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Great Lakes cleanup stays in federal budget bill

The 2012 federal budget bill provides $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to clean up clean up toxic pollution, restore wildlife habitat, stop invasive species and reduce polluted runoff from farms and cities, according to the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition.

The budget also includes $1.47 billion to help communities across the nation address the chronic problem of sewage overflows. Based on a fixed formula, the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin will receive about $533 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which provides low- and no-interest loans to communities to fix old sewers.

Funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative remains relatively unchanged at $300 million in fiscal 2012, compared with $299 million in fiscal 2011.

“The 2012 budget represents a significant victory for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs and way of life,” Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement. “This investment will help support programs that are delivering results in communities across the region.”

The House of Representatives passed the bill 296-121 on Friday. The Senate passed the bill 67-32 on Saturday. President Obama is expected to sign the budget bill into law.

The bill did not include an amendment offered by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., that would have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete in 18 months its study that examines options to separate the Great Lakes and Mississippi River. Completion of the study is essential in the effort to keep the non-native Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.