We all know how vital Lake Erie is to Ohio. From tourism in Geneva-on-the-Lake and Put-in-Bay, to fishing at Marblehead, to vacations and family reunions at Maumee Bay State Park, Lake Erie benefits our communities and creates jobs in our state.
But for more than a half century, keeping our lake healthy has been a constant struggle. Runoff that causes harmful algal blooms and invasive species are threats we battle every year.
Over the past few years, Senator Portman and I fought back against President Trump’s attempts to eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and together we were able to secure full funding for GLRI’s investment in the Great Lakes’ health, ecosystem restoration, and water quality.
We have made real progress with priorities in the GLRI, by cleaning up Lake Erie’s tributaries, increasing access to the lake, and improving habitats for fish and wildlife.
We have to keep up this bipartisan work – particularly after the president released this year’s budget, which would cut essential U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs.
At roundtables across Ohio, we heard from farmers that they wanted to see federal conservation programs better structured and made easier to use – not gutted. So I worked with Senate Republicans to reform the Conservation Stewardship Program, and to improve the Conservation Reserve Program, to strategically enroll two million acres of at-risk land into CRP to best prevent runoff and protect water quality, without taking prime acres out of production.
Of course we know it’s not just farm runoff that contributes to harmful algal blooms. In 2018, the President signed my Water Resources Development Act, which is helping Ohio communities invest in clean water infrastructure and build or update water and sewer systems.
We also know climate change is going to make all these fights harder – and make this work all the more necessary.
We cannot write off Lake Erie and the millions of Ohioans who rely on it.
Sherrod Brown is a Democratic U.S. Senator representing Ohio.