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Hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Great Lakes Regional Collaboration's Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes

Location: Washington, DC

Stabenow Calls on Senate to Protect Great Lakes

Senator says Great Lakes strategy important for Michigan jobs, economy

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today told a Senate panel that the Great Lakes are part of Michigan's identity and vital to our state's economy. In her testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Stabenow urged her colleagues to support a bipartisan initiative to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

"The future of Michigan is directly linked to the future of the Great Lakes," Stabenow said. "The Great Lakes are a part of our way of life - where we vacation with our families, where we boat and swim, and where we fish and hunt. They are also a critical part of the Michigan economy, bringing billions of tourism dollars to our state and creating jobs."

Stabenow testified in support of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to coordinate restoration and protection efforts at the federal, state and local level. The strategy calls for a $6 billion federal commitment to ensure that the Great Lakes remain healthy for generations to come. In the coming weeks, Stabenow will join Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Mike DeWine (R-OH) and other members of the Great Lakes Task Force to introduce legislation that will implement the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy.

The Great Lakes and natural resources are a driving force in Michigan's economy. The total revenue from Michigan's fishing, hunting and wildlife is nearly $5 billion a year. Michigan ranks first in the nation in the number of registered boaters, who contribute $2 billion a year to our economy. Overall, tourism in Michigan supports more than 190,000 jobs.

Last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed another important part of Senator Stabenow's jobs and tourism agenda for Michigan. The Michigan Lighthouse and Maritime Heritage Act would preserve and protect more than 120 Michigan lighthouses and promote the exploration of these Great Lakes treasures.

Senator Stabenow's testimony follows:

March 16, 2006

Testimony of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing on Great Lakes Regional Collaboration's Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes

Good morning, Mr. Chairman and Senator Jeffords. I want to thank you for holding this hearing on an issue that is personally very important to me - the protection and restoration of our Great Lakes. I also want to thank the four witnesses from the great State of Michigan who traveled all the way to Washington to be here this morning. And finally, I want to thank Senator Levin and Senator DeWine for their leadership on our bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force.

There is no more important issue to Michigan and our region of the country than the Great Lakes. For the people of Michigan, the Lakes are more than just one-fifth of the world's fresh water and a unique ecosystem - they are part of our identity. The Lakes are where we spend summers with our families, where we boat and swim, and where we fish and hunt. The Lakes also sustain our state and local economies by providing a major route for intrastate and international commerce. The health and future of Michigan is directly linked to the health and future of the Great Lakes.

We in Michigan are blessed with a beautiful state full of lakes, rivers, forests, and streams. I invite you all to come to travel to Michigan and see for yourselves.

The people of Michigan have more public access to waterways than all of the other 49 states combined. We enjoy access to four of the five Great Lakes and more than 40,000 interior lakes, streams, and trails. This rich abundance of natural resources has made the outdoors a critical part of Michigan's economy and our way-of-life. The Great Lakes are key in this. Consider:

• The total revenue from Michigan's fishing, hunting and wildlife watching is nearly $5 billion every year.
• Fishing brings $2 billion annually to our state economy.
• Michigan has the most registered boaters of any state (nearly one million) and recreational boating brings $2 billion annually to the state.

You can see why restoration of the Great Lakes is so important to us. So we are extremely proud of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy, which seeks to coordinate current and future efforts to restore and protect this important national resource. There are currently between 140 and 200 separate Great Lakes environmental programs administered by 10 federal agencies. Each of these is important and has helped us significantly improve the health of the Great Lakes over the past 35 years.

That said, true restoration will take local, regional, and national coordination on projects that address all of the critical challenges facing the health of the Great Lakes. Everything from invasive species and habitat restoration to cleaning up contaminated sediments and improving water quality must be given equal attention if we are to truly restore the Great Lakes.

In the next few weeks, Senator Levin, Senator DeWine, and I, along with other members of the Great Lakes Task Force, will introduce a bill that implements the Regional Collaboration Strategy. I hope that my colleagues on this committee will expedite this important legislation. In addition, we must have a long-term funding commitment to realize the goal of our restoration legislation. Authorization is a critical first step, but without follow through we will not succeed in restoring the Great Lakes.
We take our commitment to the Great Lakes very seriously. At the state level we are very busy making sure important protections for the Great Lakes are in place. Just two weeks ago, Governor Granholm signed legislation that for the first time protects Michigan waters from large-scale water diversion and withdrawals. The bipartisan comprehensive water legacy legislation is the result of two years of work by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, environmental groups, industry, and agriculture advocates.

I know that the members of this committee understand the importance of the Great Lakes to Michigan, the seven other Great Lakes states, and to the nation. I look forward to working with you on the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Implementation bill to secure the future protection and restoration of natural treasure.

Thank you.

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