GUEST COMMENTARY: 2014 appropriations good for Great Lakes

2014-02-18T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: 2014 appropriations good for Great LakesBy Nicole Barker nwitimes.com
February 18, 2014 12:00 am  • 

In mid-January, Congress released its 2014 spending bill, and from a conservation standpoint, it’s good news for the Great Lakes and Indiana.

The bill restores funding to two critical Great Lakes programs. It provides $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; the program received $285 million in 2013. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is set to receive $1.44 billion for fiscal year 2014; the program received $1.37 billion in 2013.

In case you’ve not heard of it, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, fight invasive species, and reduce runoff from cities and farms that pollute our lakes and knock the ecosystem off balance.

Since 2010, more than $25 million in funding has been invested in Indiana for key projects ranging from Asian carp research to the purchase of forested wetlands to on-the-ground restoration work in various coastal habitats.

In fact, more than 2,600 acres of habitat have been restored in Indiana thanks to this funding. Our beloved Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has undertaken remarkable wetland restoration projects using these dollars at Great Marsh and Cowles Bog.

These projects are producing results. A great example is the daylighting of Dunes Creek in the Indiana Dunes State Park. This project brought a creek previously covered under the paved parking lot back into the sunlight. It created new fish habitat and reduced polluted runoff and bacterial pollution from entering Lake Michigan.

The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides low-interest loans to communities across the nation to upgrade sewage infrastructure. Many wastewater pipes around the Great Lakes and in Northwest Indiana are aging and need repair or replacement to prevent dirty wastewater from getting into our streams, rivers, wetlands and Lake Michigan. This program helps towns and municipalities fix these problems, reducing beach closures and improving water quality.

The loan program distributes funding to all 50 states based on a fixed formula, and many communities in Indiana have benefitted from the program and made significant upgrades to their wastewater systems. The 2014 spending bill would provide about $530 million to the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.

Given the frequency of beach closures and advisories in Northwest Indiana alone, these funds are simply critical to make meaningful progress toward fixing our aging infrastructure.

I want to say thanks to our legislators because each and every one of them voted to approve the budget. Particularly at a time when we expect strong accountability in government programs, it’s good to know these Great Lakes programs are delivering results in communities across the region and right here at home in Northwest Indiana.

Nicole Barker is executive director of Save the Dunes. The opinons are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Follow The Times

Latest Local Offers

Featured Businesses

Submit a Letter to Editor

We welcome letters from readers on any issue of public interest, and make every effort to publish as many as we can and in a timely manner. The Times will publish only one letter a month from a writer, and be sure to include your name, address and a telephone number for verification. Letters should be 150 words or less. They will be edited.

Letters may be submitted:
  • Via our submission form.
  • Via e-mail.
  • Via fax: (219) 933-3249 or (219) 465-7298
  • Via mail or by hand to our offices:
    • 601 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321
    • 2080 N. Main St., Crown Point, IN 46307
    • 1111 Glendale Blvd., Valparaiso, IN 46383
    • 3410 Delta Dr., Portage, IN 46368
    • Please mark envelopes with "Attn: Letters"

Questions?

Email Editorial Page Editor Doug Ross or call (219) 548-4360 or (219) 933-3357

Poll

Loading…

Should the Indiana attorney general's office compel all Lake County municipalities to merge E-911 dispatch services?

View Results