WASHINGTON, D.C. â€“ Senate Great Lakes Task Force co-chairs U.S. Senators Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), along with Task Force members Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Robert Casey (D-Pa.), today introduced the Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act, a bill to address the most significant challenges in the Great Lakes ecosystem. Â The legislation targets invasive species, nonpoint source and nutrient pollution, and will help remediate and restore toxic hot spots throughout the Great Lakes Basin.
“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,â€ said Kirk. â€œAs 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.”
â€œThe bipartisan bill weâ€™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,â€ said Levin. Â â€œThis legislation demonstrates our continued commitment to investing in the Great Lakes, and backs our nationâ€™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.â€
â€œWe are faced with many challenges when trying to protect the health and safety of the Great Lakes â€“ from invasive species to air pollution around Lake Michigan,â€ said Durbin. Â â€œ 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. Â 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.â€
â€œThe Great Lakes provide vital natural resources and promote economic activity in communities all along their coasts,â€ said Senator Casey. â€œWe cannot let the threat of invasive species and pollution dim the lakesâ€™ potential to support jobs in the region, so for communities like Erie, Pennsylvania, this legislation marks a commitment to working toward preservation and prosperity.â€ Â Â
The legislation includes the following provisions:
- Â 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
Text of the legislation introduced can be found here.
Other cosponsors of the legislation include 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, of which Senators Durbin and Casey are members. ThisÂ bipartisan Task Force includes Great Lakes State senators who advocate for actions to strengthen the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes.