DEC seeks a New York piece of Great Lakes funding pie

Albany – New York will be looking to get a chunk of the $475
million pot of money set aside for Great Lakes restoration work,
according to DEC officials.

But so will other states and conservation groups, and the pile
of cash isn’t as large as it may appear.

“About half of that $475 million the federal government is going
to keep,” DEC_Assistant Director of Fish, Wildlife and Marine
Resources Doug Stang said. “The other half will be going out via
grants, and we’re working on that right now to get some of that
money that’s available.”

President Obama late last year signed into law the $475 million
initiative to address urgent threats to the Great Lakes – the
largest supply of surface fresh water in the world.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will receive that money
as part of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Act of 2010.
The new initiative will nearly double funding for lake restoration
programs in the Great Lakes states – New York, Illinois, Indiana,
Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The initiative will fund efforts to stop aquatic invasive
species that cost the region at least $200 million annually in
damage and control costs; clean up contaminated sediments that pose
a threat to the health of people and wildlife; and restore wetlands
and other habitat that protect water quality, prevent flooding and
provide the foundation of the region’s outdoor economy.

President Obama proposed the $475 million in Great Lakes funding
in his inaugural budget to uphold a commitment he made as a
presidential candidate to invest $5 billion to restore the
lakes.

Jeff Skelding, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great
Lakes Coalition called the initiative “a victory for the millions
of people, businesses and communities which rely on the Great Lakes
for their jobs, drinking water and way of life.”

Stang said DEC “is trying to get some of that money,” as are the
other states and several major conservation organizations.

“We’re working to partner with them,” he said. “Ducks Unlimited,
for instance, has a lot of interest in trying to get money for
wetlands restoration.”

Congress funded the initiative, led by Sens. Carl Levin
(D-Mich.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.); and
House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Rep. David Obey
(D-Wis.), along with Reps. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Dingell
(D-Mich.), Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio), Louise
Slaughter (D-N.Y.), Vern Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Congressional members
from the Great Lakes states serving on House and Senate
appropriations committees and Great Lakes Task Force.

U.S. House Appropriations Committee members from the eight-state
Great Lakes region include New York representatives Maurice D.
Hinchey, Steve Israel, Nita M. Lowey and José Serrano. All are
Democrats.

The Brookings Institution found that the eight-state region
stands to gain at least $2 in economic benefit for every $1
invested in Great Lakes restoration.

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