During my time in Congress, I have prioritized the preservation and protection of the Great Lakes. To me, the lakes are a national treasure. In 2016, I authored landmark legislation to authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which provides funding in a collaborative effort amongst federal agencies, the Great Lakes states, local communities, and businesses to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem and the economic health of the Great Lakes region. As of February 2018, GLRI funds contributed to more than 3,956 restoration projects. As one example, the GLRI has been central to the coordinated efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The GLRI has also proven vital to our efforts to combat Harmful Algal Blooms on Lake Erie. This important bill, which has received national attention as an important means to protect the Great Lakes, was signed into law by President Obama in 2016.
The reason we must protect the Great Lakes is simple, they are one of the United States and Ohio's greatest natural resources. The lakes constitute the largest system of surface freshwater on Earth, containing 20 percent of the world's surface freshwater and 95 percent of the United States' surface freshwater. The Great Lakes provide drinking water for an estimated 48 million people. They also generate more than 1.5 million jobs and $60 billion in wages annually. In Ohio specifically, Lake Erie provides not only drinking water, but is also the pathway to move goods and commodities and is the playground for recreational and commercial fishing. In 2015, visitors to Lake Erie spent more than $14.1 billion and generated $1.8 billion in state and local taxes.
The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable resource and economic driver for Northeast Ohio and I will always fight for their protection in Congress.