In a striking setback for the twin goals of boosting the competitiveness of America's Rust Belt economy and strengthening protections for the nation's Great Lakes, Bush Administration officials just announced the president will veto a proposal that would invest tens of millions of federal dollars to, among other things, modernize the mega region's crumbling sewer systems, cleanup decades of industrial pollution, and accelerate waterfront revitalization efforts in moribound cities such as Detroit.
This morning, Great Lakes proponents celebrated what looked like a major milestone victory: bipartisan aggreement in both the U.S. House and Senate on reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act, the federal government's principal water planning and investment strategy.
But that was before the Bush Administration said the $21 billion plan is too expensive. This afternoon the mood is taking a turn. The bill includes an unprecedented $5.5 billion in federal funding for ecological restoration projects in coastal Louisiana, the Everglades, and the Great Lakes, according to the National Audubon Society.
Those projects also would employ hundreds of workers, from engineers to ditch diggers. Highlighting the economic significance of the legislation - and the looming veto - the Dow Jones and NASDAQ news wires were among the first to broadcast the story.
"We are deeply disappointed with the President’s intention to veto this important restoration bill," said Tony Iallonardo, communications director at Audubon. "Funding for these projects is vital and long overdue. We urge the President to reconsider. In the event of a veto, we urge a Congressional override to bring five years of hard fought deliberations to a successful conclusion."
Here's a copy of the letter the administration sent earlier today to Wisconsin Representative James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure: