This past weekend, I joined some 50 volunteers and organizers and some of my own staff at the Fort Sheridan beach to clear and collect shoreline debris as part of the Great Lakes’ September Adopt-a-Beach event. Seeing the committed volunteers in action reinforced my own commitment to protecting our Great Lakes now and in the future. Good environmental policy is a start, but good policy is nothing without boots on the ground. I met dozens of dedicated environmental advocates and concerned citizens, all willing to lend a hand and a few hours.
The Adopt-a-Beach initiative, as part of the Alliance For The Great Lakes, sponsors debris cleanup and collection around the Midwest. This essential work for our ecosystem and environment plays a major role in guaranteeing clean water and safe shorelines in the Great Lakes area. In 2010, Illinois Adopt-a-Beach volunteers collected more than 130,000 items of debris; and, last year, in six Great Lakes states, 10,000 volunteers removed more than 31,000 lbs. of trash.
The sheer magnitude of debris is astounding. But more impressive is the passion and diligence of the volunteers.
The EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest federal investment in the Lakes in 20 years, is a five-year action plan to clean areas of concern; defend against invasive species, like silver and bighead carp; prevent pollution and run-off; restore natural habitats; and build beneficial partnerships for the future of the Lakes.
One-tenth of the population depends on the Great Lakes for clean drinking water. Countless businesses depend on the Lakes to remain open. Think about that for a moment – in a country bordered by the two largest oceans, 30 million people depend on just five lakes for clean water.
In this election, more than just seats in Congress are up for grabs. Funding for these plans is at risk. My opponent voted to slash $250 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. And while I agree that we need to get our fiscal house in order, sacrificing funding for the Great Lakes when we’re still giving handouts to big oil companies is unacceptable. We owe it to the 30 million people who depend on the Great Lakes to secure the necessary protections that will keep their drinking water clean and safe.
Last year, 10,000 people “adopted a beach.” This year, I’m proud to say I joined them. Next year, in Congress, I will fight to protect their mission.
Candidate for United States Congress - 10th District