Higgins urges Congress to protect Great Lakes restoration, Buffalo River fundingby jmaloni
Congressman Brian Higgins, NY-26, spoke on the House Floor Friday to urge his colleagues in Congress to repeal the sequester by highlighting the importance of continued Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding for projects like the cleanup of the Buffalo River.
"The environmental benefits of Great Lakes and Buffalo River protection are obvious, but the less direct but equally significant benefits of clean water on our economy cannot be understated," Higgins said. "Jobs and economic opportunities also flow from healthy lakes."
Last week, Higgins sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency's regional administrator and Great Lakes national program manager, Dr. Susan Hedman expressing his concerns on this issue.
This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator joined local organizations, including the University at Buffalo, PUSH Buffalo and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, for a Western New York "Green Infrastructure Forum." Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper has been outspoken about the water serving as a driver of regional economic revitalization through the promotion of its "Rust to Blue" initiative.
The text of Higgins remarks is below:
"Mr. Speaker, The Buffalo River is identified by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as one of 43 areas of concern in the Great Lakes watershed. In 2011, a coalition of corporate and community partners teamed up with state and local governments to begin a multimillion dollar cleanup of the Buffalo River.
"Unfortunately, sequestration and uncertainty about a new federal budget threaten to delay this project.
"Mr. Speaker, the Great Lakes are a unique national treasure with global significance. They are the largest source of surface freshwater on earth, containing 20 percent of the world's supply. They contain 95 percent of America's freshwater and they support 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages in the shipping, recreation and fishing industries.
"Preservation of our Great Lakes has both environmental and economic impacts and has always enjoyed bipartisan support. We cannot afford to allow sequestration to halt critical projects like the Buffalo River cleanup. I urge my colleagues to repeal the sequester and to protect funding for Great Lakes restoration."
Higgins' Western New York district borders Lake Erie. He is a member of the Congressional Great Lakes caucus, the leader credited with securing a $279 million New York Power Authority relicensing settlement agreement now funding Buffalo's waterfront development, and a staunch supporter of Great Lakes protection.