Winter Edition | February 19, 2020
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence News for Legislators
GLLC Member News
Quarterly Web Meeting to Address Nutrient Pollution

Registration is now open for the GLLC's first quarterly web meeting of the year on Friday, March 6, at 9 am Central/10 am Eastern. The featured topic will be the binational work that is being done to achieve the goals for reducing nutrient pollution under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The featured speaker will be Dr. Elizabeth Hinchey Malloy of the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office. Following the presentation, the GLLC’s Task Force on Nutrient Management will report on the action plan and model policy packet that the task force is developing (for more information, see the article on Nutrient Pollution in this newsletter). Finally, the Caucus will convene a brief business session to hear from the Great Lakes Commission about what the commission is doing to reconnect with state and provincial legislators from the region and better address the priorities of the legislative branch.

GLLC web meetings are geared toward members of the Caucus; however, they are open to all interested parties. There is no charge to attend. Everyone is welcome to stay for the business session. Recordings of web meetings are posted on the GLLC’s website

GLLC Rings in the New Year with Action on Multiple Fronts

GLLC members got off to a busy start in 2020. In January, the GLLC Executive Committee, the Task Force on Lead, and the Task Force on Nutrient Management each met by conference call to conduct GLLC business. The task forces both continue working on policies for taking coordinated regional action to address some of the problems facing the Great Lakes states and provinces (see the articles on Water Consumption and Nutrient Pollution in this newsletter for more information).

The Executive Committee agreed to organize a new Task Force on Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day to follow up on last year's effort by the GLLC to establish September 7 as a day of commemoration for the world's largest system of surface freshwater. Last year, five states acknowledged the occasion through legislative resolutions and/or proclamations from the governors. This year, the GLLC will attempt to increase the number of states and provinces participating and will reach out to other Great Lakes organizations to spread the word. The Caucus chose September 7 because it is the day on which the U.S. and Canada signed the amended Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This year, September 7 falls on the Labor Day holiday in the two countries, which increases the likelihood that the region's residents will be able to celebrate on, in, or near a Great Lake or the St. Lawrence River. We are seeking up to five GLLC members to lead this effort with assistance from GLLC staff. Interested members should contact Lisa Janairo to learn more or to sign up as a member of the new task force.

The Executive Committee also decided on potential dates for the GLLC Annual Meeting in 2021, which the National Assembly of Québec will host. The final dates will be announced later this year at the 2020 Annual Meeting on September 18-19 in Detroit. Early registration for GLLC members will open on June 1.
Opportunities for GLLC Members to Get Involved
GLLC members who would like to have a larger role in shaping the organization are welcome to join various task forces and committees that are operating now or will be organizing later this year. As an incentive for members to get involved, any travel scholarships available for the annual meetings in 2020 and 2021 will be reserved for legislators who are actively involved in the work of the GLLC.

Here are the open opportunities for GLLC members:

  • Task Force on Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day
  • Nominating Committee
  • Committee on 2020 Priorities for Elected Officials
  • Fundraising Outreach Committee
  • Task Force on Lead
  • Task Force on Nutrient Management

To learn more about these opportunities available to you as a GLLC member, check out the list of GLLC committees/task forces, their members, and their missions. If you are interested in joining one or more of the groups, contact Lisa Janairo.
Developments Related to GLLC Policy Agenda
Nutrient Pollution
The Task Force on Nutrient Management leads the GLLC's work on policies to better manage the nutrient-laden runoff from agricultural and urban areas, as well as the point sources of such pollution in the Great Lakes and their tributaries. In addition to sponsoring the upcoming GLLC web meeting on binational efforts to manage nutrients and planning a future web meeting on the Great Lakes Commission's Blue Accounting platform, the task force is finalizing its action plan and developing a policy packet for GLLC members to consider as they strive to take coordinated, regional action to address this significant problem for the region's surface waters. Sen. André Jacque of Wisconsin chairs the task force.
To learn about best-management practices for preventing nutrient runoff, members of the Task Force on Nutrient Management toured Darling Farms in Michigan during the 2019 Birkholz Institute.
Among the policies being considered for inclusion in the policy packet are:

GLLC members will hear an update on the task force's progress during the March 6 web meeting.

In other news of nutrients, on February 13, with the release of Ohio EPA's draft 2019 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report, Ohio moved one step closer to regulating the discharges into Lake Erie through a Total Daily Maximum Load. The report "outlines the general condition of Ohio’s waters and includes a list that identifies impaired waters that are not meeting their federal or state water quality goals." In the report, the agency committed to assign "a high priority to Lake Erie’s western shoreline, western open water, and islands shoreline assessment units for impairments of public drinking water supply (algae) and recreation (algae), and ... to develop a TMDL over the next two to three years." Ohio EPA will host a webinar on the draft report on March 2 at 1 pm central and will accept comments through March 13.
Aquatic Invasive Species
Released on February 10, the President's " Budget for America's Future" contains a mixed bag for advocates of Great Lakes protection and restoration. The budget blueprint includes full funding ( $320 million) for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which came as a welcome surprise after the administration tried three years running to eliminate or drastically cut the initiative. But missing from the budget was any funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Brandon Road Lock and Dam project, which most advocates view as the best chance to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. The omission was all the more surprising because of the president's remarks — made recently at a campaign rally in Warren, Michigan — in which he pledged to "work together" with members of Michigan's congressional delegation "to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp ... and other invasive species." President Trump told the crowd, "The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already has a plan, and we are going to get this done and ready to go.... We have all of the top technology, and we’re going to take care of it, just like I made the promise — and that promise where so much has already been done.″

The Alliance for the Great Lakes was quick to point out the contradiction between the president's words and the priorities included in the budget blueprint. In a press release, the Alliance's Molly Flanagan, Vice President for Policy, said, "Two weeks ago, the President promised to protect the Great Lakes from invasive Asian Carp. Actions speak louder than words." In addition, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative issued a press release in which Québec City Deputy Mayor Michelle Morin-Doyle called on President Trump and the U.S. Congress "to fund the Asian Carp Barrier designed to protect 75,000 jobs and $7 Billion a year industry across the Great Lakes region."

Despite the interest in the budget blueprint, Congress, not the president, controls the budgeting process. In 2017-2019, after funding for the GLRI was either cut or not included in the budget blueprint, the Great Lakes congressional delegations were able to restore funding. According to MLive, Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga cited past successes by the Michigan delegation to convince the president to restore GLRI funding. “That same strategy of engagement should be used to stress the importance, significance, and need for protective measures at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam system,” Rep. Huizenga told MLive. 
Water Consumption
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus is tracking several measures in the region's state capitols and in Washington, D.C., to address water contamination. Here are some of the more notable recent developments:

  • Through February 12, the U.S. EPA accepted public comments on proposed updates to the federal Lead and Copper Rule. Following a February 3 webinar hosted by the Caucus' Task Force on Lead, which featured a presentation by Jeffrey Kempic of the EPA's Standards and Risk Management Division on the proposed updates, the Caucus submitted comments calling for:
  • additional funding to keep water rates affordable;
  • setting a deadline for water systems to complete their inventories of lead service lines, and require regular updates;
  • strengthening the annual replacement rate for lead service lines;
  • requiring testing of the water in all schools and child care facilities and requiring remedial actions if lead is found;
  • developing a standardized template for laboratories to report testing results in an easy-to-understand format.
  • Michigan lawmakers in December introduced a trio of bills aimed at protecting the state's water resources: HB 5290 declares water in Michigan to be held in public trust, and that the trust extends to water quantity and quality; HB 5291 would ban the shipping of bottled drinking water out of the Great Lakes basin even in containers of less than 5.7 gallons/20 liters; and HB 5292 would expand the Department of Natural Resources' authority to manage water on lands it controls.
  • Bills introduced recently in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin seek to set maximum contaminant levels for PFAS and related chemicals, or to ban use of firefighting foams containing PFAS chemicals. Those bills include HB 3982 in Illinois, SB 14 in Michigan, HF 3013 in Minnesota, and SB 772 in Wisconsin.
  • Also in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers on February 6 signed AB 323, which bans the use of firefighting foams containing PFAS (a similar bill, HB 328, is pending in Ohio), and the Department of Natural Resources is updating surface water quality regulations to set maximum contaminant levels for PFAS.
Toxic Substances
Ontario Power Generation (OPG) will no longer pursue its plan of constructing a deep geologic repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste at the company's Bruce Power facility. Proposed in the early 2000s, and the subject of 33 days of licensing hearings in 2013-14, the DGR would have contained waste from Bruce and other nuclear power plants owned by OPG. The company considered the repository the safest way to permanently dispose of waste that currently is stored above ground. Critics of the plan — including the GLLC — countered that the site's location within the Great Lakes basin should have disqualified it from consideration.

In 2013, OPG committed not to proceed with the facility without support from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON), the First Nation on whose ancestral land the Bruce facility sits. On January 31, the SON effectively killed the planned repository location by voting overwhelmingly against building the facility at Bruce. It is reported that OPG will seek alternative sites instead.

The decision not to build the DGR near Lake Huron comes at a critical time as Canada considers potential sites for the permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel from the nation's fleet of operating and shutdown nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which has responsibility for siting, constructing, and operating a DGR for spent fuel, announced in January that only two sites remain under consideration after a 10-year effort to find a geologically suitable site in a willing host community. Both sites are in Ontario: the Township of Ignace in northwestern Ontario and the Municipality of South Bruce in the southern part of the province.
At one time, 15 sites were under consideration for Canada's deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel. Nearly all of the sites 13 of the 15 were lo cated in the Great Lakes basin. Of the remaining two, only South Bruce (site #14 on the map) lies within the basin. Credit: NWMO.
Although 30 miles/45 km from Lake Huron, South Bruce is located within the Great Lakes basin and will therefore likely face similar opposition as OPG's proposed facility. Members of the U.S. Congress have already weighed in with their opposition to the siting of a spent fuel DGR within the basin. Introduced on January 17, H.Res. 805 urges the President and the Secretary of State to "take appropriate action to work with the Government of Canada to prevent a permanent nuclear waste repository from being built within the Great Lakes Basin." Congressman Dan Kildee of Michigan introduced the resolution, which has the bipartisan support of 21 co-sponsors from the region. In the Michigan Legislature, Rep. Gary Howell, a GLLC member, introduced HCR 12 urging the U.S. Congress to "take every legal action possible to oppose the construction of any underground high-level nuclear waste repository in the Great Lakes basin" and urging the government of Canada to prohibit siting and constructing such a facility in the basin.
Coastal Communities
great lakes beach
A winter storm system that battered the Great Lakes region on January 10-12 prompted gubernatorial declarations of emergencies in Illinois and Wisconsin, and calls for similar statements in other states. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot both issued disaster proclamations for Chicago's lakefront (Pritzker's declaration was for all of Cook and Lake counties), while Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers declared an emergency for Kenosha and Racine counties.

Indiana official have rejected calls for similar disaster declarations, while Michigan legislators in December called upon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to issue an erosion emergency declaration in the southwest corner of the state's lower peninsula (the "mitten").

Michigan legislators in mid-February introduced HB 5485, which would create a new "Flooding and Erosion Control Task Force" within the state's Department of Natural Resources. Its 11 members would be appointed from counties and communities along Lakes Huron, Michigan, and Superior, and from state agencies; it would be charged with reviewing weather and flooding and erosion control efforts, and creating a cost-benefit analysis to help local officials prepare for future flooding and erosion.

In other news of coastal issues, Indiana legislators are debating just who owns the Lake Michigan shoreline, following a 2018 ruling from the state's Supreme Court that the state owns the shoreline, has done so since statehood in 1816, and thus the shoreline is open to public access. SB 321 would cede shoreline ownership to adjacent private property owners if the property description in their deeds shows the land extends to Lake Michigan. HB 1031 and SB 325, in contrast, would both enshrine public ownership in law. HB 1031 would also absolve private property owners from injury or property damage liability when someone is crossing the property on the way to or from the shoreline.
Legislative Trackers
The GLLC monitors federal, state, and provincial legislation on issues related to water quality in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region. Several of these pieces of legislation are referenced in this newsletter.

GLLC members and other legislators are encouraged to send their bills for posting to Here are links to the updated trackers:

D.C. Capitol
GLLC Events
Mark your calendars for these GLLC events! Unless otherwise noted, all events are open to anyone who wishes to attend. Registration is required for all events. Registration for GLLC web meetings opens one month prior to the event.
About the GLLC
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus (GLLC) is a binational, nonpartisan organization that exists solely for the purpose of engaging state and provincial legislators in the policymaking process related to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Secretariat services are provided by The Council of State Governments Midwestern Office. Financial support is provided in part by the Joyce Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The GLLC's work on nutrient pollution is funded in part by the Fred   A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.

For more information about the Caucus, visit the GLLC website or contact Lisa Janairo, GLLC director, at or 920.458.5910.