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Schumer Pushes For Full Funding and Quick Passage Of President's Great Lakes Initiative

Area Has Special Advantage in Securing Funds Because Money Will Be Focused On Places Like Rochester That Have Been Designated "Areas Of Concern" By EPA

Dollars Will Go Towards Cleaning Up Great Lakes, Reducing Beach Closures And Allowing Fishing And Tourism Industry To Thrive In Rochester Area

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today, announced that he is pushing for Congress to fully fund President Obama's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in order to clean up Rochester's beaches and allow the area's tourism and fishing industry to thrive.  Poor water conditions have forced beaches in the Rochester region to be closed more often than they were opened so far this summer, and have hampered the region's economic growth by precluding the development of beach front resorts and tourist destinations, and by preventing the fishing industry from living up to its full potential.  The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, to be run by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, will provide funding to local governments and environmental groups, as well as other federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGO), to reduce pollution and invasive species in the Great Lakes.  Rochester has been designated an Area of Concern (AOC) by the EPA, and will therefore receive a larger amount of funding through the program. 


"Lake Ontario aside from providing summertime fun for families throughout the Finger Lakes Region and Western New York has the potential to be a true economic catalyst," said Schumer. "Unfortunately, we haven't been able to take full advantage because of the poor water quality.  Cleaning up the great lakes, particularly the Rochester Embayment, will allow the region's fishing and tourism industry to grow, providing much needed jobs and millions of dollars in revenue."


Rochester has been hard hit by problems with Lake Ontario's water quality.  Local beaches this year have been closed more than they've been open.   Ontario Beach has been closed a total of 34 out of 63 days so far this season due to high bacteria levels in the previous day's water tests.  Durand Eastman Beach has been closed a total of 33 days out of 67 days.  Lake Ontario is also plagued with invasive species, such as lamprey and zebra mussels.  Schumer noted that the unpredictability of the water quality has precluded resorts from being developed along the shore, and hinders tourism - people may not want to take a risk visiting a beach that is closed half the time.  If the water along Rochester's shore was predictably clean, it could be a big tourist draw.  Such resorts have been developed along other, cleaner, parts of the great lakes, particularly in Wisconsin and Minnesota.    


The President's 2010 Budget requests $475 million in EPA's budget for a new Environmental Protection Agencyled, interagency Great Lakes restoration initiative, which will target the most significant problems in the region, including invasive aquatic species, nonpoint source pollution, and contaminated sediment.   The program, which will be in place for the next five years, will focus on the following areas:

·          Toxic substances, particularly in the agency's geographically fixed "areas of concern."

·          Invasive species.

·          Nonpoint source pollution and the health of nearshore environments.

·          Wildlife and habitat restoration.

·          Program administration, including accountability, monitoring and evaluation.


Much of the restoration work will be done through federal agencies, but local governments and NGO's will have access to $250 million that will be distributed as grants.  Such a distribution method will allow Rochester to tailor methods of pollution control to its needs.  Schumer said that the funding is an important investment for communities along the Great Lakes - a recent study by the Brookings Institute showed that every dollar invested in cleaning up the lakes would yield $2 in savings and increased revenue through economic development.    


Currently the House has passed the legislation funding the initiative, but the Senate has not. Furthermore, the Senate Appropriations Committee bill provides $75 million less than the Housepassed bill. Today, Schumer pledged to push for quick passage of the Senate bill containing the funding, and work with the conference committee that will combine the House and Senate bill to ensure that the final bill meets the President's request.  Once the funding has been approved by Congress, the EPA will begin accepting grant applications.  Applications for grants could be accepted as early as October of this year.   


The area known as the Rochester Embayment (formed by the indentation of the shoreline between Bogus Point in the town of Parma and Nine Mile Point in the town of Webster) is a particularly polluted part of the Great Lakes, and has therefore been declared an "Area of Concern" by the EPA. The northern boundary of the embayment is delineated by the straight line between these two points. The southern boundary includes approximately 9.6 km (6 miles) of the Genesee River that is influenced by lake levels, from the river's mouth to the Lower Falls. While it is unfortunate that the embayment merits the AOC designation, it is in this case beneficial because funding provided through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will be allocated based, in part, on this criteria.  Because Irondequoit Bay and parts of the Genesee river are included in the AOC, efforts to reduce pollution in those bodies of water would be eligible for federal funding as well. 


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