Latta in the Toledo Blade: Great Lakes are Jewel That Must be Protected
WHILE THE Midwest has many sources of pride — friendly people and Big Ten football for starters — the crown jewel of our region has always been our beautiful Great Lakes. To put it in perspective, 84 percent of North America’s fresh surface water is contained in the Great Lakes region, providing drinking water for 40 million Americans.
For us in northwest Ohio, it’s Lake Erie that is so vital to supporting a robust economy and providing clean water for residents. It is for this reason that I have long-supported efforts to protect Lake Erie and its tributaries from toxic algal blooms and other threats. That includes backing full funding for programs like Ohio’s Sea Grant and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
These critical programs perform needed research and undertake projects that are much needed in this area. While both Democrat and Republican administrations have proposed cuts to these programs, Congress has supported them, and it’s important that we continue to do so.
Recently, I was able to join researchers at Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island to see up close the work being done through Ohio Sea Grant.
What the researchers are learning is invaluable to fighting and mitigating toxic algal blooms.
One of the most important reasons for protecting Lake Erie is the effect on drinking water in the region. Ensuring clean drinking water is a goal we all share, and it’s been a focus of mine in Congress. My bill, the Drinking Water Protection Act, was signed into law two years ago to address the threat of algal toxins, and we have seen results.
The Environmental Protection Agency has continuously reported to Congress with updates on its strategic plan and how it is progressing — as required by the legislation. This helps states and communities better protect their public drinking water.
I have also introduced legislation in Congress that would help build upon what scientists are learning about these issues and make it easier to share information.
That legislation, the Great Lakes and Fresh Water Algal Blooms Information Act, would empower the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to compile data and research that would be reported to Congress and also be made publicly available. The more robust data we have, the more effective we can be at protecting these resources.
Toledo and the surrounding region depend on Lake Erie, and the issue should not be a partisan one.
I’ll continue to engage scientists, researchers, and elected officials on both sides of the aisle to ensure we are doing all we can to keep our water clean and ensure our Great Lakes are protected.
Rep. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) is the U.S. representative for Ohio’s 5th congressional district.