Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

January 25, 2007

Great Lakes plan funding questioned

Filed under: Great Lakes News,Great Lakes Politics,Michigan — nemo @ 12:30 pm

The Mining Journal (Michigan upper peninsula) doubts that the authorized budget for Great Lakes projects will be spent siting past year actuals. Too bad. Historically, the Great Lakes have received only 7% of the allocated budget:

Federal officials and non-profit groups are hailing re-authorization of the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act as proof of the high priority given to Great Lakes issues.

But, while the act provides funding for a wide range of projects and promotes collaboration in restoration efforts, questions remain as to how much funding the federal government will actually put forth.

The restoration act was first passed in 1990 and re-authorized in 1998, providing up to $8 million per year toward work on habitat restoration, aquatic genetics and combating invasive species, among other projects.

When President Bush signed the re-authorization last October, funding was doubled to $16 million each year for the next five years. There is no established process for disbursing the funding, which is issued on a project-by-project basis based on priorities identified by a range of stakeholders from the United States, Canada and tribes around the Great Lakes.

However, while $8 million was authorized over the past six years, the actual amount appropriated averaged about $550,000, according to Mike Oetker, fisheries program manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at its Fort Snelling, Minn., office.

Read the whole article for the pathetic reasons why this low rate of actual spending is a good thing, including:

  • regardless of the amount dispersed there’s always more that could be done
  • demand is always more than we can fill
  • one of the real benefits is the emphasis on collaboration

Proof of high priority given to the Great Lakes is in actually doing something. Imagine if the full $16 million were actually spent. Now that would demonstrate a high priority — not a measly 7%.

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