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Klobuchar, Franken push for safeguards against Asian carp

As part of an effort to prevent the spread of Asian carp into the Great Lakes, U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken (D-Minn.) urged the Obama Administration this week to protect critical funding that safeguards the Great Lakes from environmental threats, including Asian carp, in order to preserve Minnesota's tourism and fishing industries.

"The Great Lakes are vital to Minnesota's recreation and fishing industries and are responsible for countless jobs throughout the region," said Sen. Klobuchar. "We need to take all steps possible to stop the spread of invasive species like Asian carp and protect the Great Lakes for future generations to enjoy."

"The Great Lakes support thousands of Minnesota jobs and feed families all over the country, and they're an incredible destination for tourists," said Sen. Franken. "Asian Carp pose a huge threat to Minnesota's fishing and boating industries, and it's critical that we do everything possible to contain this invasive species. That's why I urged the White House to make sure the President's budget for 2014 maintains funding for an important program that's working to keep the Asian Carp out of our waterways and to protect the ecosystem of the Great Lakes."

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) strategically targets funds to programs and projects that address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes Ecosystem, including the spread of Asian Carp. President Obama's Fiscal Year 2010 budget included $475 million in funding for the program, but that amount was cut to $300 million in FY2011 and FY2012. In a letter, Klobuchar and Franken - along with Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) - urged Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Jeffrey Zients to continue funding for the GLRI at no less than $300 million for FY2014.

Last month, Klobuchar and Franken cosponsored the Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act, which would allow federal, state, and local entities to collaborate in the fight to contain Asian Carp. In June, both senators helped to pass the Stop Invasive Species Act, which requires the expedited creation of a plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region. They have also introduced the Upper Mississippi Conservation and River Protection Act (Upper Mississippi CARP Act) which would kick-start the process to consider closing the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock to help stop the spread of the invasive species, as well as require immediate closure if Asian carp are found.

The full text of the letter sent by Sens. Klobuchar and Franken is below.

Dear Acting Director Zients:

The Great Lakes are one of the world's greatest national treasures and are vital to our nation's economy. The Great Lakes help power our economy by supplying manufacturers and power plants with water; serving a vital transportation route for industrial and building commodities, fuel supplies, agricultural products, and exports; providing drinking water to more than 30 million Americans; generating $16 billion in spending from recreational boaters; and supporting a $7 billion fishery.

President Obama recognized the importance of this vital resource by including a new program - the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) - as part of his budget request in fiscal year 2010 (FY2010) at a funding level of $475 million.

The GLRI strategically targets funds to programs and projects that address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes Ecosystem. For example, the GLRI is cleaning up toxics at Areas of Concern where industrial pollution continues to threaten public health, contaminate fish and wildlife, and make waterfronts unusable to lakefront communities resulting in lost revenues to local governments and sources of income for businesses. The GLRI is also working to prevent destructive invasive species such as the voracious Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes and destroying its $7 billion fishery. The program also works to protect wetlands and watersheds from polluted runoff which can lead to algae blooms resulting in beach closures, fish kills, and public health problems.

As clear from the examples above, cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes is not just about being good stewards of the environment; these investments are directly tied to the health of the economy. Cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes creates jobs now, and provides an environment favorable for business creation and expansion. In fact, a 2007 study by the Brookings Institution found that every dollar spent on restoring the Great Lakes will yield a two to three dollar return. Clearly, that is a worthy investment.

Unfortunately, funding was cut for the GLRI to $300 million in FY2011 and FY2012. Further cuts to this program would endanger critical restoration projects, that in the end would cost more to correct. The longer restoration waits, the more expensive it will be to address the problems.

For these reasons, we strongly urge you to hold funding at no less than $300 million in the President's FY2014 budget request for the GLRI. As you face difficult decisions in the weeks ahead, we hope you will recognize the vital benefits the GLRI provides, and reflect that in the budget.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.