Sequestering the Great Lakes


Before last year, most people probably associated "sequester" with juries. But now the word has a lot of people thinking and talking about federal funding.

The sequester is just another term for mandatory, across-the-board federal spending cuts, which were triggered when a deficit reduction committee failed to reach agreement two years ago. At least, that's how this Washington Post article explains it.

The cuts will hit a lot of programs, some receiving more attention than others. That's where the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative comes in.

The federal program began in 2010 with an initial $475 million allocation, with $300 million set aside each subsequent year. Staff in House Representative Louise Slaughter's office say that $30 million will be cut out of this year's GLRI funds by the sequester.

The Rochester area has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in GLRI funding, which has supported several important projects. The local projects have all focused on studying and improving Lake Ontario's water quality. For example, one grant funded a study of nutrient pollution sources in the Black Creek watershed; the creek is a tributary of the Genesee River, which ultimately empties into the lake. Nutrient pollution feeds algae blooms, which have been a consistent problem in Lake Ontario's near-shore waters.

Some Great Lakes representatives and advocates say they hope that Congress, through budget negotiations, will restore the GLRI funding. But singling out one program for restoration may be a hard sell.