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GLIN==> With Great Lakes near “tipping point,” Congress urged to act



Title: With Great Lakes near “tipping point,” Congress urged to act

Contact:  Jon MacDonagh-Dumler
Great Lakes Commission
734-971-9135
jonmacd@glc.org


With Great Lakes near “tipping point,” Congress urged to act

Ann Arbor, Mich. – The Great Lakes Commission is urging Congress to approve the recently introduced Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, now that the latter has returned from its Easter recess. The legislation would implement key recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration to address the Great Lakes’ most pressing restoration and protection needs.

“The average person on the street may not realize it, but the Great Lakes are facing a crisis,” said Tom Huntley, chair of the Great Lakes Commission. “There’s a very real concern that the combination of stresses they are facing could push them beyond a ‘tipping point’ where we could see massive and potentially irreversible damages to the Great Lakes ecosystem.”

Introduced in both the U.S. Senate (S.2545) and House of Representatives (H.R.5100), the legislation would authorize concrete steps to combat invasive species, eliminate sewage overflows, clean up toxic pollution and restore wildlife habitat, among other measures. The bipartisan bills are sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.).

“Responding to a call from President Bush, in 2005 Great Lakes governors, members of Congress, local elected officials, tribes and federal agencies led an effort involving more than 1,500 Great Lakes experts and stakeholders developing the recommendations of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration’s strategy to restore and protect the Great Lakes,” Huntley continued. “I applaud our members of the Great Lake Congressional Delegation who have stepped up and introduced this critical legislation.”

The legislation is supported by a bipartisan group of Great Lakes senators and representatives .and addresses the Collaboration’s recommendations through provisions for:

•       Stopping the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species by reauthorizing  the National Invasive Species Act of 1996;

•       Preventing the Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes by authorizing the Corps of Engineers to maintain and operate the dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and prohibit the importation and sale of Asian carp;

•       Restoring fish and wildlife habitat by reauthorizing the Great Lakes Fish & Wildlife Restoration Act at $12 million per year;

•       Preventing sewage contamination by reauthorizing the State Revolving Loan Fund and authorizing appropriations of $20 billion over five years to assist communities with improving their wastewater infrastructure.

•       Cleaning up contaminated sediment under the Great Lakes Legacy Act by reauthorizing the program at $150 million per year, up from $54 million;

•       Phasing out mercury in products by establishing a new EPA grant program at $10 million per year and improving existing research programs;

•       Coordinating and improving Great Lakes programs by establishing the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force and the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration.

“We all recognize that the federal budget is under extraordinary pressure this year, with the costs of Hurricane Katrina and combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Huntley said. “But the Great Lakes are under extraordinary pressure as well. If we don’t step up and address these issues right now, we could soon find ourselves facing problems that no amount of money can fix.”

The Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act was separately introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on April 5.

Contact:  Jon MacDonagh-Dumler, jonmacd@glc.org

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The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by the Hon. Thomas E. Huntley (Minnesota), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes­St. Lawrence region and its residents.  The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.  Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.”  The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests.  The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.