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Schumer-Negotiated Bill Will Fund Cleanup Efforts For The Great Lakes And Connected Waterways, Support Thousands Of Jobs, & Bring Millions To Local Economy

Funding Will Help Improve Water Quality By Reducing Pollutants, Restoring & Protecting Wildlife Habitats, Mitigating Climate Change Impacts & Helping Preserve Tourism, Recreation, & Fishing Industries

Schumer: $1 Billion Investment Is A HUGE CATCH For Great Lakes’ Economies

A longtime advocate for preserving the natural beauty, water quality, and critical Great Lakes ecosystems of Upstate New York, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced a historic $1 billion federal investment – the largest ever single investment – in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as a part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Schumer explained that these dollars will supercharge essential conservation efforts by improving water quality, reducing pollutants, restoring and protecting wildlife habitats, mitigating climate change impacts, and helping preserve waterways critical to New York State’s environment, public health and economy.

“As Majority Leader, I am proud to have fought for and secured this historic and unprecedented investment of $1 billion to protect the environmental and economic future of one of the true gems of New York State – the Great Lakes. From Massena to Buffalo, this funding will provide the largest down payment ever in protecting and restoring the waters of Upstate NY and preserving one of our greatest natural resources – all while putting thousands of New Yorkers to work and boosting our economy,” said Senator Schumer. “The Great Lakes are a massive economic engine, not only for the tourism and recreation industries, but also for the shipping, logistics, agriculture, energy, and finance industries, as well as a source of drinking water. Because of their huge impact on so many facets of life, investing in the Great Lakes means investing in the future of Upstate New York. I will continue to fight to ensure that generations to come can continue to enjoy the full natural beauty and economic energy of the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes region includes eight states – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania – and two Canadian provinces. The Lakes are home to more than 175 species of fish, which contribute to the state’s vibrant commercial and recreational fishing industries. According to the Office of Coastal Management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for every dollar invested in Great Lakes protection, the return on investment is $3.35, or 335%. Furthermore, for every $1 million invested in Great Lakes restoration and protection, 16 jobs are created. The Great Lakes Region is directly responsible for $3.1 trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the United States and more than $6 trillion overall. It is estimated that 25.8 million jobs worth more than $1.3 trillion in wages spanning countless industries, including 7% of all American farm production, are directly supported by the region.

In total, the Great Lakes account for 84% of North America’s surface fresh water and contain about 21% of the world’s supply. More than 30 million people in the U.S. and Canada live in the Great Lakes Basin – roughly 10% of the U.S. population and more than 30% of the Canadian population. The Great Lakes themselves span more than 750 miles from west to east. Millions of people flock yearly to the Great Lakes for recreation, and the Lakes provide critical fresh water access. Additionally, the Lakes play host to diverse animal and plant life. The ability of the Great Lakes to support these uses is dependent on the quality of its waters, habitats, and living resources.

Since its inception in 2010, Schumer noted, the GLRI has already managed to have a positive and significant impact on Upstate New York. The Buffalo River, which is currently listed as an area of federal concern due to excessive pollution, is on its way to being de-listed thanks to a decade long cleanup effort that was funded by the GLRI and undertaken by multiple federal, state, and local agencies. Schumer noted that this should serve as a model for what is possible, particularly with regards to the clean-up of the much larger Niagara River. The GLRI recently allocated $300,000 towards the river’s clean-up, and a cut in funding would have imperiled the progress that has been made. Instead, Schumer said, clean-up efforts like the ones being undertaken in Western New York can continue in earnest.

Schumer has long been a champion for the Great Lakes, fighting off budget cuts to the GLRI in 2019 and working to secure a multimillion dollar increase in authorization levels for the program in 2018. Initiated in 2010, the GLRI has received roughly $3.48 billion since its inception, with the funds distributed across 16 different federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Over the last decade, the GLRI has controlled invasive species on at least 115,000 acres and kept more than 402,000 pounds of phosphorus out of the Lakes. GLRI has also played a critical role in fish and wildlife protection. Efforts to improve the population of Lake Sturgeon are currently underway after a $90,000 investment to study their travel patterns, and the trout population is climbing once again thanks to the investment in bloater chub revival, a critical food source for the popular sport fish. Schumer noted that the $1 billion in funding, the largest the program has ever received in a single appropriation on top of the normal annual appropriation, will help the agencies and their auxiliary partners prepare for the future.

The GLRI has also benefited additional sites in New York State. In September 2017, $900,000 worth of GLRI funds were awarded to the Great Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith College to fight invasive threats, including an infestation of hydrilla in Cayuga Lake. In 2015, Clarkson University was awarded a $6.5 million five-year GLRI grant to continue its partnership with SUNY Fredonia and SUNY Oswego to conduct the Great Lakes Fish Monitoring and Surveillance Program. The funding allowed Clarkson and its partners to continue monitoring Great Lakes fish for contamination from legacy pollutants such as PCBs, banned pesticides, mercury and from emerging chemicals of concern like flame retardants and personal care products. In 2015, Schumer also helped secure $9.5 million in GLRI funding to restore Braddock Bay in the Town of Greece after decades of decline to ecological and recreational activities on the bay.  The USACE used the funding to restore wetlands, habitat and to reconstruct a barrier beach that has been washed away, leaving the bay exposed to Lake Ontario’s damaging waters that destroyed habitat and the bay’s navigation channel needed for boating.