As if we didn't need another reason for President Barack Obama and the Democrats and House Republicans to find common ground on a budget deal soon, environmental activists are offering dozens in the form of ongoing restoration, cleanup or related projects throughout the Great Lakes basin that may be endangered should the nation plunge off the so-called fiscal cliff on Jan. 1.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a multi-year, widespread program that has a hand in everything from battling invasive species to cleaning up toxic waste sites to restoring wetlands to protecting watersheds, from Minnesota to New York state.
The program, according to The Associated Press, received about $300 million in federal funds this year. A cut of at least $25 million is expected should a budget deal not happen.
A whole host of federal agencies play roles including the departments of Interior, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, State, Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.
All are involved in work that started in 2010. The initiative is scheduled to conclude in 2014.
In the Upper Peninsula alone, there are about 20 of these projects that have been launched, using federal grant money. Ishpeming Partridge Creek diversion effort is one good example of the progress that can be achieved by the wise and appropriate use of federal dollars.
The city of Marquette's program to improve water quality and reduce risks to human health is another.
According to AP, Joel Brammeier of the Alliance for the Great Lakes said slashing the restoration program would damage the environment and the regional economy, including the fishing and tourism industries.
Although some might argue that's a bit of an overstatement, certainly, it makes sense for the federal government to finish what it has started. And the only way that's going to happen is if the two sides find a way to compromise before the end of the year.
That's going to take something that has been at an absolute premium inside the Beltway for some years now: leadership. Here's to hoping that the people we elected a few weeks ago find enough of it to get this, and, no doubt, many other, similar programs, passed and funded before the deadline expires.