Republican-controlled House panel calls for 80 percent cut in Great Lakes restoration program

"Federal programs designed to make headway on some of the Great Lakes' most longstanding ecological problems, from harbors caked with toxic sludge to the threat of an Asian carp attack, would lose about 80 percent of their funding under a spending plan approved Tuesday by a Republican-controlled U.S. House panel."

So reads a Minneapolis Star Tribune article about the House of Representatives plan that would set back years of bipartisan work to ecologically restore the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was established in 2009 by President Obama and would suffer greatly under the proposed bill. The list of cuts named in the bill include reduced spending on projects that upgrade aging sewage treatment systems (which protect citizens from harmful bacteria like E. coli), scrape away contaminated harbor sediments, restore wildlife habitat and support efforts to ward off invasions of Asian carp.

Critics of the proposed reductions cite the negative health impacts of reduced spending on sewer systems, the cultural significance of the Great Lakes and the positive economic impact that the Great Lakes bring to surrounding communities. "The Great Lakes is one of the jewels of the United States and it's imperative we protect it for its environmental significance but also because of its economic might," the Star Tribune reports Rep. Dave Joyce, an Ohio Republican and member of the subcommittee, as saying in a news release announcing the bill introduction. "Studies have shown more than 1.5 million jobs are directly connected to these five lakes, generating $62 billion in wages.

Read the entire Star Tribune article here, and consider the wide-ranging consequences that political gridlock and sequestration have on what ought to be our protected commons.