Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Great Lakes Commission welcomes new bipartisan legislation introduced today in the U.S. Senate that authorizes several critical Great Lakes restoration programs and strengthens regional coordination and binational cooperation with Canada. The Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act was introduced by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, along with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
The Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act would
- Formally authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a multiagency program that is implementing a comprehensive cleanup strategy built on the priorities of the Great Lakes states, including removing contaminated sediments and restoring degraded coastal areas; halting the introduction and spread of harmful aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp; preventing polluted runoff that causes algal blooms; and restoring valuable fish and wildlife resources
- Reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act, a program begun in 2002 to clean up contaminated sediments in 31 U.S. and binational Areas of Concern across the Great Lakes
- Establish an Interagency Task Force to coordinate federal Great Lakes programs and a Great Lakes Advisory Board to secure input and guidance from regional stakeholders
- Authorize U.S. EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office, which leads the GLRI and the Great Lakes Legacy Act, oversees implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada, and coordinates other Great Lakes programs and policies
“This legislation is among the top priorities for the Great Lakes states,” said Great Lakes Commission Chair Kenneth G. Johnson, water division administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “These programs are accomplishing so much to clean up the Great Lakes and help our region leverage them as both a natural treasure and a vital economic asset.”
The Commission is urging the Great Lakes Senate delegation to support the new legislation and pass it in the current session of Congress. Discussions are underway in the House of Representatives to introduce a companion to the Senate bill.
Now in its fourth year, the GLRI is an unprecedented effort to restore the Great Lakes and protect them from new threats. The initiative has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support in Congress, which reflects a recognition that the Great Lakes provide a unique competitive advantage to the eight-state region and support a broader strategy to create jobs, stimulate economic development and invest in freshwater resources and waterfront communities.
An interactive map developed by the Great Lakes Commission, online at http://glc.org/restore/glrimap/, showcases more than 950 site-specific restoration projects funded during the first three years of the GLRI. The initiative is emphasizing on-the-ground actions to clean up pollution, prevent new damage, and restore valuable fish and wildlife that support a $30 billion regional tourism economy.
The Great Lakes Legacy Act has enabled the states and local communities to clean up over 2 million cubic yards of toxic sediments from Great Lakes harbors and waterfront areas. This is critical for helping communities promote economic development in formerly industrialized waterfront areas. A new video, produced by the Wisconsin and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant programs, illustrates the impact this program is having and provides compelling testimonials from residents and business owners on how shoreline cleanups are revitalizing coastal communities. See the video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qc2drk-sO8.
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Kenneth G. Johnson, water division administrator at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more at www.glc.org.