Great Lakes Bills Waiting For US Senate Action

It is almost time for Congress to come back to Washington and ring the bell for the start of legislative business. There are a number of Great Lakes bills that are still winding their way through both houses, including the first ever Presidential commitment to the Great Lakes (in terms of dollars) the: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

It may seem like the GLRI is already a done deal since the Environmental Protection Agency and the new Great Lakes Czar Cameron Davis have toured the region asking for input on the proposals for implementation. But the bill actually still has to be approved by the US Senate and then appropriated by Congress at hopefully the full amount of $475 million. It is likely that the Senate will take this up in September soon after their return.

The “new and improved” Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA) is still awaiting action in the US Senate. The US House again approved of the $150 million a year GLLA reauthorization this past year. The revamped bill also made it through the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, next it will face the full US Senate. The GLLA made it to this point last year only to be shot down by a persnickety Senator from Oklahoma. This same opposition could crop up again so we will have to be vigilant on this issue once Congress reconvenes.

The Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA) is also on the docket. This surprisingly polarizing piece of legislation is much needed for the Great Lakes region. The controversial legislation would return Clean Water Act regulations to the same bodies of waters covered before a 2006 court decision that muddied the interpretation of the successfully functioning 30 year-old act. The court decision said that CWA regulations are restricted to “navigable” waters –by emphasizing this one word up to 60 percent of US waters were left vulnerable to pollution. The CWRA would address this interpretation and fix it, but many lawmakers are afraid that farmers, developers and industry will be overburdened with regulations. Some of our greatest advocates in the Great Lakes delegation have not backed CWRA. The measure has been approved of by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and will soon face a showdown before the full Senate chamber.

So here we go folks, its back to work again!

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