Support for Great Lakes restoration funding and protection against Asian carp are key Great Lakes priorities for the new Congress, with algae-promoting nutrient pollution topping a list of issues to watch with wary eye.
The Alliance reached out to congressional members this week with a lineup of Great Lakes priorities needing their attention in 2015.
Among these priorities is reprising critical legislation from 2014. This includes Ohio Rep. David Joyce’s bipartisan bill to formally authorize the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million for the next five years — legislation that furthered a regional priority of the Great Lakes-Healing Our Waters Coalition. The measure passed the House in December but time ran out before similar legislation introduced by Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk could pass the finish line in the Senate. We’re pleased to see Rep. Joyce has already reintroduced the legislation this session and that it continues to enjoy bipartisan support.
Another priority: Reduce the risk of Asian carp reaching the Great Lakes. This can be achieved in the near–term by congressional funding of tangible risk-reduction measures planned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but the corps must also make progress toward a long-term solution that prevents the movement of all invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.
The need to stem the flow of excess nutrient pollution into the Great Lakes is yet another priority, one underscored last summer when more than a half million people in communities around western Lake Erie experienced drinking water bans as a result of massive nutrient-fed harmful algal blooms. Much of the action needed on this issue is at the state level, yet members of the Great Lakes delegation should keep an ear to the ground because of this problem’s potential to seriously impact their constituents, particularly those living in areas rich in agriculture.
Other Great Lakes priorities for the new Congress include:
* Outdated and failing wastewater infrastructure
* Great Lakes youth education
* Crude oil transportation on the lakes
There is much work to be done in 2015, and we’re confident that the spirit of bipartisan cooperation on issues relating to Great Lakes protection that marked 2014 will guide the Congress on this and other Great Lakes issues in this session.