Durbin: House Spending Bill Would Cripple Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

[CHICAGO] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sounded the alarm about the U.S. House of Representatives’ plans to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) by 80 percent.  Those cuts would severely impact federal programs created to address major ecological problems facing the Great Lakes, including fighting the spread of Asian carp.


“The Great Lakes are one of our country’s greatest treasures, but they face challenges ranging from industrial pollution to invasive species,” Durbin said.  “The House’s funding cuts would cripple our ability to ward off Asian carp, clean up beaches contaminated by E. coli, and prevent polluted runoff from entering the Great Lakes.  I have always been proud to join the bipartisan efforts to secure adequate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and I hope my colleagues in the House rethink their irresponsible cuts and join me and millions of Illinoisans in our ongoing commitment to protecting Lake Michigan and all the Great Lakes.”


Last week, the House Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Subcommittee passed a spending bill which would reduce the GLRI’s funding from $285 million in FY2013 to $60 million in FY2014—a cut of 80 percent.  The House’s cuts would also impact low-interest loans for communities working to upgrade their storm water and sewage treatment systems.  The bill now goes to the full House Appropriations Committee for consideration.


Initially funded with a $475 million appropriation, the GLRI received $300 million in both FY2011 and FY2012.  Sequestration cut funding for the GLRI to $285 million in FY2013.  As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Durbin has consistently fought to fully fund the GLRI and supports the President’s FY2014 Budget Request of $300 million for the GLRI.


The GLRI, an inter-agency effort led by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was created in 2009 to support ecological projects in the region.  The GLRI has invested more than $70 million in 75 Illinois initiatives including the removal of toxic chemicals from Waukegan Harbor, green infrastructure projects like the Millennium Reserve near the Calumet River, and the restoration of 40 acres of land at Northerly Island. 


The GLRI also provides Illinois with $7 million per year to combat Asian carp through electronic barriers and commercial fishing.  Several organizations, municipalities and universities in Illinois have received funding from the GLRI to survey beaches and coordinate electronic recycling efforts.