Highlighting the St. Louis River amid uncertain funding - KBJR 6 Your Weather Authority: News, Weather & Sports

Highlighting the St. Louis River amid uncertain funding

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Hundreds of researchers and water advocates gathered at UWS to shed light on restoration efforts in the St. Louis River Estuary.

Advocates say resilience is one of the many lessons they can learn from the St. Louis River and its recovery, which is why organizer Erika Washburn said she resilience was at the center of this year's St. Louis River Summit.

"We feel like that's a really timely, important topic given all the changes going on in this area in terms of climate really," she said

As she organized the event Washburn said resilience and community were the themes from the river that came to the forefront, but others in attendance, like Kris Eilers, were focused on a different kind of resiliency.

"A lot of people and a lot of people here have worked diligently on this river cleanup," she said. "There's a significant financial investment but there's also a very significant life investment that's been made."

That life investment, could be in jeopardy according to the Executive Director of the St. Louis River Alliance. Initial federal budget proposals reduce Great Lakes Initiative funding from $300 million to $10 million. 

"Which will drastically impact our area and our ability to keep cleaning this up," she said.

Those funds are distributed to projects and research throughout the Great Lakes and typically receive bipartisan support. Eilers said after the Summit she's headed to Washington to lobby for that $300 million. 

"I can tell the stories of the successes and the lives they've changed and when you tell those congress members those stories they remember that when they go to vote," she said.

And while she said securing this funding may take a fight she says that's just another lesson to take from the river.

"The river is resilient and we learn from the river," she said.

Her trip to Washington is part of Great Lakes Days in D.C. where Eilers will join advocates from all Great Lakes States. She'll meet with the Minnesota Congressional delegation.

Eilers said in previous years she's seen budget proposals with less than $300 million for the restoration initiative and typically, that number does go up when it gets to congress. She said there is a lot of support there from the states bordering the lakes.

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