TOLEDO, OH —Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) hosted a roundtable at the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo with businesses and organizations that depend on a healthy Lake Erie. The roundtable discussion focused on the importance of protecting the Great Lakes for jobs and the local economy.
“In Ohio, families and businesses rely on Lake Erie – its waters are critical to everything from tourism, to industry and manufacturing, to farming and clean energy development,” said Brown. “My Ohio colleagues – Republicans and Democrats alike – have made it clear that zeroing out the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is not an option that we will stand for. We cannot allow Washington to write off Lake Erie and the millions of Ohioans who rely on it. This will cost Ohio jobs and put our water supply at risk.”
In May, Brown blasted President Trump’s budget for eliminating the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a highly successful program that jumpstarted efforts to protect, maintain and restore the integrity of the Great Lakes. The budget also reduces funding for agricultural conservation programs and eliminates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Sea Grant Program, which funds Ohio State Stone Lab on Lake Erie. Stone Lab plays a critical role in monitoring and protecting Lake Erie.
In the government funding measure passed earlier this year, Brown and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) helped ensure that the measure included $300 million for GLRI for the remainder of the fiscal year, battling back reported attempts to cut the GLRI by $50 million this fiscal year.
Brown was joined by representatives from Cedar Point, Lake Erie Shores and Islands, the University of Toledo, the Lake Erie Charter Boat Association, Ohio State University Stone Lab, the Lucas County Farm Bureau, and the city of Toledo.
“Visitors to Ohio’s Lake Erie-bordering communities generate $14.1 billion in economic impact annually that supports over 123,000 jobs and produces tax revenues of $1.8 billion. The visitor spending and associated benefit to all Ohioans is at risk should efforts to keep the lake clean not be successful. This plus Lake Erie as a source of drinking water, a manufacturing and shipping resource, and a habitat for countless species makes it imperative that we protect the lake. I thank Senator Brown for his commitment to finding the answers to ensure a healthy Lake Erie,” said Larry Fletcher, President of Lake Erie Shores and Islands.
Brown introduced a pair of bills to protect and restore Ohio fisheries, which support Ohio’s tourism industry and local jobs.
The Great Lakes Aquatic Connectivity and Infrastructure Program Act would support infrastructure updates that will improve Great Lakes fisheries and restore habitats. The bill would provide grants to repair or replace aging dams, culverts and roads that inhibit the movement of fish populations across the Great Lakes Basin. The bill creates a grant program under which a group of appointed state and tribal representatives review proposals for infrastructure projects to help improve fisheries.
The Great Lakes Mass Marking Program Act would help better monitor the health of fish populations in the Great Lakes through better scientific tracking technology. This will help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in partnership with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources make decisions to support and rehabilitate sport fish populations in the basin. This program was initiated in the Great Lakes on a limited scale in 2010, and would be fully established in statute under this legislation.
Brown has worked to strengthen the GLRI – a highly successful program that has targeted the most significant problems in the region and jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes.
Last Congress, Brown cosponsored the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015 (GLEEPA) – a bill that would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and codify the program into statute. In December, Brown successfully fought to include authorization for GLRI in the Senate water bill.