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On Great Lakes Day, Higgins fights for Great Lakes funding on House Floor

Thu, Feb 25th 2016 04:05 pm

Higgins encourages Congress to fund Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in next budget

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, spoke on the House Floor during Great Lakes Day to demonstrate the importance of fully funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and other Great Lakes programs in Congress' proposed budget for fiscal year 2017.

Since the creation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010, nearly $1.6 billion has been invested in projects to clean up the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater system. Locally, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports a number of initiatives, including the restoration of the Buffalo River. 

In 1987, the Buffalo River was designated as one of 43 "Areas of Concern" under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement due to poor water quality, contaminated sediments, hazardous waste sites, point and nonpoint source pollution, combined sewer overflows and degraded fish and wildlife habitat. The Buffalo River is now on track to be removed from the Great Lakes Commission's list of Areas of Concern by 2019.

Higgins has called the restoration of the river Buffalo's "quiet waterfront renaissance."

Text of Higgins' speech is below:

"Mr. speaker:

"On the occasion of the 'Great Lakes Day,' hundreds of advocates are in Washington to support funding for the restoration of the Great Lakes.

"Fortunately, after years of neglect, Congress is starting to meet its responsibilities to protect and restore this irreplaceable resource.

"In 1968, the Buffalo River, which drains into Lake Erie, was so contaminated that it was declared biologically dead. Today, funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the federal government, local businesses and the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper are working on a massive undertaking to clean up and restore the river. Now we expect it will be fishable and swimmable within the next decade.

"In the coming weeks, Congress will begin to devise its spending plan for the year. I urge my colleagues to support the programs like GLRI, which support local economies, natural habitats and public health throughout the region. 

"I yield back the balance of my time."

Higgins, whose district borders Lake Erie, is a sponsor of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015 and member of the Great Lakes Task Force.

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