Great Lakes Day 2008

The Great Lakes region’s Healing Our Waters Coalition members joined forces in Washington today to hike the Hill and advocate for Great Lakes issues with US House and Senate Members and staff. They spent all of yesterday training up on a host of issues and preparing for today’s events.

“We need all the lobbying we can get,” Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-Mich) told throngs of Great Lakes advocates preparing to march the halls of Congress.

Rep. Ehlers asked coalition members to urge Congress to pass the Great Lakes Legacy Act which is up for reauthorization. It was first passed in 2002 and comes up for reauthorization every five years. It has been effective combating Areas of Concern, but that didn’t stop the President from cutting funding in his proposed 2009 budget. “We need support on it and we are trying to increase funding levels,” Rep. Ehlers said.

Advocates will also be lobbying Members to fund and pass the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, which embodies the strategy set forth by the 1500 Great Lakes officials and advocates called together five years ago by the President’s Executive Order.

“We have to get that moving,” Rep. Ehlers said, who claimed the bill is languishing because of the $20 billion price tag “it scares the daylights out of members of Congress.”

While $20 billion is nothing to scoff at, we need to remember what we are spending across government and the impact the investment will have on the economy in the region. A Brookings Report shows that the investment promises to reap a $50 billion– paying for itself plus generating an economic revival in the region.

“Frankly, I think it is a bargain. You’re going to get more for that $20 billion for the Great Lakes then you are for the $8 billion for the Everglades,” Ehlers added before pleading with coalition members to push their Representatives and Senators to “get off the stick and get going on this.”