Thursday, June 27, 2013

Senators Introduce Great Lakes Protection Act

Jun 26: Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) introduced the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013 (S.1232). Cosponsors included Senators: Mark Kirk (R-IL); Tammy Baldwin (D-WI); Sherrod Brown (D-OH); Dick Durbin (D-IL); Al Franken (D-MN); Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Charles Schumer (D-NY); and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The legislation would authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million annually to help continue successful programs to clean up toxic pollution, combat invasive species, restore fish and wildlife habitat and reduce runoff from cities and farms.

    In a Floor statement, Senator Levin said in part, "This bill builds upon the work of a multitude of stakeholders -- environmental organizations; business associations; tribal governments; community leaders; and Federal, state and local officials -- who worked together to craft the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, a 2005 plan to guide restoration and protection for the Great Lakes. The legislation we are introducing today would formally authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), an inter-agency program designed to implement the plan articulated in the Collaboration Strategy. 

    "The GLRI is an action-oriented, results-driven initiative targeting the most significant problems in the Great Lakes, including aquatic invasive species, toxics and contaminated sediment, nonpoint source pollution, and habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. While broadly authorized under the Clean Water Act, the GLRI should be specifically authorized in law to clarify its purpose and objectives and to demonstrate support from Congress. Since the GLRI was launched in fiscal year 2010 with $475 million in funding, real progress has been made to restore the health of the Great Lakes: More than a million cubic yards of contaminated sediments have been cleaned up.  More than 20,000 acres of wetland, coastal, upland and island habitat have been restored or enhanced. New technologies are being developed to combat the sea lamprey. Asian carp have been prevented from establishing a sustaining population in the Great Lakes. Hundreds of river miles have been restored to enable free fish passage from the Great Lakes to their spawning grounds. Reduction of nutrient loading from agriculture runoff has lessened occurrences of harmful algal blooms.

    "In addition to authorization of the GLRI, this legislation would reauthorize two existing programs: (1) the Great Lakes Legacy program, which supports the removal of contaminated sediments at more than thirty Areas of Concern (AOCs) across the Great Lakes; and (2) the Great Lakes National Program Office, which handles Great Lakes matters for the EPA. . . We hope the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works will promptly act on this important legislation, as it did in 2010 when it approved similar legislation."

    The Healing Our Waters Great Lakes (HOW) Coalition issued a release supporting the new bill which they said would help bolster Federal efforts to restore the Great Lakes. Chad Lord, policy director for the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, said, "This bill will strengthen federal Great Lakes restoration efforts. Programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are producing results in communities across the region, but more needs to be done. We commend Sens. Carl Levin, Mark Kirk and other supporters of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013 for putting forward a bill that will help keep federal restoration efforts on track. We urge the full U.S. Senate to support and pass this bill."

    Access the complete Floor statement (click here). Access a release from HOW (click here). Access legislative details for S.1232 (click here). [GLakes]

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