Note: This blog is part of a periodic series of updates from Don Jodrey, the Alliance’s Director of Federal Government Relations, with his view on Great Lakes policy from Washington, DC.
At the beginning of the year we announced an ambitious federal policy agenda. We’re now just past the halfway mark of the year. So we’re asking: are we making progress, or is there more we can do to advocate for the Great Lakes?
As a quick refresher, our policy agenda for 2022 included:
- Increasing funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative;
- Increasing funding for water infrastructure; and
- Securing a cost share change for the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Project so that the project would be fully funded by the federal government.
House Makes Progress on Funding Great Lakes Priorities
On the funding side, the U.S. House of Representatives responded to our priorities and just voted on an appropriations bill that includes increased funds for the Great Lakes. Included in the “minibus” legislation (approximately six appropriations bills all bundled together) are:
- $2.9 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which is approximately level with last year and will provide funding to states to address water infrastructure needs like replacing lead pipes;
- $368 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is an increase of $20 million over last year’s funding and represents critical funding to address regional priorities such as cleaning up toxic hot spots, habitat restoration, water quality improvements, and managing invasive species;
- $47.8 million for the first phase of construction of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois, to keep invasive carp out of the lakes; and
- $3 million for the Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study, an increase of $2.5 million over the President’s Budget, that will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to start this important effort to address climate change and the needs of coastal communities in the face of fluctuating lake levels.
While the Senate has yet to move any funding bills for a vote, the House actions are encouraging. They demonstrate that Congress recognizes the importance of these programs to a healthy Great Lakes.
Bipartisan Action to Stop Invasive Carp
In addition to funding, the House and Senate – on a bipartisan vote – are moving legislation that continues strong momentum to stop invasive carp from reaching Lake Michigan.
Invasive carp pose a serious threat to the Great Lakes. Silver and bighead carp have already wreaked havoc on the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, out-competing native fish for food and injuring people who recreate on the rivers. The invasive fish are steadily spreading upstream toward Lake Michigan. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun designing a critical project to stop invasive carp from reaching Lake Michigan by installing prevention measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois, a chokepoint in waterways leading to Lake Michigan.
The House passed its version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 that will increase the federal cost-share – which is how much the federal government will chip in for this critical project – to 90%. The Senate has moved its version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 out of committee and is expected to pass the bill later this summer. The Senate committee bill also includes the same cost-share provision as the House bill. This is good news and shows that Congress and the Administration recognize that the invasive carp moving toward Lake Michigan threaten the entire Great Lakes region.
Looking Ahead, Your Voice Makes a Difference
The legislative process will continue for the next several months and hopefully conclude before the start of the new federal fiscal year in October. We are encouraged by the progress thus far and will continue to press for increased funding and authority for programs that support and maintain the Great Lakes.
But it’s not too late for you to weigh in and encourage your members of congress to support clean water and a healthy Great Lakes.