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MADISON, Wis. - With shorelines on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, Wisconsin has a vested interest in keeping the Great Lakes clean.
On Wednesday and Thursday, a coalition representing business, industry, and environmental organizations will meet with members of Congress to rally support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Trump Administration wants to cut funds to the Initiative by 90 percent.
Chris Danou, government relations director for the Madison-based group, Gathering Waters, speaks to the importance of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: "What it does is provide a substantial amount of funding for a fair number of restoration projects for water infrastructure projects, for trying to fix some of the pollution issues we have with sedimentation and nutrient flows into, say, Green Bay," he explains. "Those are the kind of things that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative does."
In total, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has funded more than 3,500 projects across the Great Lakes region. The Great Lakes congressional delegation also has a strong history of supporting the Initiative.
Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, says there was a strong negative reaction to the Trump Administration's first proposal to zero out the Initiative, and then this year proposing a 90-percent cut. "In both cases, Congress - pretty much immediately, in a bipartisan fashion - came forward and said they were going to ignore that request, and that they would be moving ahead with continuing to be supportive of $300 million a year for this important restoration work," he said.
The groups will also urge Congress to continue to be supportive of budgets for federal agencies that implement the restoration work. Danou refers to the Great Lakes as "probably the key to the long-term future of the upper Midwest." They are the source of drinking water for more than 48 million people and, according to the coalition, directly generate more than 1.5 million jobs.