On May 29, 2018, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, announced that following their push, the Senate version of the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA), which recently passed the EPW Committee with Senator Gillibrand’s support, includes an increase in the authorized spending levels for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
The GLRI was launched by the Obama Administration in 2010 and has funded projects in New York to improve water quality, combat invasive species such as hydrilla, and restore wetlands and other habitats. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand have long supported funding for the GLRI and vowed to now fight for the full appropriation of these funds in order to continue projects that combat invasive species, decrease pollution, restore native wildlife populations, and implement awareness programs.
The senators said the new authorized levels for GLRI includes increases for the program over each of the next 3 years, after being initially authorized for $300 million in 2016. WRDA specifically authorizes $330 million in 2019 – a $30 million increase, $360 million in 2020 – a $60 million increase, and $390 million in 2021 – a $90 million increase.
“The Great Lakes are impressive providers of drinking water, recreation, and jobs for Upstate New York. Thus, we must do everything we can to monitor, preserve and restore the quality of our Great Lakes and connected waterways so residents and visitors can enjoy these invaluable Upstate NY resources for years to come,” said Senator Schumer.
“Protecting New York’s most vital resources—such as Lake Ontario and Lake Erie—from threats such as invasive species and pollution remains a top priority of mine, and the increased authorization of funding we secured in the Water Resource Development Act will support efforts to do just that. These new authorization levels, which increase funding by $30 million in 2019, $60 million in 2020, and $90 million in 2021, are a key first step and a true victory for Upstate New York. I fully support this program and I will keep pushing, through the appropriations process, for greater investments in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. It is of the utmost priority of mine to protect the vital resources that are our Great Lakes,” he continued.
Schumer and Gillibrand called this increase in funding authorization a major win for the State of New York. The senators said this federal initiative, in past years, has provided funding to worthwhile projects aimed at restoring and protecting the Great Lakes. For example, in September 2017 $900,000 worth of GLRI funds were awarded to the Great Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College to fight invasive threats, including an infestation of Hydrilla in Cayuga Lake.
“The Great Lakes are some of New York’s most treasured resources, and this important program helps ensure that we can continue to restore and protect the environmental quality of the Great Lakes watershed for years to come,” added Senator Gillibrand, a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Funding provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative help communities across New York State improve quality, address pollution, and prevent the spread of invasive species. I was proud to fight to include this provision in the Water Resources Development Act, and will continue to urge my colleagues in the Senate to make sure that this provision passes when it comes for a vote on the Senate floor,” she concluded.
In 2015, Schumer helped secure $9.5 million in GLRI funding to restore Braddock Bay in the town of Greece after decades of decline to ecological and recreational activities on the bay. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) used the funding to restore wetlands, habitat and to reconstruct a barrier beach that has been washed away, leaving the bay exposed to Lake Ontario’s damaging waters that destroyed habitat and the bay’s navigation channel needed for boating.
Photo of Niagara River is by Storm Cunningham. It connects Lake Erie with Lake Ontario. American Falls in Niagara Falls, NY is on right.