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$300 million Great Lakes restoration bill stalls in Congress; Sponsor promises new try in 2015

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TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan — A bill that would have continued a Great Lakes environmental cleanup program for five more years has stalled in Congress.

The House approved the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative extension last week. But the Senate adjourned Tuesday night without taking it up, meaning the issue is dead until the next session begins in January.

Congress has spent more than $1.6 billion on the program since President Barack Obama started it in 2010. It has funded projects to battle invasive species, clean harbors and rivers fouled with toxic waste, upgrade wildlife habitat and reduce nearshore pollution that causes harmful algae and beach closings.

The bill sponsored by Ohio Rep. David Joyce would have authorized spending $300 million annually for five years. It would have required separate annual votes to secure the money.

"The Great Lakes are a national treasure," Joyce said Wednesday. "Not only do they pack an economic punch, it is environmentally important to the region that we preserve and protect them. This bill has broad bipartisan support, and I plan to introduce it again upon my return back to Congress."

The program will endure at least one more year because Congress has appropriated $300 million for 2015.

Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says the measure's failure is disappointing but only a temporary setback for a program with bipartisan support.

"We look forward to sealing the deal in the next Congress," he said.


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