Funding for ecological aid for Great Lakes watered down by Congress

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Federal programs that have tackled some of the Great Lakes' most persistent ecological problems would lose 80 percent of their funding under a plan approved Tuesday by a Republican-controlled U.S. House panel.

The Associated Press reports funding for the Great Lakes is part of a broader bill that would implement the second year of "sequestration" cuts required after Congress failed to agree on a budget.

In 2009, the restoration initiative got $475 million for projects across the eight-state region. In subsequent years, it has gotten about $300 million a year, although this year's total has fallen to $285 million because of across-the-board cuts. The subcommittee bill slashes the 2014 allocation to $60 million.

The region has received about one-third of the money in federal loans for sewer repairs. The bill would reduce the fund from just over $1 billion this year to $250 million in 2014.

The restoration initiative has paid for efforts that have cleaned up harbors, restored wildlife habitat and curbed runoff that causes harmful algae. It also has worked to thwart invasive species like the Asian carp.

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