WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the introduction of the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA), bipartisan legislation aimed at preserving the Great Lakes and bolstering economic growth throughout the Great Lakes region. GLEEPA would protect the Great Lakes – and the millions of jobs they support – from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species like harmful algal blooms and Asian carp. It would accomplish this by formally authorizing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

“This is the type of forward-looking investment that our Great Lakes deserve,” Brown said. “It’s critical that we prioritize the health of Lake Erie to keep its drinking water clean and to support Northern Ohio’s economy,” Brown said. “The bipartisan Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act would provide critical funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – one of the best tools we have to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

According to the State of Ohio, more than $10 billion of the state’s nearly $40 billion tourism industry is derived from counties along the Lake Erie shoreline. The GLRI is an interagency effort to target the most significant problems in the region and jumpstart restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes. GLRI funding has helped support the removal of invasive species and plants in Ohio, funded the Toledo Harbor Sediment Management Plan, and provided resources for a comprehensive monitoring program to assess the nearshore Lake Erie water quality.

GLEEPA would:

  • Authorize the GLRI and direct the implementation of recommendations presented in the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy of 2005 and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. The bill authorizes the appropriations for the GLRI at $475 million annually.
  • Reauthorize the Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO), the primary office within the EPA for handling Great Lakes matters, including the GLRI, Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA), the Great Lakes Legacy Program, Remedial Action Plans for Areas of Concern, and Lakewide Management Plans.
  • Reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act, which was first authorized in 2002 and has been extremely successful at removing contaminated sediment from the U.S. Areas of Concern (AOC).
  • Authorize the Federal Interagency Task Force (IATF), which brings together eleven U.S. Cabinet and federal agency heads to coordinate restoration of the Great Lakes amongst the different agencies.
  • Authorize the Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB), which will provide advice and recommendations to the EPA Administrator, as Chair of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, on matters pertaining to Great Lakes restoration and protection.

Brown continues to fight for the protection of Lake Erie and to ensure it receives the necessary funding to strengthen Ohio’s economy. After the release of President Obama’s budget proposal which recommends a reduction in funding for the GLRI from $300 million to $250 million, Brown highlighted the importance of the program. Last week Brown and Sen. Portman (R-OH) sent a letter to the Assistant Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Engineers at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) urging it to direct additional resources to dredging and maintenance of the Great Lakes.

In October 2014, Brown joined officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) in Oregon to announce more than $8.6 million in grants through the GLRI to address and prevent harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.