U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, today joined Senate Great Lakes Task Force co-chairs U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Carl Levin (D-MI) and Task Force member, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) to introduce the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act, a bill to address the most significant challenges in the Great Lakes ecosystem. The legislation targets invasive species, nonpoint source and nutrient pollution, and will help remediate and restore toxic hot spots throughout the Great Lakes Basin.
"We are faced with many challenges when trying to protect the health and safety of the Great Lakes -- from invasive species to air pollution around Lake Michigan," said Durbin. "While I have been working for decades with my colleagues in the House and Senate to tackle these challenges, the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act provides us with a comprehensive approach. One that I hope will help ensure that the Great Lakes will be around for generations, providing drinking water, recreation and commerce for Illinois and the other surrounding states."
"The Great Lakes are a unique and vital ecosystem as well as an important economic engine throughout the region, and we must protect this precious natural resource," said Kirk. "As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I am fully committed to working with my Senate colleagues to ensure that future generations can enjoy safe, clean drinking water. The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act will help improve the integrity of the entire Great Lakes Basin, and continue the effort to tackle the threat of invasive species, reduce pollution and keep our lakes clean. I am proud to cosponsor this bill to help to ensure the long-term health of the Great Lakes region and preserve this environmental treasure."
"The bipartisan bill we're introducing today would authorize and reauthorize key Great Lakes programs that lead to real, measurable results in restoring and protecting the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth," said Levin. "This legislation demonstrates our continued commitment to investing in the Great Lakes, and backs our nation's commitment with Canada to make real progress in cleaning up contaminated sediments, reducing pollution that causes algal blooms, and preventing invasive species from harming the Great Lakes."
"The Great Lakes provide vital natural resources and promote economic activity in communities all along their coasts," said Senator Casey. "We cannot let the threat of invasive species and pollution dim the lakes' potential to support jobs in the region, so for communities like Erie, Pennsylvania, this legislation marks a commitment to working toward preservation and prosperity."
The legislation includes the following provisions:
Ensures implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada
Authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to target the most significant problems facing the basin
Reauthorizes the Great Lakes National Program Office within the Environmental Protection Agency to facilitate policy and administrative tasks relating to the Great Lakes
Reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act to remove contaminated sediment from Areas of Concern across the Great Lakes
Establishes a Great Lakes Advisory Board to advise on matters pertaining to Great Lakes restoration and protection
Authorizes a Federal Interagency Task Force to coordinate restoration initiatives among the federal agencies
Other cosponsors of the legislation include U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
Senators Kirk and Levin are co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, a bipartisan group of Great Lakes State senators who advocate for actions to strengthen the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes.