Restore the restoration: A House panel acts on behalf of the Great Lakes

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It took congressional dealing, posturing and sausage-making. But a House committee has restored funding, albeit partial, for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative for 2014.

The initiative is aimed at cleaning the lakes and battling invasive species. For Pennsylvania in the past three years, it has funded new technologies to detect bacterial contamination, pollution prevention to keep the shoreline clean and the monitoring of mercury to protect children's health, among other things.

President Barack Obama had authorized, and Congress approved, $475 million for the initiative next year. But in this year's toxic budget negotiations, the amount was cut to $60 million.

A Republican amendment provides an additional $150 million. The $210 million is less than half the previously agreed upon allocation, which scientists and environmentalists -- and a Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee -- say was not enough. But it beats $60 million.

The Great Lakes support 1.5 million jobs and generate $62 billion in annual wages. Pennsylvania's Presque Isle State Park attracts 4 million visitors a year and is a boon to the economy.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the Ohio congresswoman who has been vigilant on funding the Great Lakes program, stated the case succinctly: "We're at the doorstep of one of the most precious places in the world, the edge of America's freshwater coast. The [initiative] has been our chance to clean up and fix up Lake Erie and the Great Lakes. We need to continue."



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