Great Lakes Commission calls for full funding of GLRI; reaffirms commitment to NAFTA and U.S.-Canada trade
Washington, D.C. – Great Lakes Commissioners from the U.S. and Canada traveled to Washington, D.C. this week to urge Congress to protect the Great Lakes, which hold one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water supply. Commissioners encouraged elected officials to protect the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which was recently cut by 90 percent in President Trump’s proposed FY2019 budget, and to include funding for Great Lakes conservation programs and rural communities in the Farm Bill, which will be up for congressional reauthorization later this year.
Commissioners were in D.C. for the 2018 Great Lakes Commission (GLC) Semiannual Meeting, which was held Tuesday and Wednesday. Delegations from the Great Lakes states and provinces, as well as observers, federal, state and nongovernmental partners attended the meeting, which featured keynote remarks from U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) focused on the economic impact of the lakes on Indiana, the region, and the nation.
“As Congress debates an infrastructure package, we have to remember that infrastructure includes locks and ports like the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor,” said Senator Young, who serves as vice chair of the bipartisan Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “We can’t overlook the economic significance of the lakes.”
Cathy Stepp, newly appointed administrator for U.S. EPA Region 5, also spoke at the meeting. She reaffirmed the EPA’s commitment to the GLRI, which has funded nearly 4,000 Great Lakes restoration projects since 2010.
“We are really fortunate that in Region 5 we have legislators on both sides of the aisle who support this funding,” Stepp said. In 2017, the bipartisan Great Lakes congressional delegation reinstated full funding of $300 million for the GLRI after it was zeroed out by the president in his budget.
At the meeting, Commissioners endorsed a resolution reaffirming the GLC’s support for NAFTA and the importance of trade between the U.S. and Canada, and encouraged both governments to avoid disrupting current trading patterns and creating uncertainty in markets as re-negotiations continue. The GLC also passed a resolution encouraging the governments to work together to help further grow the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence cruising industry.
“On behalf of the leaders of all our states and provinces, the Great Lakes Commission is proud to come together and speak with one voice on behalf of the Great Lakes,” said GLC Chair John Linc Stine, commissioner of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
The GLC will next convene October 2-3, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Additional information will be available at www.glc.org.
The Great Lakes Commission, led by chairman Jon Allan, director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at www.glc.org.