compromised the drinking water of over 500,000 people in Toledo and the surrounding areas.

Maintaining a thriving and healthy Lake Erie is of paramount importance for the communities of northern Ohio. Lake Erie accounts for nearly 30 percent of Ohio’s tourism dollars, supports over 100,000 tourism-related jobs and generates more than $750 million in state and local taxes. From an ecological standpoint, Lake Erie is important because of its biological diversity and provision of freshwater for our state and the region. Twenty-four million Americans are dependent upon Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes for their clean drinking water. In fact, 95 percent of our nation’s freshwater supply is contained in the Great Lakes.

If Ohio is to properly address the effects of pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and algal blooms, then it must have the necessary funds to do so. While I am encouraged that President Trump is attempting to rein in discretionary, the 97 percemt budget cut for GLRI imperils the progress we’ve made with Lake Erie and threatens to stall future projects to continue our work. It is critical that GLRI is provided with the necessary funds to accomplish its mission.

That is why I, as a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, have been a strong advocate for this program. In 2016, I was an original cosponsor of the GLRI Act, later included in the Water Resources Development Act, which reauthorized $300 million in annual funding for the program through 2021. On Feb. 8, I, and other members of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, wrote a letter to President Trump to advocate for policies to protect the Great Lakes, such as GLRI, and on Feb. 13, I was part of another letter to the administration urging it to fully fund GLRI in its FY18 budget proposal.

Lake Erie is an important asset to Ohio, and it is critical we protect it. As the House of Representatives begins drafting a budget for our nation’s government, I remain committed to fighting for adequate funding for Lake Erie and GLRI. We must work together to preserve Lake Erie’s ecological integrity, not only for the sake of the lake’s diverse species but also for the thousands of Ohioans who depend on it for their economic and physical well-being.

I look forward to working with my fellow representatives in Ohio’s congressional delegation, as well as other members of Congress, to make sure Lake Erie remains healthy for years to come.