Great Lakes Commission hails WRDA veto override

The Great Lakes Commission is applauding Congress for overriding a presidential veto of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) today, thereby preserving authorizations for a variety of programs of crucial importance to the Great Lakes.

The Senate voted 79-14 today to overturn the veto, following a 361-54 vote in the House on Tuesday. Both are well in excess of the two-thirds majority required to overturn the veto, which President Bush issued on Nov. 2.

“We’re glad to see Congress taking a strong stand in support of this legislation,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “This is good news for Michigan and our entire region, because it sets in place the foundation for carrying out some of our top Great Lakes priorities, including measures measures to combat invasive species, restore habitats and fisheries, clean up polluted areas, and ensure the reliability of Great Lakes maritime commerce.”

He noted that at the top of the list for the Great Lakes region is the construction and operation of a barrier to keep Asian carp from migrating from the Chicago Ship Canal into Lake Michigan, as well as a new Soo Lock capable of handling the largest freshwater freighters on the Great Lakes.

Cherry singled out for special praise the members of the Great Lakes Congressional Task Force, including co-chairs Sen. Carl Levin, Sen. George Voinovich, Rep. John Dingell and Rep. Vernon Ehlers, who were instrumental in securing passage of the bill’s Great Lakes provisions in both the House and Senate.

WRDA provides legal authority for specific programs, but does not fund them. Today’s action by Congress enables Great Lakes congressional leaders to pursue that funding to carry out the projects.

Among the Great Lakes projects authorized by WRDA are:

  • The completion and operation of the invasive species barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal at full federal funding. Infestation of the Great Lakes by the voracious carp is potentially devastating. Other Great Lakes projects authorized by WRDA include:
  • Construction of a new large lock on the St. Marys River at full federal funding, ensuring that lake commerce will continue to operate in the event the Poe Lock, the only Soo Lock currently able to handle modern 1,000-foot freighters, is incapacitated;
  • Great Lakes fishery and ecosystem restoration, a $100 million authority to restore fisheries and Great Lakes beneficial uses, as well as for diverse habitat projects, including coastal wetlands and controlling invasive species;
  • Assistance for restoring the major polluted sites designated as Great Lakes Areas of Concern, including habitat restoration and cleaning up contaminated sediment;
  • The Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program, which develops watershed models to assist in soil conservation and nonpoint pollution management;
  • The John Glenn Great Lakes Basin Program, which provides broad authority for basinwide studies of strategic and emerging issues in Great Lakes, including possible strategic planning for priority issues of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration; and
  • Authorization of projects consistent with the St. Clair River-Lake St. Clair Comprehensive Management Plan, including detecting and tracking chemical spills, restoring watershed habitats, and eradicating invasive phragmite weeds that choke out native aquatic plants.

In his veto message, President Bush termed the $23 billion WRDA bill “excessive.” Congressional supporters, however, noted that the bill only identifies national priorities, and that appropriations for specific water projects must be approved separately.

This is the first WRDA bill enacted since 2000. The previous WRDA bill expired in 2005, but attempts to reauthorize it the past two years stalled in Congress.

For immediate release: November 08, 2007
Contact:
 Kirk Haverkamp, kirkh@glc.org, office: 734-971-9135

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