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US Senate sticks up for Great Lakes protection

Congress is wisely reversing President Donald Trump’s rash and irresponsible attempt to eliminate $300 million in annual funding for Great Lakes restoration.

A key Senate committee last week included the money in a spending bill for 2018. U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, helped lead the bipartisan effort to restore the funding as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Well done.

The House of Representatives previously voted to bring back all of the money the president had tried to eliminate last spring. So now the full Senate, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, should finish approving the $300 million as part of any spending plan Congress sends to the president.

Trump doesn’t have the power to issue line-item vetoes, so the money should be safe if it’s included in a larger proposal.

The Great Lakes are facing dire threats that can’t be ignored, including a possible invasion by giant Asian carp, which threaten to destroy sport fishing in Lake Michigan and, by extension, inland Wisconsin rivers and lakes.

The Great Lakes also need help against toxic pollution, farm and urban runoff, and declining wildlife habitats.

As Baldwin noted last week, it’s not just the natural environment that’s at stake. It’s Wisconsin’s economy, which relies on water, tourism and outdoor recreation for business and jobs.

President Trump, a New Yorker, doesn’t seem to understand the importance of the Great Lakes. But here in the heartland, our Great Lakes — and the thousands of Wisconsin waterways that flow into them — are central to who we are. They provide millions of people with fresh water to drink. They help attract millions of visitors. They are a beautiful and invaluable natural resource for the entire Midwest.

So they definitely deserve federal attention to help ensure their health and sustainability.

The recent discovery in the Wisconsin River of five Asian carp — which can grow as large as 100 pounds and crowd out native sport fish — is a stark reminder of how important and fragile our waterways are. A dam by Prairie du Sac, about 40 miles northwest of Madison, prevents the invasive species from moving farther up the Wisconsin River, thank goodness.

But fear is growing that the voracious fish will get into Lake Michigan using man-made Chicago canals. And from there it could spread upstream.

In some stretches of rivers south of Wisconsin, Asian carp, which escaped from Southern fish farms decades ago, have virtually eliminated native species such as walleye and bass.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has for years provided some hope for preserving our rich supply of fresh water in and around Wisconsin. The federal dollars leverage far more money from local governments and Canada for lake projects.

This cooperation has helped reduce the algae blooms that foul shorelines and deprive fish of oxygen. It also has helped remove toxic waste from industrial sites, city sewers and farms.

Great Lakes restoration must remain a high priority in Washington, D.C., regardless of who sits in the White House.

– From the Wisconsin State Journal

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