Commission applauds Obama’s $475 million Great Lakes restoration initiative
News of President Obama’s recent FY 2010 budget proposal of $475 million for Great Lakes restoration was enthusiastically received by Great Lakes Commission leadership. Said Commission Chair Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, “President Obama’s historic proposal will re-energize Great Lakes cleanup and restoration. This initiative will complement work now underway by state and local governments and expedite cleanup and economic redevelopment efforts along the Great Lakes.”
Funding in the budget documents released Feb. 26 addresses a number of issues impacting the Great Lakes, such as invasive species, polluted runoff and contaminated sediment. “States, cities, tribes, federal agencies, businesses and conservation groups put together a plan to restore the Great Lakes -- the water belt of our country -- three years ago,” said Todd Ambs, vice chair of the Commission and Water Division administrator for the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources. “And we now have a President who wants to make sure the federal government does its part to put the plan into action.”
Immediate past Chair of the Great Lakes Commission Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry added, “President Obama is keeping his promise to protect and restore the Great Lakes because he knows that it will create jobs and help our economy recover. As the Great Lakes state, Michigan welcomes the President’s leadership. We urge Congress to support the proposal.”
In the coming months, the Great Lakes Commission will be encouraging members of Congress to approve the funding plan. It will also be working with the Administration to ensure that the funding is targeted at the Great Lakes states’ highest priority needs.
Contact: Tim Eder, email@example.com.
EPA, CEQ heads keynote Great Lakes Commission meeting in Washington
With an underlying theme at the meeting of environmental restoration of the Great Lakes as an economic development strategy, Commission Chair and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn exhorted the Commission member states and Canadian provinces to maximize the potential of the lakes to lure new business and investment. Joe Roman, director of the Greater Cleveland Partnership, presented the regional chamber’s “Business Agenda for Economic Transformation in the Great Lakes Region” at a panel session on Monday.
Among actions taken by the Commission were resolutions endorsing reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act, supporting reform of the Harbor Maintenance Tax and Trust Fund, and supporting the American Wind Energy Association’s upcoming Windpower Conference in Chicago. More information and a slide show of photos from the GLC meetings and Great Lakes Day activity are available at www.glc.org/about/glcmeetings.html.
Two Cabinet-level speakers highlighted the Great Lakes Semiannual Meeting in Washington, D.C., Feb. 23-24, underscoring the Obama Administration’s commitment to fulfilling campaign promises involving Great Lakes restoration and protection. “As the Great Lakes go, so goes the national policy as to water,” said Lisa Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Jackson noted that President Obama established his support for Great Lakes protection early in his campaign and continues to demonstrate that commitment through such legislative vehicles as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the recently passed stimulus bill. Also addressing Commission members at a joint luncheon with the Healing Our Waters® - Great Lakes Coalition was Nancy Sutley, chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
GLC unveils legislative priorities for FY2010 at Great Lakes Day in Washington
In its priorities for fiscal year 2010, the Great Lakes Commission calls on Congress to:
Convening in Washington, D.C. Feb. 25 for the annual Great Lakes Day Congressional Breakfast, the Great Lakes Commission formally presented recommendations to Congress to support job creation immediately and stimulate economic development over the long-term by investing in Great Lakes protection and restoration. In its list of legislative priorities for fiscal year 2010, the Commission is urging Congress and the Administration to work together to create a sustainable funding mechanism for the Great Lakes and to increase support for several existing programs.
These five priorities complement those of the Council of Great Lakes Governors and are shared by an alliance that includes the mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Healing Our Waters® - Great Lakes Coalition, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Chippewa Ottawa Resource Authority, Council of Great Lakes Industries, and Great Lakes Commission. Contact: Matt Doss, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- provide sustainable, ongoing funding for Great Lakes restoration through a block grant, trust fund or similar mechanism as recommended by the President during his campaign;
- create jobs and protect water quality by providing the Great Lakes states with nearly $500 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund;
- clean up toxic sediments by fully funding the Great Lakes Legacy Act with $54 million in 2010 and an increased annual authorization of $150 million;
- close the door on aquatic invasive species through strong ballast water treatment requirements, better regulation of organisms in trade, and continued funding for such existing programs as the sea lamprey control program; and
- restore valuable fish and wildlife habitat with full funding of $16 million for the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act.
Funding for new Soo Lock, Basin Program and other Great Lakes projects included in Omnibus spending bill
Other project funding in the bill included $6.25 million for the Electric Dispersal Barrier in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, $5.5 million for VHS monitoring and control, $1.69 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act, $5 million for dredging Michigan ports, $2.157 million for the Corps’ Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program, $1.195 million for Great Lakes Remedial Action Plan technical assistance, and $404,000 for the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control. Contact: Matt Doss, email@example.com.
Some $17 million allocated to the Soo Lock replacement project in the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 signed recently by President Obama will be enough to start construction this year. The project to construct a second large lock at Sault St. Marie, Mich., was authorized in 1986 and, according to most recent estimates, will cost up to $500 million to complete. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, contracts will likely be let in April for construction of cofferdams at the Davis and Sabin locks, the first step to replace those outdated locks with a second lock large enough to accommodate the largest classes of Great Lakes vessels. Bids could be awarded as early as June, allowing construction to start in July or August.
State Revolving Fund, Great Lakes Legacy Act included in House bill passage
The good news for the Great Lakes region continued with the March 12 passage by the House of Representatives of the Water Quality Investment Act of 2009 (H.R. 1262) by a 317 to 101 margin. The bill now goes before the Senate. Among its provisions were authorization of $13.8 billion over five years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), and the near tripling of the authorization for the Great Lakes Legacy Act from $54 million to $150 million. Both measures were included in the Great Lakes Commission’s legislative priorities for FY2010. Funding in the Clean Water SRF helps states and cities to address pollution from combined sewage and storm sewer overflows. The Great Lakes Legacy Act supports cleanup of polluted sediments on rivers and harbors. Contact: Matt Doss, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workshop series focuses on habitat
Eight state workshops and one tribal workshop are underway. To date, workshops have been held in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A tribal workshop was also held in Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. The final workshop in New York will take place March 24. The workshops are tailored to meet individual state and tribal needs, but share common elements, including demonstrations of web-based habitat tools, discussion of state (or tribal) priorities and needs, discussion about specific projects that can benefit from a multi-stakeholder dialogue, and updates about federal habitat funding programs.
Additional information about the Habitat/Species Work Group and the workshops is online at www.glrc.us/initiatives/wetlands/Workshops2008-2009.html. Information being compiled on potential restoration projects across the region can also be found at gis.glin.net/habitat. Contact: Victoria Pebbles, email@example.com, or Roger Gauthier, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A series of workshops underway across the Great Lakes region is engaging Great Lakes states, cities, tribes, NGOs, and federal agencies in a facilitated dialogue about advancing habitat protection and conservation across the region. The workshops are being conducted by the Great Lakes Commission under the direction of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s Habitat/Species Work Group. The Habitat/Species Work Group is charged with overseeing implementation of the habitat and species-related recommendations contained in the 2005 Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.