Monday, May 12, 2008

Senators Introduce Great Lakes Legacy Act

May 8: Senator Carl Levin, (D-MI) and Senator George Voinovich (R-OH), co-chairmen of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 (S. 2994), to expand on legislation passed six years ago. The bill aims to clean up contaminated expanses in the Great Lakes known as “Areas of Concern” (AOCs) within 10 years. The bill focuses on the forty-three AOCs that have been identified in the Great Lakes, 13 of which are in Michigan and four in Ohio. The bill would authorize $150 million annually for clean up of the AOCs. The cosponsors of the bill are Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, Sherrod Brown, D-OH, Hillary Clinton, D-NY, Norm Coleman, R-MN, Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, Barack Obama, D-IL, and Charles Schumer, D-NY.

Senator Levin said, “The Great Lakes are an indispensable natural, economic and recreation resource for Michigan and many other states. We must continue the progress we’ve made on cleaning up the contaminated sites in the lakes. This legislation builds on the existing Legacy program in several crucial ways and will help protect and restore this unique treasure for the benefit of citizens throughout the Midwest and across the nation.”

Senator Voinovich said, “Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes has been a top priority of mine throughout my political career. As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I am focused on working with the Great Lakes delegation to advance restoration efforts in this critical region. This bill will provide EPA with the tools and resources to remove contaminated sediment and clean up Areas of Concern and is a vital piece of a comprehensive strategy that is absolutely necessary to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.”

The AOCs do not meet the water quality goals established by the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, mainly because of contaminated sediments from historic industrial activity. This contamination results in several detrimental consequences including fish advisories, degradation of fish and wildlife populations, taste and odor problems with drinking water, beach closures, and bird and animal deformities or reproductive problems.

The legislation would give EPA greater flexibility to manage funds by allowing the EPA to distribute funds directly to contractors and would provide relief to states from burdensome requirements. Under this bill, eligible projects would be expanded to include habitat restoration. Many Areas of Concern cannot be delisted until habitat restoration work is done. Also, the bill would give the EPA the discretion to provide Legacy Act monies to demonstration and pilot projects.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes (HOW) Coalition consisting of more than 90 zoos, aquariums, museums, and hunting, fishing, and environmental organizations representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes issued a statement saying, "Cleaning up toxic pollution in the Great Lakes is essential to our public health, economy and way of life. We urge the U.S. Congress to pass and fund this important, efficient and successful clean-up program. . . The pace of clean-up has been inadequate. We can do better and need to do better. We know that healthy lakes go hand-in-hand with healthy communities and a healthy economy. The time to act is now.”

Access a release from Senators Levin and Voinovich including a brief summary of key provisions (click here). Access a release from the HOW Coalition (click here). Access legislative details for S. 2994 (click here). Access complete information on AOCs (click here).