DeWine, Levin Introduce Comprehensive Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Legislation

$6 Billion Grant Program Would Increase Existing Great Lakes Restoration Funds

Monday, July 14, 2003

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) and U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) today introduced the Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act that would provide $6 billion over 10 years in Great Lakes ecosystem restoration funding, would coordinate existing federal efforts, and would monitor those efforts. Senator DeWine and Senator Levin, co-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, have a long history of working to provide the Great Lakes region with the management tools that they need to improve and protect the Great Lakes.

A recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report requested by Senator DeWine and Senator Levin recommended greater coordination and the development of an overarching Great Lakes strategy, additional funding, and the development of a monitoring system for the Great Lakes Basin that can be used to measure overall restoration progress.

"The Great Lakes are a unique natural resource that we must protect for future generations, and they deserve a concerted national and local effort to save them," said Senator DeWine. "Based on the evidence in the GAO report, it's clear that the federal government is not doing enough to keep pace with the increasing threats to the Great Lakes. Our bill reverses that trend. This bill would provide the largest flow of federal funds ever available for local Great Lakes leaders to allocate to Great Lakes clean-up projects. The bill offers fundamental changes that will help ensure our Lakes have the best chance for improvement and protection."

"The Great Lakes are natural treasures that we must protect and restore," said Senator Levin. "This legislation does three things to strengthen the federal commitment to the lakes. The bill provides substantial environmental restoration funding through a grants program, which will be allocated by a regional advisory board that is best able to determine priority areas for the lakes. It would improve the effectiveness of ongoing federal activities by creating a Great Lakes federal coordinating council. And lastly, the bill would allow us to collect the necessary data so we can get a clearer picture of how effective our existing Great Lakes programs are. We've made some progress in improving the health of the Great Lakes, but after years of the status quo, we have to reinvigorate our efforts. This bill, if passed, will get us get closer to that end."

The DeWine-Levin bill 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.

Coordinating Council. The Great Lakes Federal Coordinating Council would coordinate existing federal activities in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes National Program Office would serve as the Council leader, while other participants would include the key federal agencies involved in Great Lakes work such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Department of the Interior. The Council would meet at least three times a year to ensure that federal efforts to clean up and restore the Great Lakes are coordinated, effective, complementary, and cost-efficient.

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.

The Great Lakes Environmental Restoration Act is co-sponsored by Senators George V. Voinovich (R-OH), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Charles Schumer (D-NY).

The GAO report, "Great Lakes: An Overall Strategy and Indicators for Measuring Progress Are Needed to Better Achieve Restoration Goals," was released in May. Senator DeWine and Senator Levin requested the report two years ago with 12 other members of the Great Lakes Task Force. The complete report is available at www.gao.gov.

For more information, see Sen. Levin's Senate floor statement.