Friday, July 26, 2013

House caucus introduces Great Lakes legislation

Posted By on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 12:56 PM

A bipartisan group of House representatives has introduced legislation that, in simple terms, would provide significant funding for improving water quality in the Great Lakes.

The legislation, introduced by the House Great Lakes Caucus, is called the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013; the name may sound familiar since Senator Charles Schumer was in town earlier this month to push for the legislation's passage. The bill would reauthorize and fund a few programs: the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Legacy Act, and the Great Lakes National Program Office. It would also create the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, a group of White House cabinet secretaries and federal agency heads that coordinate Great Lakes restoration efforts.

House Representative Louise Slaughter co-chairs the Great Lakes Caucus and her office sent out a press release yesterday announcing the legislation.

The legislation:
  • Sets aside up to $475 million a year for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Under that program, the federal government provides grants to address a broad range of water quality and ecosystem issues. Among them: invasive species control, wetlands restoration, and pollution cleanup. The GLRI is especially focused on areas of concern, the technical name for areas within the lakes system that are particularly affected by pollution and impaired ecosystems. One of those areas, the Rochester Embayment Area of Concern, covers a stretch of Lake Ontario between Riga and Webster.
  • Reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act and provides $100 million a year in funding for five years. The program addresses some of the historic pollution in the lakes, much of which is due to the industries that developed along their shores. In the past, the Legacy Act has provided funding for large dredging projects to remove contaminated sediment from within areas of concern. In Rochester, the Lower Genesee River and the area of Lake Ontario around the river's mouth have sediments that contain PCB's, heavy metals, and pesticides.
  • Reauthorizes the Environmental Protection Agency's Great Lakes National Program Office for five years and provides $25 million a year in funding. The office oversees various Great Lakes initiatives, including the GLRI and the Legacy Act.
  • Creates the Great Lakes Advisory Board. The board would include business, environmental, agricultural, and youth organization representatives, as well as academics. It'll advise the EPA administrator on Great Lakes restoration issues.

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