If Congress funds President Obama’s $475 million Great Lakes initiative

MADISON — The people, businesses and communities of Wisconsin have much to gain if Congress funds a new $475 million Obama Administration initiative to restore the Great Lakes, conservation leaders said today.

“President Obama’s budget includes a significant down payment on the multi-year effort to restore the Great Lakes and revive the economy,” said Melissa Malott, Water Program Director of Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization. “We look forward to working with Rep. David Obey and Sen. Herb Kohl, both key members of federal appropriations committees, to fund this initiative, put people to work, and restore the lakes and our economy. A Congressional investment in solutions that protect our drinking water, jobs and way of life will pay dividends for millions of people in Wisconsin and across the country.”

The Obama Administration unveiled the initiative as part of its budget announcement last week; conservation groups briefed reporters on the issue today. The President’s new fund addresses threats including invasive species, toxic contamination and habitat restoration, serious problems in Wisconsin’s neighboring Great Lakes, lakes Michigan and Superior.

In Wisconsin, Governor Doyle, environmental groups and other stakeholders have a long list of Great Lakes restoration projects that President Obama’s initiative could help fund. Such projects include cleaning up contaminated sediment in parts of the Kinnickinnic, Menominee and Milwaukee rivers as well as contributions to Fox River’s PCB remediation effort now underway; sanitary sewer and stormwater system improvements in Bayfield and Green Bay; and more. Additionally, these projects could potentially create 900 jobs for Wisconsin.

“We implore our Congressional leaders to fund Lakes restoration before the problems get worse and the solutions more costly,” said Malott. “The Great Lakes benefit whole communities and millions of people who depend on the Lakes for their jobs and way of life. Wisconsin relies heavily on the Great Lakes, not only for recreation such as swimming and boating, but also for drinking water and food. We look forward to working with Sen. Kohl and Rep. Obey to advance an initiative that is clearly good for the economy and the environment.”