Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bipartisan, Bicameral Great Lakes Restoration Bills

Jan 14: U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH), the co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, introduced a bipartisan Great Lakes restoration bill (S. 237)that would help reduce the threat of invasive species in the lakes, restore fish and wildlife, clean up contaminated sediments, and coordinate water quality management in the Great Lakes basin. The senators introduced similar legislation in the last Congress but hope to make further progress this year given President-elect Obama’s commitment to invest significant funding in Great Lakes restoration. In 2005, numerous groups – including more than 1,500 people – joined forces to create the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC), which was tasked with devising a cohesive Great Lakes restoration plan. The goal of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act (GLCIA) being introduced today is to implement many of the recommendations made by the collaboration.

On the House side, Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) introduced a companion bill. The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act (H.R. 500) follows recommendations developed by federal, state, and local officials, as well as hundreds of non-government officials, in the GLRC. The plan for protecting and restoring the lakes was developed in 2005.

Among other items the bills would establishing mandatory ballast water management rules; create a screening process for importation of live organisms; and provide critical research, education and outreach programs; increase funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act to $150 million per year; establish a grant program in which the EPA could award up to $10 million per year for mercury cleanup efforts; reauthorize the State Revolving Loan Fund for $20 billion over five years; authorize funding for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to restore Great Lakes waterfront areas; reinstate wetland protection by clarifying Congress’s original intent that the Clean Water Act should protect all waters of the United States; Enhance Great Lakes research and monitoring; and increase funding for NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Science center.

Access a release from Senator Levin (
click here). Access a release from Representative Ehlers (click here). Access the GLRC website more information (click here). Access WIMS-Great Lakes Environment blog posts on the GLRC (click here). Access legislative details for S. 237 (click here). Access legislative details for H.R. 500 (click here).