For immediate release: December 12, 2016
Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) today applauded Congress for including several key Great Lakes legislative priorities in its recently-passed comprehensive water projects bill. The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act addresses several of the GLC’s top economic and environmental priorities, including authorizing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, dedicating funding for the Great Lakes Navigation System, authorizing funding to improve water infrastructure, and reauthorizing and strengthening programs for restoring and protecting fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes. The bill also responds to the drinking water crisis in Flint Michigan.
“The Great Lakes Commission thanks our entire Great Lakes congressional delegation for their leadership in ensuring that key provisions that enhance, protect and restore the Great Lakes were included in this legislation,” said Jon Allan, chairman of the GLC and director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes. “We are especially thrilled that the Great Lake Restoration Initiative, which has implemented more than 3,000 restoration projects across the eight-state region, has been authorized for $300 million a year through 2021, and that dedicated funding has been set aside for the vital Great Lakes Navigation System, which supports our $5 trillion regional economy. These are longstanding priorities for our region, and we are happy to see continued bipartisan support in Congress for the Great Lakes.”
These provisions have been top priorities for the GLC’s federal advocacy program for several years and securing their passage has involved sustained outreach to the Great Lakes congressional delegation and close collaboration with the states, tribes, cities, conservation organizations, and business and industry groups.
“This is incredible and welcome news for the entire basin,” said Tim Eder, executive director of the GLC. “The Great Lakes fuel our economy and define us as a region. Reauthorizing the GLRI is an especially important step toward continuing to protect the lakes. The lakes are a vital environmental and economic asset, with full restoration projected to generate $50 billion in long-term economic benefits. Thus, caring for the Great Lakes is part of a broader strategy to create jobs, stimulate economic development and revitalize waterfront communities in the region.”
The legislation approved by Congress and headed for signature by the President includes the following Great Lakes provisions:
- Authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a successful and popular program that is helping states and local communities clean up degraded toxic hotspots, restore habitat for fish and wildlife, thwart Asian carp and other invasive species, and prevent polluted runoff across the eight-state Great Lakes region
- Makes permanent the allocation of priority funds from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund for the Great Lakes Navigation System, sets a minimum appropriations level from the fund, and requires the Army Corps of Engineers to complete guidance on managing the Great Lakes as a single, comprehensive navigation system
- Establishes a Great Lakes Harmful Algal Bloom Coordinator to work with federal, state and local agencies to coordinate actions to address harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes
- Includes a variety of provisions that respond to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and support the work of states and local communities to repair, upgrade and monitor water infrastructure
- Reauthorizes and strengthens the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program, which support fish and wildlife restoration, conservation and management projects in the Great Lakes region