Last evening, the new and improved Great Lakes Legacy Act cleared the US House with an overwhelmingly favorable vote of 371 to 20. Now the much needed reauthorization moves to the US Senate where we hope with all our collective hearts that it is swiftly approved.
“We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives – especially Reps. James Oberstar and Vern Ehlers – for passing this important and successful clean-up program,” said Jeff Skelding, national campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Ehlers (R-Mich.) introduced the GLLA. “Cleaning up toxic pollution is essential to our public health, economy and way of life. We need the Senate to take quick action like they did with the Compact and reauthorize this critical program.”
The act triples previous funding to $150 million a year to increase the clean up of the 31 Areas of Concern on the US side of the Great Lakes, which to date has been moving at a snail’s pace.
“In order to speed up efforts this bill tripples the authorization funding level from $50 million to $150 million per year. If fully appropriated, this has the potential to delist all the US Aoc’s within the next decade,” said Rep. Ehlers during the debate on the bill. And Illinois Rep. Mark Kirk (R) was quick to point out the benefits associated with the clean up, using Waukegan Harbor’s remediation as an example, “And when it is complete, it will increase Lake County property vlaues by over $800 million.”
The Legacy Act is a top priority for the Great Lakes region and it is an essential component of the Great Lakes regional collaboration strategy for restoration. Illinois Democrat Rham Emanuel summed up best the regional and national import of this legislation when he said, “If we invest in our lakes and deal with the basic pollutants, that is invasive species, urban run off and those types of pollution, we can deal with 93 percent of the problems effecting our lakes, our fresh water. This is the type of investment that will make sure that not only the region and the states that border these lakes, but the entire US, will preserve and invest in one of the most important natural resources in the coming days and years ahead, which is clean water.”
Many other Great Lakes lawmakers championed our cause during the debate, including: Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), Dennis Kuccinich (D-OH), Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Thaddeus McCotter (R-Mich.) and New York’s Rep. Louis Slaughter (D) who sent out a press release that day. Please take a moment to thank our champions by contacting their offices with an email or phone call.