When Congress returns from its August recess, there will be a number of important appropriations bills to pass. These bills appropriate, or allocate, money to the federal government’s various departments and agencies for the coming fiscal year.

One of the most important bills for Ohio that still requires action is the FY2018 Interior and Environment appropriations bill, which will fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a federal, inter-agency program that brings together federal and state agencies, as well as business and industry leaders, to address problems facing the Great Lakes and to restore and maintain the Great Lakes Ecosystem. GLRI has provided Lake Erie with more than $1 billion in funding since 2010. These funds have aided in the restoration of fish and wildlife habitats in our state and combat the threats posed to these habitats by invasive species. GLRI has also enabled Ohio to combat the growing threat of algal blooms.

Maintaining a thriving and healthy Lake Erie is of paramount importance for the communities of northern Ohio. Lake Erie accounts for nearly 30 percent of Ohio's tourism dollars, supports over 100,000 tourism-related jobs and generates more than $750 million in state and local taxes. From an ecological standpoint, Lake Erie is important because of its biological diversity and provision of freshwater for our state and the region. Twenty-four million Americans are dependent upon Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes for their clean drinking water.

If Ohio is to properly address the effects of pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and algal blooms, then it must have the necessary funds to do so. That is why I, as a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, have been a strong advocate for this program. In 2016, I was an original cosponsor of the GLRI Act, which reauthorized $300 million in annual funding for the program through 2021 and was later included in the Water Resources Development Act. Earlier this year, I also advocated for the administration to fully fund GLRI at the authorized levels.

I am pleased to see the Appropriations Committee fully funded GLRI in the Interior and Environment appropriations bill. Lake Erie is an important asset for Ohio. We must work together to preserve Lake Erie's ecological integrity, not only for the sake of the lake's diverse species, but also for the thousands of Ohioans who depend on it for their economic and physical well-being. I look forward to working with my fellow representatives in Ohio's congressional delegation, as well as other members of Congress, to make sure Lake Erie remains healthy for years to come.

As we remember the importance of Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes, I would also like to call attention to my 16th Congressional District Instagram Photo Challenge. There is so much to experience in our backyard, such as a Lake Erie sunset. I want to see what Northeast Ohio means to you. To participate, just use the hashtag #OH16 in your photo, and a weekly winner will be chosen and have their photo featured on my official Instagram page each Friday.

Jim Renacci represents Ohio’s 16th Congressional District, which includes Wayne County. Follow him at www.facebook.com/ repjimrenacci and www.twitter.com/ repjimrenacci.