Fall Edition | November 19, 2019
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence News for Legislators
GLLC Member News
Asian Carp a Focus of 2019 Annual Meeting

On September 13-14, nearly 40 GLLC members gathered in Chicago for the Caucus's 2019 Annual Meeting. Rolled into the two-day event were a workshop for the Task Force on Lead; a site visit to learn about measures intended to stop Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes; a meeting of the GLLC Executive Committee; and a full day of presentations and discussion sessions for GLLC members and other attendees.

A highlight of the meeting was the afternoon site visit on September 13 to give attendees a first-hand view of Brandon Road Lock and Dam and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' electric dispersal barriers that prevent these invasive fish from entering the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System. Hosted by the Army Corps and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the event was at full capacity with 45 legislators and other attendees opting to arrive in Chicago early enough to take part.
GLLC Chair Senator Ed Charbonneau (Indiana) with other GLLC members observing the harvest of Asian carp at Rock Run Rookery.
Right to left: Ontario MPP Jennifer French, Rep. Kent Smith (Ohio),
Rep. Earl Harris, Jr. (Indiana), and MPP Lindsey Park (Ontario) learn about the operation of the electric barriers.
On Saturday, September 14, policy experts shared information on the problem of nutrient pollution, federal efforts in the U.S. and Canada to protect and restore the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River, the economic benefits of such efforts, and the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Resources Compact. During the Saturday luncheon, author Richard Lanyon treated attendees to the story of "Draining Chicago" -- i.e., the engineering project that reversed the flow of the Chicago River in 1900 to dramatically improve drinking water resources for Chicago residents. An unintended consequence of this engineered connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River is that a pathway now exists for Asian carp to enter Lake Michigan. During the GLLC business session, members passed two resolutions advocating for funding for research related to the environmental impacts of microplastics and the stocking of non-native fish.

Rep. Rebekah Warren and Rep. Joseph Tate from Michigan
Rep. Beth Meyers from Wisconsin
Left: Members of the GLLC Executive Committee

Top (from left to right): Michigan Sen. Curt VanderWall; Indiana Sen. Rick Niemeyer; Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau, GLLC Chair; Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest, past GLLC Chair; Minnesota Rep. Jennifer Schultz; and Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Sonney.

Bottom (from left to right): Lisa Janairo, director of the GLLC for CSG Midwest; Wisconsin Rep. Beth Meyers; Ontario MPP Jennifer French; and Ohio Rep. Michael Sheehy
Plan to join GLLC members on the final quarterly web meeting of the year, which will take place on Friday, December 13, at 9 am Central/10 am Eastern. The featured speaker will be Joel Brammeier, President & CEO of Alliance for the Great Lakes. Joel will preview key Great Lakes-related policy developments that GLLC members will want to follow in 2020. After the presentation, the Caucus will convene a brief business session to hear an update from the GLLC's new Task Force on Nutrients and learn about plans for the annual meetings in 2020 and 2021. Other business will be addressed as time permits. GLLC Chair Senator Ed Charbonneau (Indiana) will preside over the web meeting.

GLLC web meetings are geared toward members of the Caucus; however, they are open to all interested parties. Everyone is welcome to stay for the business session. Recordings of web meetings are posted on the GLLC’s website

Opportunities for GLLC Members to Get Involved
GLLC members who would like to have a larger role in shaping their organization are welcome to join various task forces and committees that are operating now or will be organizing in 2020. The Task Force on Lead and the new Task Force on Nutrients are currently active and are accepting new members. In addition, in 2020, the Caucus will be organizing a Nominating Committee for the 2020 election of officers and Executive Committee members; a committee to develop an informational piece on the GLLC's 2020 Priorities; and a Fundraising Outreach Committee. Later in 2020, the Caucus will organize a new Birkholz Institute Steering Committee to develop the plans for the 2021 institute.

To learn more about these opportunities available to you as a GLLC member, check out this 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 at gllc@csg.org. For those members who are ready to step up to the challenge of leading the Caucus, note that the Nominating Commitee will issue a call for nominations in June.
Invitation to State, Provincial Legislators to Join the GLLC
The GLLC is organized around the guiding principle of assuring that the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River continue to provide a plentiful source of clean, affordable water to the region’s residents, businesses and industries. The Caucus brings together members from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Ontario, Pennsylvania, Québec, and Wisconsin to take coordinated regional action to promote the restoration, protection, economy, and sustainable use of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. The mission of the GLLC is to take the best science-based recommendations from studies and put them into practice in the eight states and two provinces that share the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

State and provincial legislators are invited to join the GLLC. Membership in the binational, nonpartisan organization is open to legislators from the Great Lakes states and provinces who have an interest in issues related to water quality in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region. There is no cost to become a member — only benefits.

Developments Related to GLLC Policy Agenda
Nutrient Pollution
In October, the GLLC's first Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy took place, bringing together a binational group of 21 legislators from nine of the 10 jurisdictions in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region. This year's institute focused on the problem of nutrient pollution that impairs water quality in Lake Erie, Green Bay, and other waterbodies throughout the region. The principal source of pollution is runoff from agricultural lands (nonpoint sources, or NPS in the graph to the left), along with smaller contributions from point sources (e.g., water treatment facilities).

The inaugural class of Birkholz Fellows gathered for a weekend in Detroit at the end of October for an intensive workshop during which they toured the Great Lakes Water Authority water resource recovery facility and biosolids drying facility to learn about innovative practices in controlling nutrient pollution from point sources. To complement this "urban adventure," attendees visited Darling Farms in Monroe Country, Michigan, to learn about best management practices for reducing nutrient pollution from farms, or nonpoint sources. The farm participates in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, or MAEAP, which the fellows examined as a potential model for the region.

At the conclusion of the workshop in Detroit, the Birkholz Fellows transitioned into their new roles as members of the GLLC's new Task Force on Nutrients. The task force will develop a GLLC resolution and action plan this year, followed by model policies for addressing this significant problem for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region. Among the measures the task force is considering are certification or verification programs like MAEAP, water-quality trading programs, peer-to-peer mechanisms for encouraging adoption of best management practices, and standardized reporting using common metrics. The task force will report on its progress during the GLLC's quarterly web meetings beginning on December 13. Funding for the 2019 Birkholz Institute was provided by the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation.
Birkholz Fellows and staff of the Great Lakes Water Authority got a bird's-eye view of the Water Resource Recovery Facility, the largest single-site treatment facility in North America.
In other news of nutrients, on November 13, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a new water quality plan for his H2Ohio initiative, which seeks to improve water quality in Lake Erie and other Ohio lakes, rivers, and streams. According to the press release announcing the governor's new plan, "Although studies have shown that phosphorus runoff from farms is the primary reason for algal blooms in Lake Erie, Ohio has not previously placed a significant focus on addressing this problem." The new plan seeks to change that by using a certification process to incentivize the adoption of 10 effective and cost-efficient best practices that have been proven to reduce phosphorus runoff from farms. The plan also will foster the creation of wetlands; improve wastewater infrastructure; target the replacement of home septic systems; and prevent lead contamination from water in high-risk daycare centers and schools.

Aquatic Invasive Species
Great Lakes advocates got a shock on November 1: environmental DNA (eDNA) from two species of Asian carp had been found in Chicago’s “Bubbly Creek,” a body of water just five miles from Lake Michigan.

From a total of 414 water samples taken October 8-10 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in the Chicago Area Waterway System above the electric barrier, 49 were positive for Silver carp eDNA while another 27 were positive for Bighead carp eDNA. Environmental DNA in and of itself doesn’t mean the fish are present – only that their genetic material is present from some source vector (their own scales or feces, or bird feces, for example).

The discovery triggered a more intensive round of targeted intensive sampling and assessments that began during the week of November 18 (postponed two weeks thanks to the early onset of Arctic temperatures) and renewed calls for quicker action to strengthen the anti-fish barriers at Brandon Road Lock & Dam.

In a November 4 letter to Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the Brandon Road complex, Michigan confirmed its pledge of $8 million in state funds toward local matching funds for the preconstruction, engineering, and design phase of that $778 million project.

A subsequent story posted on the news website mLive, however, focused on the unusual results and quoted Amy McGovern, an aquatic invasive species supervisor with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife service, saying there’s a suspicion the eDNA hits could be related to either human waste or wash water from fish markets.

McGovern said the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has a pumping station near Bubbly Creek which sends wastewater to a regional treatment plant and is “pumping a significant amount of material into the water near a community that eats a lot of dead Asian carp.”

The Wildlife Service wants to sample inside the sewer system, the story said.

According to MWRD, the station discharged to the creek twice just prior to the eDNA sampling; 731 million gallons on October 3 and 185 million gallons on October 5, the mLive story said.

Also quoted was Kevin Irons, aquatic nuisance species program manager at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, saying the abnormally high number of hits in one location caught regulators by surprise.
Water Consumption
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus is tracking several measures on water consumption in the region's state capitols and in Washington, D.C. Here are some of the more notable recent developments.

  • States will have authority for one year to transfer some money from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to address lead contamination in drinking water. S. 1689 was signed into law in October.
  • Michigan's new budget includes more than $100 million in one-time state dollars for initiatives that protect drinking water — for example, $25 million to address PFAS and emerging contaminants and $35 million for the Drinking Water Revolving Fund Loan Program. To begin implementation of the state's new lead and copper rule, legislators appropriated more than $37 million. The rule is considered the most protective of its kind in the country. It includes new lead action levels, a required inventory of lead service lines, and the gradual replacement of lead service lines.
  • Leveraging federal dollars from the Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, Wisconsin has launched a new program to fund lead abatement in the homes of low-income children and pregnant women. Among the services to be provided: the replacement of fixtures such as faucets.
  • Bills introduced recently in Michigan and Wisconsin seek to protect children from being exposed to lead and other contaminants. Michigan's "Filter First" bills, for example, would require all schools and day care centers to install filtered faucets, water bottle filling stations, and on-tap filters in sinks. Those bills include HB 5104, HB 5105, SB 589, and SB 590. In Wisconsin, various bills (AB 475, AB 476, SB 423, and SB 424) would require that lead testing be conducted at schools and child care centers, and that corrective actions be taken if the tests show elevated levels.
Toxic Substances
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would get a $10 million boost in funding under a spending bill approved in October by the U.S. Senate. The GLRI was established a decade ago and currently is funded at $300 million annually.

In September, a U.S. House committee approved a bill that envisions even higher funding levels — a gradual increase to $475 million a year by FY 2026.

One of the GLRI's primary goals is accelerating the removal of toxic substances and cleaning up " Areas of Concern" across the Great Lakes. That will continue to be a point of emphasis in the years ahead, as evidenced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recently released action plan for fiscal years 2020-2024.

The new action plan's goals include completing the cleanup of five of these 10 Areas of Concern:

  • Grand Calumet River in Indiana,
  • Cuyahoga River in Ohio,
  • Lower Green Bay/Fox River in Wisconsin,
  • St. Louis River in Minnesota and Wisconsin,
  • Maumee River in Ohio,
  • St. Lawrence River in New York,
  • Milwaukee Estuary in Wisconsin,
  • Torch Lake in Michigan,
  • Rouge River in Michigan, and
  • Eighteen Mile Creek in New York.

Which of the five sites will be completed depends upon the complexity and extent of the remaining actions that need to be completed at each site.
Coastal Communities
great lakes beach
To help states and local governments better prepare for storms, manage floods, restore ecosystems, and plan smarter developments, federal lawmakers are considering a measure that would have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conduct a comprehensive mapping of the nation's shorelines. The Digital Coast Act, H.R. 2189, was passed by a House committee in September. The Senate version of the bill, S. 1069, passed out of committee on November 13.

This summer, across the Great Lakes, coastal communities have been dealing with the effects of record-high or near-record-high water levels. In July, U.S. Rep. John Katko of New York introduced legislation that would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to partner with the Great Lakes states to assess threats and resiliency measures for coastal communities. That measure is H.R. 4032.
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. GLLC members and other legislators are encouraged to send their bills for posting to gllc@csg.org. Here are links to the 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. For more information, visit the GLLC website or contact Lisa Janairo, director of the GLLC, at ljanairo@csg.org or 920.458.5910.