Fall 2018
At Dec. 14 web meeting of caucus, lawmakers will learn how to track progress of Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts — in their home districts and across the basin
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus' (GLLC) final web meeting of the year will introduce legislators to an online platform that can help them evaluate whether public investments to protect and restore the lakes are producing their intended results.

This free, hour-long web meeting on " Blue Accounting " is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Central Time on Friday, Dec. 14. (Note that the date of this quarterly meeting has changed from the previous date of Dec. 7.)

The meeting's featured speaker will be Nicole Zacharda of the Great Lakes Commission, which developed the Blue Accounting concept in partnership with The Nature Conservancy. She will show participants how Blue Accounting allows legislators to track progress across all jurisdictions, all sectors, and all levels of government on key Great Lakes-related issues such as nutrient pollution and aquatic invasive species. In November, the GLLC was invited to serve on the Content Advisory Board for ErieStat, which is Blue Accounting's module for tracking progress on the reduction of phosphorus loadings in Lake Erie.

The caucus is a nonpartisan, binational organization of legislators from the Great Lakes states and provinces. Membership is free and open to all legislators. The Midwestern Office of The Council of State Governments provides staff support to the group.

GLLC action plan on how to prevent lead contamination to be presented at Dec. 14 meeting

In addition to learning about Blue Accounting, participants in the Dec. 14 web meeting will be presented with the GLLC's action plan for eliminating lead as a contaminant in drinking water. In September, the GLLC committed to leading this type of regional collaboration, and that same month, some legislators also took part in a caucus-led policy institute on lead in drinking water.

The importance of the GLLC's work in this policy area was underscored by a November report of the Northeast-Midwest Institute. Its conclusion: More than half of the congressional districts in the Northeast and Midwest have significant issues with lead contamination of water. The study also examines state and federal policy responses to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich.

Tracking Great Lakes legislation in D.C .: Recent activity includes new federal law that authorizes funding for modernized Soo Locks and U.S. Senate's passage of legislation that pre-empts state-level standards on ballast water discharges
A bipartisan congressional deal on how to manage the nation’s water resources has potentially big implications for the Great Lakes and the region’s states — authorization of a nearly $1 billion project at the Soo Locks, movement on a plan to stop Asian carp, and more money to protect drinking water.

Signed into law in October, the  Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) also establishes new programs to research the eradication of zebra mussels and Asian carp and to explore technologies that prevent harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus monitors numerous federal bills related to water policy and protection via its federal legislative tracker . Here are some other notable recent developments:

  • States will lose authority to establish their own standards on ballast water discharges under a bill sent to President Donald Trump in November. S. 140, however, does establish a process for Great Lakes governors to pursue basin-wide discharge requirements that are more stringent than the federal standard and that could better protect the lakes from invasive species. The Alliance for the Great Lakes says the recently passed legislation marks a "dramatic improvement" over other versions of the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will maintain authority to set discharge standards via its enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Other proposals have called for eliminating the EPA's authority and handing over control to the U.S. Coast Guard. Another provision in S.140 authorizes $50 million in funding for a program that focuses on stopping the introduction and spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes — through improved early detection, monitoring and rapid response.

  • Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate that would prohibit sewage overflows that pollute the Great Lakes, require states to establish notice requirements when these sewage overflows occur, and establish a new federal fund to help pay for local infrastructure projects that prevent these overflows from occurring.
Tracking state legislation : Protections for Straits of Mackinac advance in Michigan, proposals to regulate contaminants in drinking water introduced in multiple Great Lakes states
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus also tracks legislation in the states and provinces on issues related to water quality, water management and the protection of drinking water. Here is a look at some of the recent activity in the states.

  • The Michigan House passed a package of bills in October that aim to protect the Straits of Mackinac — and the entire Great Lakes — from an oil spill. Together, these bills: a) establish new reporting requirements for pipeline operators, b) increase penalties for those responsible for negligence or criminal damage to public utilities, c) establish clear penalties for vessels that break maritime laws and jeopardize the safety of Michigan’s waterways, and d) establish the Straits as a no-anchor zone. Sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Lee Chatfield and Triston Cole, both of whom are members of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus. Also in October, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced a new agreement with Enbridge Energy — the owner and operator of the twin, 65-year-old pipelines (known as "Line 5") that are located under the Straits of Mackinac and that carry up to 540,000 barrels of light crude oil and natural gas every day. Under the agreement, Enbridge has agreed to replace the portion of its Line 5 pipeline that currently runs under the Straits. In its place will be a new pipeline and protective tunnel.

  • Concerns about the presence of man-made chemicals such as PFAS and 1,4-dioxane in drinking water continue to lead to new legislative proposals in the region's state capitols. Recent examples include a proposal in Pennsylvania to lower acceptable levels of PFOA and PFOS in drinking water to 5 parts per trillion and legislation in New York that would establish a maximum contaminant level (-0.35 parts per billion) for 1,4-Dioxane in public water supplies.
Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau, Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel set to lead GLLC; caucus sets ambitious agenda for 2019 and beyond
A new leadership team is ready to lead the nonpartisan, binational Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus.

At the group's September meeting in Erie, Pa., members elected Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau to serve as GLLC chair and Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel as vice chair. Both of these legislators are long-time, active members in the caucus. Along with these officers, the GLLC has a bipartisan Executive Committee that includes at least one legislator from each of the Great Lakes' 10 states and provinces.

These legislators will be leading the caucus as it begins to execute an ambitious four-year policy agenda (adopted at the September meeting). Some of the specific objectives include:

  • assuring the availability of safe, clean, affordable drinking water;
  • encouraging infrastructure improvements to reduce nutrient runoff, including the installation of green infrastructure; and
  • supporting the sustainable economic development of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence coastal communities, including the restoration and preservation of habitat.

During the meeting, too, caucus members discussed plans to hold a policy institute next year that focuses on nutrient pollution. They also passed a resolution to name all future policy institutes in honor of Sen. Patricia Birkholz — the former Michigan senator who founded the caucus and who died earlier this year.

Other resolutions passed at the GLLC Annual Meeting included support for binational efforts to reduce phosphorus runoff, support for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ efforts to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, and opposition to the construction of a nuclear waste repository in the Great Lakes Basin. T

Also at the fall meeting, the GLLC expressed its appreciation to Michigan Sen. Darwin Booher for his many years of caucus service and leadership. Sen. Booher is term-limited out of office in Michigan at the end of the year. He most recently served as chair of the GLLC.

The caucus would like to thank Michigan Rep. David Maturen and Wisconsin Rep. Nick Milroy as well; both of them are finishing their terms on the GLLC Executive Committee.

Special thanks go to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Sonney for his extensive help in organizing the 2018 meeting. The GLLC's 2019 Annual Meeting will be held Sept. 13-14 in Chicago. Registration will open in June.
Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau (far right) talks to fellow members of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus as Michigan Sen. Darwin Booher and Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest look on. The GLLC met in September in Erie, Pa.
Army Corps releases final study on plan to prevent movement of Asian carp into Great Lakes

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released its "final recommended plan" on how to better prevent the movement of Asian carp and other invasive species between the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins. The plan is the result of a study of what structural and nonstructural barriers should be installed at Brandon Road Lock & Dam (part of the Chicago Area Waterway System).

According to The Detroit News, the projected cost of the plan ($778 million) is nearly double the estimate that the Corps had made for its "temporarily selected plan." The difference is the result of higher engineering and design costs, the Corps said. A public review period on the plan will run through Dec. 24.
Mark your calendar: List of caucus events in 2019
January 18, 9 a.m. Central Time — Lead Reduction Task Force Conference Call

March 1, 9 a.m. Central Time — GLLC Quarterly Web Meeting

March 7 — Great Lakes Congressional Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

March 7-8 — GLLC Executive Committee Meeting in Washington, D.C. (tentative)

June 7, 9 a.m. Central Time — GLLC Quarterly Web Meeting

September 6, 9 a.m. Central Time — GLLC Quarterly Web Meeting

September 13 — GLLC Executive Committee Meeting in Chicago

September 13-14 — GLLC 2019 Annual Meeting in Chicago

December 6, 9 a.m. Central Time — GLLC Quarterly Web Meeting

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