Congress seeks reauthorization, funding for GLRI

NASA image acquired August 28, 2010 Late August 2010 provided a rare satellite view of a cloudless summer day over the entire Great Lakes region. North Americans trying to sneak in a Labor Day weekend getaway on the lakes were hoping for more of the same. The Great Lakes comprise the largest collective body of fresh water on the planet, containing roughly 18 percent of Earth's supply. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water. The region around the Great Lakes basin is home to more than 10 percent of the population of the United States and 25 percent of the population of Canada. Many of those people have tried to escape record heat this summer by visiting the lakes. What they found, according to The Hamilton Spectator, was record-breaking water temperatures fueled by record-breaking air temperatures in the spring and summer. By mid-August, the waters of Lake Superior were 6 to 8∞C (11 to 14∞F) above normal. Lake Michigan set records at about 4∞C (7∞F) above normal. The other three Great Lakes ñ Huron, Erie, and Ontario -- were above normal temperatures, though no records were set. The image was gathered by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASAís Aqua satellite at 1:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time (18:30 UTC) on August 28. Open water appears blue or nearly black. The pale blue and green swirls near the coasts are likely caused by algae or phytoplankton blooms, or by calcium carbonate (chalk) from the lake floor. The sweltering summer temperatures have produced an unprecedented bloom of toxic blue-green algae in western Lake Erie, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. . References . Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.) The Great Lakes Atlas. Accessed September 3, 2010. . The Cleveland Plain Dealer. (August 22, 2010) Scientists say the toxic blue-green algae will only get worse on Ohio lakes. Accessed September 3, 2010. . The Hamilton Spectator. (August 13, 2010) Great Lakes turn to 'bath water.' Accessed September 3, 2010. N

By Taylor Ridderbusch

On Friday, both the House and Senate introduced bills to reauthorize and increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). 

The identical bills would reauthorize the program for five more years and incrementally increase the funding level from $300 million to $475 million, which was the original funding level for the program when passed in 2010. 

Since 2010, the GLRI has supported more than 4,700 projects, totaling over $2.43 billion, in the Great Lakes region, including TU projects improving stream connectivity and restoring instream habitat.

Trout Unlimited relies on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to work with local communities and other partners to complete projects that strengthen trout, salmon, and steelhead fisheries and benefit local economies.

A Trout Unlimited restoration crew member uses a Griphoist to move woody cover into place in the Little Manistee River in Michigan.

In Wisconsin, the GLRI has supported a $750,000 investment in infrastructure to improve fish passage in and around the Nicolet National Forest. Michigan has received funding to improve the Rogue, Pere Marquette, Manistee, and Little Manistee rivers, and Minnesota has benefited from projects on Lake Superior tributaries like the Sucker River and Stewart River, just to name a few Trout Unlimited initiatives.

GLRI projects often feature a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio return in matching funds, which provides a boost to local economies across the region. This economic benefit comes in the form of improved infrastructure, such as culvert replacements or dam removals, the use of local contractors, and through the spending of sportsmen and women as the improved habitat becomes an angling or hunting destination.

TU is excited to see Congress’s commitment to restoring the Great Lakes and looks forward to working with our lawmakers to reauthorize and increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to enable greater rehabilitation of coldwater habitat and fisheries.

Taylor Ridderbusch is Trout Unlimited’s Great Lakes organizer. He is based in Michigan.