Bill authorizes $300 million annually for next 5 years toward waterway cleanup
Congressman Brian Higgins, a member of the bipartisan congressional Great Lakes Task Force, announced approval of H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act (GLRI) of 2016, in the House of Representatives. The legislation authorizes $300 million annually for fiscal years 2017-21 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes.
"In recent years, Western New York came to realize that the best opportunity we have to help grow our economy is not found in a new 'big box' store or with an international investor. The answer is right here in the fresh water sitting at our doorstep," Higgins said. "Efforts to restore, protect and enhance the Great Lakes have been identified as a priority by the United States and Canada, and this legislation advances that agenda. Western New York will continue to see great benefits from this commitment."
First initiated in 2010, the Great Lakes restoration initiative is a multiyear, multiagency effort to restore the Great Lakes by cleaning up pollution, promoting shoreline health, combating invasive species and protecting fish and wildlife. To date, the program invested more than $2.2 billion in Great Lakes restoration projects.
Over the past five years, more than $40.4 million in federal GLRI funding has been invested in Western New York projects. The Buffalo River and Niagara River are among 27 "Areas of Concern" identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as priority sites.
Higgins pointed out federal funding is driving private sector investments, as well. Along the Buffalo River alone, $72.8 million in federal funding, including GLRI and federal highway dollars, has led to more than $81.2 million in new, private sector projects since 2013 - and interest continues to grow.
The Great Lakes contain 95 percent of America's fresh water and supplies drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America. A Brookings Institute report found Buffalo would see economic gains between $600 million and $1.1 billion if the Great Lakes are restored.