Millions Coming to WNY for Great Lakes, Some Money Diverted

11:50 PM, May 30, 2013   |    comments
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Lake Erie Pictures Hamburg, NY. Mary Gad

BUFFALO, NY - The Great Lakes are considered an important economic resource for Western New York. And that's one of the reasons why the federal government is investing in them, again.

Last week, the federal government released a new report outlining the problems the Great Lakes face and what needs to be done to restore them.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a massive federal program that started three years ago, under the Obama Administration and targets the five Great Lakes. According to the EPA, the GLRI is the largest investment of its kind in 20 years with about 1,500 projects and programs online that totals $1 billion in spending.

"People want to see the federal government keep up the fight against invasive species like Asian carp, make sure we're reducing runoff causes harmful algae and our toxic spots are cleaned up," said Cameron Davis, the senior advisor to the EPA Administrator.

Other dangers include contamination and pollution which are problems fishers, boaters and emergency responders on water are facing everyday.

In Western New York, millions of federal dollars are being spent trying to restore Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. For example, $8.2 million has gone to removing sediment from Buffalo Harbor. And $160,000 has been spent to restore shrubs at Joseph Davis State Park.

"EPA officials are saying that the Buffalo River will be swimmable in five years and the fish that are caught there are suitable for human consumption, so we've come a long way," said U.S Congressman Brian Higgins, (D - 26th District).

But, according to federal records listing how much is being spent and where, 2 On Your Side has found that some of the money has been diverted out of Western New York. For example, $50,000 that was supposed to go to work at LaSalle Park, but this project was terminated and sent to another government agency.

2 On Your Side's Jeff Preval asked Higgins whether he knew of the issue and whether those projects come back at all?

"Yes sometimes, there's always a challenge particularly when it comes to funding someone is trying to get funding for another region in the country," said Higgins.

Higgins says that there are more projects coming to the region and that a good sign more projects are coming is because Davis was in Buffalo this past week talking to locals about what they want to see happen to the Great Lakes.

But, Higgins couldn't give us specifics on how many projects are coming to WNY.

He did say that correcting sewers in places like Hamburg is an issue that needs to be dealt with.

The report says that government agencies, like the EPA, need to have a clear direction on what needs to be done to restore the lakes.

The EPA does want to hear from the public about issues that they care about regarding the health of the water.

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