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Great Lakes restoration funding roundabout continues

International Joint Commission

A federal program dedicated to environmental restoration and cleaning up of the Great Lakes has escaped a massive budget cut. A committee in the U.S. House of Representatives has voted to amend a bill that looked to slash the program’s funding, partially restoring it to $210 million for fiscal year 2014.

The House bill originally aimed to cut 80 percent of the program’s budget, from nearly $300 million to just $60 million for next year.

A House committee has since revised that figure from $60 million to $210 million.

But, a Senate funding bill released Thursday would restore the budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to its pre-sequestration level.

Jordan Lubetkin, spokesman for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says any cuts in funding will only lead to greater costs down the line.

“I think the drastic cuts elicited a huge response from the Great Lakes community," Lubetkin said. "People are really upset and I think lawmakers heard that. And we’re pleased that Great Lakes funding has been partially restored. We think that’s a step in the right direction, but we are still fighting for the full $300 million.”

Lubetkin says they’re optimistic that funding will be restored to its original level.

He says strong bipartisan support and pressure from Great Lakes communities have avoided budget cuts to the program in the past.