WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today announced that he is supporting the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act of 2012, bipartisan legislation aimed at preserving the Great Lakes and bolstering economic growth throughout the Great Lakes region. The legislation, introduced by Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), is intended to protect the Great Lakes—and the millions of jobs they support—from a variety of ecological threats and invasive species.
“Protecting Lake Erie is about protecting Ohio’s drinking water and the thousands of fishing, boating, and recreation jobs that are dependent on clean and safe waters,” Brown said. “The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act is a bipartisan effort to ensure that the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie, are preserved for future generations to enjoy.”
“In addition, Congress must fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which over the years has helped keep our lake healthy for Ohioans to enjoy and has ensured that Lake Erie and its tributaries can continue to be utilized for commerce and shipping,” Brown continued. “As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I am committed to ensuring that this important program is kept intact in 2013. We must do all we can to protect and preserve Lake Erie.”
Brown has repeatedly called for full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and fought to pass new legislation, the Stop Invasive Species Act, which requires action on permanent solutions to stop the invasive Asian carp from entering Lake Erie. According to the State of Ohio, Lake Erie is responsible for $11 billion in visitor spending alone. 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.
The Stop Invasive Species Act, cosponsored by Brown and signed into law by the President in July, requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite the creation of a plan to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through a number of rivers and tributaries across the Great Lakes region. The Stop Invasive Species Act requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to submit to Congress an expedited action plan with options for stopping Asian carp from penetrating the Great Lakes across 18 possible points of entry. The bill requires the Army Corps to submit a progress report to Congress and the President within 90 days of the law's enactment. The full plan would need to be completed within 18 months, meaning the Corps would have to complete its work sometime in 2013.
The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protect Act would:
- Authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (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 agency 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. While the authority for GLNPO expired in 2008; however appropriators have continued to fund this vital office. This bill would reauthorize GLNPO for 5 years at level funding of $25 million annually.
- 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). There are 31 U.S. AOCs in the U.S. and shared with Canada; since those areas were identified in 1987, only one of them has been cleaned up and delisted. The Legacy program is authorized through 2010; however, appropriators have continued to fund this important program. This bill would reauthorize the program for an additional 5 years and increase the funding level from $54 million to $150 million per year, as recommended in the Great Lakes Collaboration Strategy Report, with the goal of removing all of the contamination at all the Areas of Concern within the next 10 years. The reauthorization of the Legacy Act would maintain the requirement of at least 35 percent of project costs be provided by a nonfederal sponsor, with U.S. EPA providing up to 65 percent for remediation activities.
- 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.The IATF was created by Executive Order in 2004 and is unique in that it forces the federal agencies to coordinate more regularly on Great Lakes matters. The bill authorizes the IATF in its current form.
- 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. The GLAB will be composed of 15 members representing a broad range of interests across the Great Lakes including, business, environmental groups, agricultural groups, foundations, youth groups, environmental justice groups, academia and state, local and tribal governments, and will report to the Interagency and provide stakeholder input on Great Lakes protection and restoration priorities.