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Improved water treatment facilities will deal with one threat to our Precious Great Lakes

The Republican-controlled Congress should have no qualms about supporting a Buffalo Democrat’s bill to protect the Great Lakes.

Brian Higgins’ “Great Lakes Nutrient Removal Assistance Act” should sail through both houses on the simple argument that freshwater is too important to the nation to allow it to become mired in politics.

That was the case a couple of years ago when Higgins pushed a similar piece of legislation. Now, the stakes are even higher as the environment becomes more compromised by human impact. Today’s freshwater crisis is a result of droughts, toxic algae, pollution and inadequate water treatment infrastructure. The results are stark, and close by.

Just last year people in Toledo, Ohio, were given strict instructions not to drink city water because it was poisoned by toxic algae. Trucks delivered drinking and bathing water to residents in a scene more commonly associated with Third World nations.

That scare followed one in 2011 when a giant bloom of toxic algae covered nearly 2,000 square miles of Lake Erie from Toledo well into the central basin and reaching parts of the lake near Cleveland. Last summer toxic algae was found in Presque Isle Bay in Erie, Pa., only 90 miles away.

Out west, the nation is watching as California’s incessant drought has affected residents and the economy while in our backyard our precious resource is under attack. We shouldn’t need any more examples to understand the importance of cleaning up and protecting the Great Lakes.

Higgins’ legislation would provide $100 million a year for five years to help Great Lakes-area wastewater treatment plants upgrade their systems. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, Sander Levin of Michigan and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin.

These Democrats should not have to look hard for Republican partners. Threats to the Great Lakes – from pollution to invasive species to efforts to divert water elsewhere – demand a response that supersedes partisan bickering and/or deal-making. The bill could save future generations from facing California’s reality – not enough water. Doing so will also support the billion-dollar “blue” economy this region is depending on.