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Senators Levin, Stabenow Sponsor Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act

Location: Washington, DC

Senators Levin, Stabenow Sponsor Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act

U.S. Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., joined five of their Senate colleagues last week in sponsoring bipartisan legislation to increase funding for Great Lakes ecosystem restoration. The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act, S. 508, would authorize $6 billion over 10 years for new Great Lakes grants. The legislation would also codify into law the Great Lakes Federal Interagency Task Force, created by Executive Order in May 2004, to strengthen coordination of federal Great Lakes activities.

"While the Great Lakes made strides after environmental protections were put in place 30 years ago, progress in the last 15 years has been very slow," said Levin. "This legislation would provide the federal commitment of funding and resources to keep pace with the restoration needs of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are a unique and valuable resource and Congress must act to enhance their restoration and protection."

"As a Michigan senator, I feel a special responsibility to protect the Great Lakes. They are not only a source of clean drinking water for more than 30 million people but are also an integral part of Michigan's heritage and its economy," Stabenow said.

"Ultimately, we need to make restoration of the Great Lakes a national priority, similar to what was done for the Florida Everglades, and this legislation moves us in that direction," she said. "By setting priorities for restoration projects, and providing essential funding, this important legislation will help restore and protect our great national treasures - the Great Lakes."

The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act would do the following:

Grants. The bill would restore the Great Lakes ecosystem by authorizing up to $600 million annually for 10 years in competitive grants administered by Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Great Lakes National Program Office. These grants would be in addition to the existing federal efforts in the Great Lakes. The Program Office, in consultation with the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Advisory Board, would award grants to states, municipalities, and other applicants. At least one project in each Great Lake state would be funded each year. Every Great Lakes state would receive a minimum of 6 percent of the total available funding each year, and no state could receive more than 30 percent of the total funding each year. Additionally, grants would have to address one or more of the designated Great Lakes restoration priorities designated by the Advisory Board.

Advisory Board. The governor-led Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Advisory Board would be comprised of Great Lakes governors, mayors and local officials, and federal agencies, along with Native American tribes, environmentalists, industry representatives, and Canadian observers. This Advisory Board would determine the priority issues for grants issued under the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Grant Program and advise the Program Office on the grant proposals that should be funded.

Interagency Task Force. The bill would codify the Great Lakes Federal Agency Task Force, created by Executive Order, to strengthen coordination of federal Great Lakes activities. The EPA would lead the Council and participants would include the key federal agencies involved in Great Lakes work such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Army Corps of Engineers, and Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill would also codify the existing Great Lakes Regional Collaboration process to ensure the preparation and oversight of the development and implementation of the comprehensive restoration action plan.

Monitoring. The Great Lakes National Program Office, in coordination with other federal agencies and Canada, would develop indicators of water quality and related environmental factors in the Great Lakes, as well as a network to monitor those indicators regularly throughout the Great Lakes basin. The Program Office would report to Congress on the changes in water quality after initial benchmark data is collected within four years, and again every two years thereafter.

Senator Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, introduced the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act. DeWine and Levin are co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. Other original cosponsors include Senators Evan Bayh, D-Ind., Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Herb Kohl, D-Wisc., and Mark Dayton, D-Minn.

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