U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and members of the Great Lakes Task Force introduced legislation that would extend a program that cleans up toxins, combats invasive species and protects watersheds of the Great Lakes, her office announced Wednesday.
A bipartisan bill would extend the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) for another five years, through 2031, and increase annual funding levels from $475 million in 2026 to $500 million from 2027 to 2031.
Created in 2010, the GLRI aims to restore and protect the Great Lakes and its watersheds, which continue to be stressed by contamination and threats to water quality, and still face threats from new invasive species, climate change, erosion and habitat destruction, Gillibrand said. The GLRI has focused efforts to stop the spread of carp and other invasive species, restore coastline and habitats connecting our streams and rivers and clean up environmentally damaged areas.
In past years, the Trump administration attempted several times to cut the Environmental Protection Agency's funding that supports the GLRI, and in 2017, tried to eliminate the program altogether, but each time faced bipartisan pushback to those efforts.
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a massive, multi-state investment in the future of the Great Lakes; it devotes significant resources and funding to ecosystem revitalization, which will simultaneously protect our natural resources and create jobs. I am encouraged by the progress that Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has already made and I will partner with my colleagues from New York and surrounding states to reauthorize it and continue laying the foundation for a greener, cleaner future," Gillibrand said in a statement.
Gillibrand's bill is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer and Democratic and Republican senators representing other states bordered by the Great Lakes — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Minnesota. Bipartisan sponsors in the House of Representatives include U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, of New York, whose district hugs Lake Ontario.