Spring 2018
Federal legislative update : Trump proposal to slash GLRI, legislation on oil pipelines in Great Lakes, and push for new investment in coastal resiliency
The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus continues to monitor noteworthy developments at the federal level, including through its federal legislative tracker. Here are some notable recent developments in the nation's capital:

  • In his proposed budget for FY 2019, President Donald Trump calls for a dramatic cut in federal funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — from the annual level of $300 million down to $30 million. In a recent sign-on letter initiated by Michigan state Sen. Darwin Booher, chair of the caucus, 63 members of the caucus urged the U.S. Congress to continue investing in the GLRI at the $300 million level in FY 2018 and FY 2019. On March 23, the U.S. Congress passed an omnibus spending for FY 2018 with $300 million for the GLRI. Trump signed the bill.
  • Under legislation introduced earlier this year, the federal government would require regular reports on the status of pipelines in and around the Great Lakes, mandate certain repairs and increase penalties for oil spills. H.R. 4787 is a response to ongoing concerns about twin, 64-year-old pipelines located under the Straits of Mackinac. A state legislative proposal in Michigan would shut down oil pipelines in its part of the Great Lakes.
  • Several federal lawmakers are pushing for funding for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study. If funded, the Great Lakes Coastline Resiliency Study "would be the first of its kind to coordinate a strategy across the Great Lakes states to most efficiently and effectively manage and protect the Great Lakes coastline," according to the U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Those two Michigan lawmakers are leading the bipartisan effort to include this study in the FY 2019 budget.
Ohio designates open waters of western Lake Erie as "impaired"
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency is proposing that the open waters of Lake Erie be designated as impaired due to harmful algae and occurrences of microcystin, which impacts drinking water. This decision is part of a biennial report on water quality that the state does to meet its obligations under the Clean Water Act.

According to The (Toledo) Blade, this new designation (a reversal of previous decisions by the Kasich administration not to designate Lake Erie's open waters as impaired) had long been sought by environmental advocates and will "invariably mean tighter rules for agriculture and others that release nutrients into western Lake Erie tributaries." A webinar on the Ohio EPA's draft report will be held on April 25.

Michigan already has designated its part of western Lake Erie as impaired.

Legislative update from the states : Proposals from Ohio, Illinois and Michigan highlighted
The Great Lakes Legislative caucus recently updated its state and provincial legislative tracker, which monitors bills related to clean water and safe drinking water. If you have legislation to add to the tracker, please contact Tim Anderson. Here is a review of some of the recently introduced bills.

  • Two caucus members from Ohio — Reps. John Patterson and Michael Sheehy — introduced HB 460, which would exempt riparian buffers from property taxes in the western basin of Lake Erie. Their hope is that the exemption will encourage more landowners to install these filters, thereby limiting the amount of nutrients reaching Lake Erie and reducing the prevalence of harmful algal blooms.
  • Illinois Rep. Patricia Bellock, a member of the caucus, has proposed HB 5261, which envisions implementation of an interstate notification policy for instances in which a state allows for increased levels of water pollution into Lake Michigan.
  • Michigan's SB 793 and 794 would strengthen the state's penalties for violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. One of the bills' sponsors is Sen. Jim Ananich, a caucus member.
  • A recently introduced three-bill legislative package in Michigan would clarify that all of the state's waters are held in the "public trust"; impose a bottled-water tax and dedicate the additional revenue to the state's Drinking Water Revolving Fund; and remove the state's small-container exemption as it applies to water withdrawals.
Asian carp update : State and federal policymakers continue to show interest in getting Brandon Road study done, and work underway
According to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the recently approved FY 2018 budget bill will require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take near- and long-term actions to combat the threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes. Language in the bill, she said, would require the Corps to make all reasonable efforts to finalize the Brandon Road study by February of next year and to take immediate steps to prevent Asian carp from moving into the Great Lakes via the Chicago Area Waterway System.

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has launched a new Great Lakes Partnership to Block Asian Carp. In part, Snyder is seeking buy-in from other Great Lakes jurisdictions to collectively pay for the $8 million in annual operations and maintenance costs associated with the Corps' proposal to install a mix of new structural and nonstructural barriers at the Brandon Road Lock & Dam in Joliet, Ill. Under the governor's plan, each jurisdiction would pay a percentage equal to its share of total Great Lakes surface water (see table). 

Earlier this year, the government of Canada announced it would invest $20 million over the next five years to protect the lakes from Asian carp.
Wisconsin reviewing proposed diversion of Lake Michigan water
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has begun its review of the city of Racine's application to divert up to an average of 7 million gallons of Lake Michigan water a day. Of that 7 million gallons, 4.3 million would be returned to Lake Michigan and 2.7 million gallons would be consumptively used. The request is related to the water needs of a large new manufacturing facility for Foxconn Technology Group. The Great Lakes water would be diverted to the town of Mount Pleasant, which lies within the Mississippi River basin. Only the state of Wisconsin must approve this application. A review by other Great Lakes states and provinces is not required because of the rules in place for "straddling communities" in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact.
Caucus news : Recent and upcoming events for state, provincial legislators interested in protecting the Great Lakes
  • Thanks to everyone who participated in the caucus's March 2 web meeting, which focused on state policy responses to the threat posed to safe drinking water by per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). The full meeting is available here. Since then, the U.S. Congress has included money in the FY 2018 budget to clean up dangerous PFAS chemical contamination, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning a May 23-24 summit on the issue.
  • The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus Executive Committee will hold a strategic planning meeting on April 27-28 in Lombard, Ill. Please contact Lisa Janairo for details.
  • The caucus's annual meeting will be held Sept. 21-22 in Erie, Penn. Registration is expected to open on June 1. For the first time, in conjunction with the annual meeting, the caucus will be offering a Great Lakes Policy Institute in Erie, on Sept. 20 and 21. Please contact Lisa Janairo for more information.
  • The next web meeting of the caucus will be held from 9-10 a.m. Central Time on June 1. It will feature an annual review of federal, state and provincial legislation. A registration announcement is expected to be sent out on May 1. Please contact Lisa Janairo for more information.
  • If you haven't done so, please consider becoming a member of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus. Membership is open to all legislators representing the eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces from the Great Lakes basin. Membership is free. Here is a link to the enrollment form and a list of members of the caucus.
  • The Northeast Midwest Institute and U.S. Water Alliance recently held a congressional briefing titled "An Equitable Water Future: Opportunities for the Great Lakes Region." It included expert presentations from the Joyce Foundation and other groups.
  • The Great Lakes Economic Forum will be held May 3-5 in Montreal.
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