Fall Edition | 2020
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence News for Legislators
GLLC Member News
At Annual Meeting, Caucus Members Elect New Leaders, Agree on Coastal Resiliency as Policy Focus for 2021 Birkholz Institute

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic seeming to slow things down, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus has had a very fast-paced few months as we approach the end of 2020. In September and October, the GLLC held its 2020 Annual Meeting over four virtual sessions, each one focusing on an issue on the GLLC’s policy agenda: lead in drinking water, nutrient management to protect water quality, PFAS contamination, and meeting the needs of coastal communities through partnerships with other organizations (e.g., the Great Lakes Commission, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors & Premiers, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative). Recordings of all four meetings are available on the GLLC website, along with the briefing book that accompanied the meetings.

GLLC members also conducted business during the virtual events. Members voted to focus the Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy on the subject of helping communities to become climate resilient. This work will build on efforts of the Great Lakes Commission's Standing Committee on Climate Resilience, which is developing an action plan for the region. The institute will take place in late 2021; a steering committee of GLLC members and representatives of partner organizations will develop the plans beginning in January.

Members also approved seven policy resolutions on topics that included the need for action to address PFAS contamination of drinking water, the dangers of coal-tar-based sealants, and a LIHEAP-like program for water and wastewater utility customers. The GLLC also passed a resolution honoring GLLC chair Ed Charbonneau, state senator from Indiana, as his term as chair winds down. All eight resolutions are available on the GLLC's virtual meetings web page.

New Leadership Team Will Take Office on Jan. 1
As the final item of business, GLLC members elected a new leadership team for the upcoming biennium. Succeeding Sen. Charbonneau as chair in 2021-2022 will be Illinois Rep. Robyn Gabel, the GLLC’s current vice chair. She previously served three terms as Illinois’ representative on the GLLC Executive Committee. Minnesota Rep. Jennifer Schultz, a two-term member of the GLLC's Executive Committee, was elected to serve as vice chair.

The Executive Committee will welcome five new members in 2021-2022: Illinois Rep. Sonya Harper, Indiana Rep. David Abbott, Michigan Rep. Joe Tate, Minnesota Sen. Carrie Ruud and New York Assemblyman Mark Walczyk.

Wisconsin Rep. Nick Milroy will be returning to the committee, having served previously in 2017-2018. Rounding out the GLLC’s leadership team are Ontario MPP Jennifer French, Québec MNA Gilles Bélanger, Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Sonney, Wisconsin Sen. André Jacque (chair of the GLLC Task Force on Nutrient Management), and past GLLC chairs Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest and Indiana Sen. Ed Charbonneau.
Completing their terms on the Executive Committee are Illinois Sen. Laura Fine, Indiana Sen. Rick Niemeyer, Michigan Sen. Curt VanderWall, New York Assemblyman Peter Lawrence and Wisconsin Rep. Beth Meyers. We thank all these members for their commitment to the GLLC and their dedication to advancing policies that protect people and the water resources they depend upon in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River region.

Engage in Your Organization
GLLC membership offers many benefits to state and provincial legislators. One of those benefits is the opportunity to work with colleagues from across the region to advance shared goals to ensure 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.

Current members will soon be asked to update their contact information and preferences for engaging in GLLC activities. Members are welcome to join the caucus’s Task Force on Nutrient Management and the Birkholz Institute Steering Committee, both of which will be active through at least the end of 2021. Other committees may organize as the need arises. In addition, interested GLLC members may be tapped to represent the caucus at meetings of other Great Lakes groups and as part of collaborative projects involving these organizations. Members who serve on one or more committees are eligible to receive travel scholarships, when available, to defray the costs of attending the GLLC’s annual meetings. In 2021, the GLLC Annual Meeting is scheduled to take place in Québec City, Québec, on Sept. 24-25.

Another way to be an active GLLC member is to reach out to legislative colleagues — both old and new, and on both sides of the aisle — to join the caucus and to attend our events in 2021. State and provincial legislators from the eight states and two provinces may enroll as GLLC members via our online form. Even newly elected legislators may join at this time, with their "official" membership beginning once they are sworn into legislative office. Watch for the 2021 calendar to come out early next year, and please spread the word about the GLLC — the only Great Lakes 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.

Developments Related to GLLC Policy Agenda
Water Consumption
Wisconsin health officials are proposing new groundwater standards for 22 substances, including 12 PFAS chemicals. The state’s Department of Health Services released the proposed standards in November, a year-and-a-half after the Department of Natural Resources recommended assessing 40 compounds (34 of which were PFAS) for potential health risks.

The DNR will now begin the process of turning the newly released recommendations into a new rule. PFAS chemicals have been used for decades in a variety of products — for example, carpeting, fast food packaging, pizza boxes, firefighting foams and waterproof fabrics. The stability of these chemicals means they don’t break down and can accumulate in drinking water.

PFAS chemicals are now drawing intense scrutiny from scientists, regulators and legislators as their health hazards have become much more well-known in recent years.

On Dec. 2, 4 and 9, the GLLC and the Center for Scientific Evidence in Public Issues at the American Association for the Advancement of Science are hosting a series of virtual roundtable discussions on PFAS and drinking water. The series will consist of an informational background session (Dec. 2 or 4) followed by a roundtable to explore policy opportunities, challenges and ideas for communicating with constituents. The sessions are open to all GLLC members, other Great Lakes legislators (including newly elected ones) and legislative staff. There is no charge to attend the 90-minute sessions, but registration is required.

Earlier this fall, the GLLC dedicated a session of its 2020 virtual Annual Meeting to Michigan’s response to PFAS contamination. That session included a featured presentation from Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy.

Caucus members also approved a resolution calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to "expedite establishing [a maximum contaminant level] for" PFOS and PFOA chemicals, and urging states to establish a collaborative task force that would develop mitigation plans in the absence of federal action.
Nutrient Pollution
In September, following the recommendation of the Task Force on Nutrient Management, the GLLC Executive Committee adopted "Model Policies to Reduce Nutrient Pollution in the Great Lakes Region." This document was developed over the course of a year following the inaugural Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy, which took place in October 2019 in Detroit. The task force is led by Wisconsin Sen. André Jacque.

Task force members are now charged with the significant task of seeking to implement these model policies across the region — ideally with help from their GLLC member colleagues. To track progress, the task force is working with staff from the Great Lakes Commission to develop content for the Blue Accounting platform. State and provincial legislative activity will be recorded on the site as the task force takes coordinated regional action to implement evidence-based policies for keeping excess nutrients out of the Great Lakes and other waterbodies throughout the region.

The task force will also organize one or two webinars in 2021 to educate legislators about model programs for incentivizing agricultural producers to adopt best practices for managing nutrients. In 2019, Birkholz Fellows learned first-hand about Michigan's Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program by touring Darling Farms, a MAEAP-verified farm (see photo above). Another program of note is Wisconsin's Producer-Led Watershed Protection Grants program. A demonstration of the continually evolving and improving Blue Accounting website will also be on the calendar of GLLC events next year. (This site is managed by the Great Lakes Commission.)

On Nov. 13, during the Task Force on Nutrient Management's most recent meeting, members heard from Nicole Zacharda of the Great Lakes Commission about "Conservation Kick" — an innovative pilot program that seeks to bring water utilities and upstream agricultural producers together to promote conservation practices. These practices benefit producers by reducing nutrient losses, which then benefit water utilities by protecting source water. The commission is seeking producers and water utilities that would be interested in participating in the pilot program. Successful partnerships will involve drinking water utilities buying credits created by agricultural producers to reduce the amount of nutrients entering the Great Lakes, their tributaries and other waterbodies. As part of this grant-funded project, the commission will provide up to $10,000 in matching funds to each of five municipalities that participates in Conservation Kick. To learn more, read this informational fact sheet. To explore whether your community might be a good fit for the project, reach out to Nicole Zacharda of the Great Lakes Commission staff.

More information on the Task Force on Nutrient Management can be found on the GLLC website. New members are always welcome to join. Simply email Lisa Janairo about your interest in serving.ore information on the Task Force on Nutrient Management can be found on the GLLC website.
Aquatic Invasive Species
As part of their budgets for fiscal year 2021, two states have set aside money for the pre-construction, engineering and design phase of a project that aims to greatly reduce the likelihood of Asian carp and other aquatic invasive species entering the Great Lakes via the Chicago Area Waterway System.

The most recent legislative action came in September, when Michigan lawmakers approved $8 million in spending for the Brandon Road Lock & Dam project.

The Chicago Area Waterway System (a mix of natural and engineered waterways that connect the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan) is the most likely pathway for Asian carp to reach the Great Lakes; Brandon Road in Joliet, Ill., has been identified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as the best site for new controls to prevent the upstream movement of aquatic invasive species through this system.
The Corps’ plan includes installation of an electric barrier, an acoustic fish deterrent, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock.

Whether this project ever gets started and completed, however, depends in part on securing a financial commitment from a non-federal partner. All Army Corps projects require such a partner, and with Brandon Road, Illinois is the host state and likely to assume much of the share of non-federal costs.

Illinois’ FY 2021 budget for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources includes a line item of $2.5 million for Brandon Road. Michigan legislators’ decision to assist with pre-construction funding reflects the importance of the project to the Great Lakes.

Another requirement for moving to the pre-construction, engineering and design phase is the signing of a formal agreement between Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Army Corps. The signing delay has been due in part to concerns about language in the agreement seen as conflicting with Illinois water law, Anna-Lisa Castle, water policy manager for the Alliance for the Great Lakes, said in an interview earlier this year with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Legislative Caucus.

Typically, the cost distribution for an Army Corps project is 65 percent from the federal government vs. 35 percent from the non-federal sponsor. Various congressional proposals this year would authorize Brandon Road and provide a greater federal cost share — as high as 80:20.
Toxic Substances
Michigan officials in mid-November revoked and terminated the 67-year-old easement for Line 5, the dual oil pipelines in the Straits of Mackinac, and filed a lawsuit asking a state court to recognize the validity of this action.

The notice from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Natural Resources director Dan Eichinger to pipeline operator Enbridge orders the Canadian company to shut down Line 5 by May 2021. It does not prevent Enbridge from continuing to seek the necessary legal approvals to construct a tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac for a new pipeline.

Gov. Whitmer said she took action after finding that Enbridge "has repeatedly violated" the 1953 easement. Moreover, she said, state officials "found that the 1953 easement violated the public trust doctrine from its inception because the easement does not make the necessary public trust findings" and that "continued use of the dual pipelines cannot be reconciled with the public's rights in the Great Lakes and the state's duty to protect them."

In a statement, Enbridge said there is no "credible basis" for terminating the easement, and that Michigan’s DNR “operated in a non-public manner” and rejected the company's offer to discuss questions with the company's technical experts. The state's conduct, Enbridge said, goes against the 2018 agreement between the state and the oil company, Enbridge said.

"This notice and the report from Michigan Department of Natural Resources are a distraction from the fundamental facts," said Vern Yu, executive vice president and president of liquid pipelines for Enbridge. "Line 5 remains safe, as envisioned by the 1953 easement, and as recently validated by our federal safety regulator."

Line 5 runs 645 miles from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario. That includes a four-mile stretch of dual pipelines that cross the Straits (which connects lakes Michigan and Huron) on top of the lakebed. According to Enbridge, 65 percent of the homes in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula are heated by the propane carried by Line 5.

The two press releases below reflect the legislative split in Michigan over the recent action taken by Gov. Whitmer.

Coastal Communities
Rising lake levels, the shoreline damage they cause and the cost to coastal communities are attracting considerable attention from respected news sources such as The Pew Charitable Trusts to the Chicago Tribune.

According to Pew: "Sheboygan, Wisconsin, is looking at costs of more than $30 million to replace water intake and sewer lines near Lake Michigan. Lake County, Ohio, needs $20 million to $30 million in erosion control work on public and private land along Lake Erie. Duluth, Minnesota, has seen $26 million in damage as storms on Lake Superior have struck the city’s signature 8-mile lake walk and water treatment plant."

In the Michigan town of Ludington, a water treatment plant "once 100 feet from the shoreline is now just 8 feet from the breaking waves of Lake Michigan. If the plant is swamped, the city would lose its water supply."Likewise, South Haven, Mich., is looking at a $20 million price tag to save its wastewater and water filtration plants, a drawbridge, river walkway and the city marina.

Great Lakes water levels are now in "their period of seasonal decline," the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers noted in a Nov. 20 bulletin. In addition, levels are below what they were in November 2019 — between two to four inches lower in lakes Erie, Michigan-Huron, Superior and St. Clair and 17 inches lower in Lake Ontario. Levels are still higher than the historic average for November.

The GLLC’s 2021 Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy will focus on strategies to help coastal communities become more climate resilient. GLLC members are encouraged to contact Lisa Janairo if they are interested in serving on the Birkholz Institute Steering Committee.
Legislative Tracker
The GLLC monitors 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.

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.
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 ljanairo@csg.org or 920.458.5910. CSG Midwest's Tim Anderson, Jon Davis and Lisa Janairo contributed to this newsletter, with assistance from Jenny Chidlow.