Congress’ evaporating support puts Great Lakes — and our fresh water — at risk – Opinion – Crain’s Chicago Business

Do not let Congress drop restoration programs for the Great Lakes. We are responsible for 1/5 of the world’s fresh water. Don’t waste this precious resource.

“Last week, a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee voted to gut Great Lakes and clean water funding. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative received a disproportionate 80 percent slash to $60 million from $300 million. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund, used for loans that pay to stop sewage overflows, suffered a cut of 75 percent. Under this stinging proposal, much work to protect and restore the Great Lakes will halt next year. The numbers have sparked indignation and disbelief, and Congress should eliminate the cuts, double-time.

We have more than 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh surface water in the Great Lakes, providing drinking water to 7 million Illinoisans. But our Great Lakes are troubled by sewage overflows — like the nearly 11 billion gallons that hit Lake Michigan from Illinois in April.

We face a legacy of chemical contamination and marauding invasive species like Asian carp. Algae blooms in Lake Erie are so bad that the Great Lakes landed on the front page of the New York Times in March, including a picture of bright green muck — not exactly a tourism brochure. These problems don’t go away by hoping for the best, but they do get worse and more expensive to fix.

The good news is that the fix is starting to work. Illinois and Indiana toxic sites in Lake Michigan and along the Grand Calumet River are being cleaned and restored so adjacent communities can benefit again from these fresh water assets. Gov. Pat Quinn has leveraged revolving fund dollars to create the state’s Clean Water Initiative, making it easier for communities to finance long-term loans for critical water infrastructure. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has signaled that a revitalized Chicago River and connected pipes are right for the planet, public health and Chicago’s future.”

Read more about Chicago and cleanup efforts for the Great Lakes at:

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