Washington lawmakers approve Great Lakes bill

The U.S. House has voted to extend for an additional five years a program designed to improve water quality in the Great Lakes and make progress on resolving their biggest environmental threats.

The measure authorizes spending $300 million annually on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, although separate votes would be needed each year to provide the funding.

Two mid-Michigan congressmen supported the bill.

“The Great Lakes are a vast strategic resource and source of pride for the state of Michigan and our country as a whole,” said Rep. Tim Walberg in a press release. “Today’s bipartisan action will help protect this magnificent national treasure and preserve the health and vitality of the Great Lakes for the benefit of our environment and economy for generations to come,” he said in a press release. Walberg, a Republican, represents Michigan’s 7th District, which includes Jackson, Eaton, and Hillsdale counties.

“As a lifelong Michigan resident, I believe each of us has a responsibility to ensure the beautiful lakes, beaches and rivers we enjoy today will still be around for our children and their children in the years to come,” said Rep. Mike Bishop in another release. “Doing so will require improving the water quality, repairing local marshes and rooting out the invasive species encroaching on our shorelines – which are just some of the many priorities of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.” Bishop, also a Republican, represents Michigan’s 8th District, which includes Ingham and Livingston counties.

Congress has spent more than $2.2 billion on the program over the past seven years, funding more than 2,900 projects in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin.

Top priorities include cleaning up harbors and river mouths polluted with toxins, combating invasive species, restoring wildlife habitat and preventing runoff that causes algae blooms and beach closures.

A similar bill has cleared a Senate committee and awaits a floor vote.

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