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'Major increase to Great Lakes funding, backed by Higgins, becomes law

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Wed, Jan 6th 2021 09:25 am

Great Lakes funding to grow to $475 million by 2026

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, a member of the congressional Great Lakes task force, announced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act (GLRI) has been signed into law, delivering a “major increase” in funding for the Great Lakes.

Higgins, an original cosponsor of the bill, said, “Western New York’s identity and future is tied to the Great Lakes; we have the responsibility to protect this natural resource. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has demonstrated its worth through a decade of progress. Continued and expanded investment is good for the environment and the economy.”

In 2010, Congress amended the Clean Water Act of 2010 to create the GLRI, a multistate, binational and multiagency effort to provide federal resources for the Great Lakes ecosystem. The bipartisan GLRI Act (H.R. 4031) passed by the House of Representatives in February 2020, reauthorizes the GLRI until 2026 with a jump from the current $330 million included in the recently approved 2021 budget to $375 million in 2022, with additional growth of $25 million annually through 2026.

Higgins has spent years supporting and defending federal funding for projects and programs like the GLRI that help protect the Great Lakes and other waterways of Western New York. In October, he announced $300,000 for Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper provided by the GLRI to lead an effort across the Great Lakes Basin for coordinated cleanups through 2022 that will help keep drinking water resources safe and protect habitats therein. The House and Senate recently approved a budget that includes a demonstration project, proposed by Higgins, aimed at eliminating harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

Additionally, Higgins has opposed environmental protection rollbacks that, his camp said, “harm the future of our nation’s waterways.” In September, Higgins took to the House floor to protest the Environmental Protection Agency’s rule rollback that “allows the release of toxic metals into the Great Lakes and waterways.” Earlier this year, Higgins joined leaders from the Citizens Campaign for the Environment and Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper to “sound the alarm on threats these rollbacks pose to healthy communities.”

In 2018, the University at Michigan released a study that found every dollar invested in the Great Lakes yields, on average, $3.35 in economic activity; in Buffalo, the rate of return is even higher, delivering $4 for each GLRI dollar invested in Western New York.

Since 2010, the GLRI has invested over $72.672 million in federal funding supporting more than 125 projects in Higgins’ district. These investments are “contributing to the restoration of the Buffalo and Niagara rivers and advancing revival of the Buffalo and Niagara Falls waterfronts.”

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