Congressman Brian Higgins, NY-26, joined Cameron Davis (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency senior adviser on Great Lakes issues) and Western New York leaders and community members for discussions on the future of the Great Lakes.
"As we continue pushing to remove barriers to public access and provide high-quality public space along the water's edge, which is bringing millions in new investments in Western New York, we must keep fighting to restore that anchor of development: the water," Higgins said. "The Great Lakes are an engine of economic activity and the largest source of fresh water on the planet. We encourage the community to weigh-in on how we can work together to protect and preserve this valuable resource in the years ahead."
"Buffalo is on the leading edge of showing how cities that embrace the Great Lakes are making a comeback," said Davis, who coordinates the work of 11 federal departments on ecosystem restoration. "By providing thoughts on the next action plan, citizens can keep the momentum going in helping to restore all of the lakes and their coastal communities."
Public comment opportunities are listed under "Public Engagement" at http://glri.us.
In 2010, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, a team of 11 federal agencies, tasked with Great Lakes restoration, released the 2010-14 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative action plan. Discussions are currently underway as the task force considers the 2015-19 action plan. Buffalo was chosen as one of three sites in the country hosting public stakeholder hearings on the Great Lakes. Residents can view a copy of the plan and learn more about submitting comments through the Great Lakes Restoration website:http://greatlakesrestoration.us/public.html.
Buffalo River cleanup is one of several efforts supported under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Earlier this month, Higgins announced progress on phase two of Buffalo River cleanup efforts with the release of $22 million in federal funding, which will be matched through a partnership agreement between the Honeywell Corp. and Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, for a combined $44 million project.
Higgins recently spoke about the issue on the House Floor. His remarks are below:
"Madam Speaker, The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative represents our nation's commitment to protecting the health of our Great Lakes, the largest source of fresh water in the world, representing $7 billion in economic activity annually.
"In Western New York, the revitalization of Buffalo's inner and outer harbors depends on efforts to restore the health of Lake Erie and the Buffalo River.
"The Environmental Protection Agency will soon host a series of public meetings to gain community input to guide the next phase of Great Lakes Restoration and one of the meetings will be held in Buffalo.
"Madam Speaker, the Great Lakes are a unique national treasure with global significance. The Brookings Institution report shows that, for every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration, a $2 return in the form of increased fishing, tourism and home values is achieved. It's our responsibility to ensure that the restoration initiative is fully funded in this year's appropriations, and also to be an active partner in protecting and restoring our Great Lakes. "
Higgins' Western New York district borders Lake Erie. He is a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Caucus, 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. Higgins recently introduced H.R. 600, the Great Lakes Nutrient Removal Assistance Act, to provide grants to upgrade wastewater treatment plants in the Great Lakes basin.