Summer Edition | August 19, 2019
Great Lakes-St. Lawrence News for Legislators
GLLC Member News
2019 Annual Meeting

In a few weeks, GLLC members will convene in Chicago for the Caucus's 2019 Annual Meeting on September 13-14. Asian carp will be the focus of the afternoon site visit on September 13 as legislators and other attendees get 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. The program for Saturday, September 14, includes presentations from policy experts 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 more. Registration will close on August 30, so register soon if you plan to attend. Because hotel rooms at the Wyndham Grand Chicago Riverfront Hotel are in short supply, attendees are encouraged to book their rooms as soon as possible.

August 23 is the deadline for GLLC members to submit resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting. All proposed resolutions should have regional significance, address an issue that is timely and/or of pressing concern to the Great Lakes region, delineate desired outcomes, and include specific directions for follow-up action by GLLC staff. Before any resolution is considered by the membership, the GLLC Executive Committee must first approve it. Resolutions will be made available for members to review on September 6.
In news of other GLLC events, the Caucus will hold a quarterly web meeting on September 6 at
9 am Central/10 am Eastern. The featured presentation will examine the causes of high lake levels in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence region, the impacts on coastal communities, and the potential for alleviating these problems through action at the state and provincial level. Speaking on these topics will be David Allen Hart of the Wisconsin Sea Grant program. Following the presentation, the web meeting will continue with a brief business session to review proposed resolutions for consideration at the GLLC's Annual Meeting. Other business will be addressed as time permits. GLLC Chair Senator Ed Charbonneau (Indiana) will preside over the web meeting.

GLLC web meetings are intended primarily for members of the Caucus; however, they are open to all interested parties. All attendees are welcome to stay for the business session. Recordings of web meetings are posted on the GLLC’s website

GLLC Chair Sen. Ed Charbonneau Attends Leadership Summit
In June, Sen. Ed Charbonneau of Indiana, chair of the GLLC, traveled to Milwaukee to attend the Leadership Summit of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers. The biennial summit is the largest gathering for the executives of the Great Lakes states and provinces. At the meeting, Sen. Charbonneau took the opportunity to speak with each of the four governors in attendance to express his desire to forge strong ties between the legislative and executive branches of government on issues related to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. He also encouraged the governors to support the GLLC's effort to establish September 7, 2019, as "Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Appreciation Day." The next Leadership Summit will take place in Cleveland in 2021.
Sen. Charbonneau spoke with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (top right); Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a former GLLC member (above, left to right); Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (below left); and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (below right).
Inaugural Birkholz Institute Takes Shape
Planning for the GLLC's Patricia Birkholz Institute for Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Policy is entering the final stretch. Named in honor of the GLLC's founder, the late Michigan Sen. Patricia (Patty) Birkholz (pictured), the institute is intended to be a biennial event that will foster collaboration among GLLC members to address a specific issue on the Caucus's policy agenda. The focus of this year's institute is nutrient pollution from agricultural and urban areas, which fouls the Great Lakes and other water bodies in the region.

State and provincial legislators have been invited to be a part of the inaugural class of Birkholz Fellows, with the goal of bringing together a bipartisan group of 20 GLLC members representing all 10 jurisdictions in the basin. This select group of GLLC members will take a deep dive into the issue of nutrient pollution with the goal of identifying a path forward for coordinated regional action through the GLLC to help address the problem. The institute will consist of two web meetings to provide background information to Birkholz Fellows followed by an intensive working session in Detroit on October 25-27. Continuing work by the fellows will take place during 2020 through conference calls and a workshop at the GLLC's 2020 Annual Meeting in Detroit.

The Birkholz Institute is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation. This year's institute builds on the GLLC's experience hosting a pilot institute in 2018 focusing on lead in drinking water. Funding for the 2018 pilot was provided by the Joyce Foundation.
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
Ohio legislators' latest move to stop harmful algal blooms and curb nutrient pollution in Lake Erie is the creation of a new state fund devoted to water quality. A priority of first-year Gov. Mike DeWine, the H2Ohio Fund will get up to $172 million from the state's budget surplus. Three state entities — the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency — will establish separate advisory boards that determine which projects to finance. The fund is designed to tackle myriad water quality challenges in the state.

Ohio's new biennial budget ( HB 166) also creates a pilot program to assist farmers, agricultural retailers, and soil and water conservation districts in reducing phosphorus runoff. The Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Lake Erie Commission and Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission, will select a single watershed for this pilot project.

The (Toledo) Blade reported in early August that this year's algal bloom in Lake Erie is expected to be among the five largest since 2002 (see bar graph, courtesy of Ohio Sea Grant).
Aquatic Invasive Species
A proposed $778 million Asian carp control project took two important steps forward in recent months — approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' top general, and some movement in the U.S. Congress to fund it.

The plan calls for various controls (including a new electric barrier, an acoustic fish deterrent and an air bubble curtain) at the Brandon Road Lock and Dam in Illinois near Joliet. The Corps describes this location as a "potential one-way choke point in which to stop the spread of aquatic invasives like Asian carp."

Approval of the plan by the Corps' commanding general gives the U.S. Congress the ability to fund it. A few weeks after that decision, the U.S. House in June approved an appropriations bill for FY 2020 that included more dollars for the Corps' environmental restoration projects, thus allowing the Brandon Road project "to more easily compete for needed resources," U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio says.

The federal government covers 65 percent of the costs of a Corps project, with the remaining 35 percent coming from a non-federal sponsor. In the case of Brandon Road, that non-federal sponsor is Illinois. A final agreement still needs to be reached between the Corps and Illinois, and one possibility is that other jurisdictions in the Great Lakes basin will also contribute.

A study released in August by the University of Michigan concluded that "Asian carp are capable of surviving and growing in much larger portions of Lake Michigan than scientists previously believed."
Water Consumption
The legislative year in Great Lakes capitols was marked in part by two new laws in Minnesota and Illinois and initial approval of a proposed constitutional amendment in New York. Here is an overview of the three recent actions:

  • Minnesota lawmakers expanded on a 2017 law that requires public schools to test for the presence of lead in drinking water. With this year's passage of HF 1, a school district that finds lead must "formulate, make publicly available and implement a plan ... to ensure that student exposure to lead is minimized." That plan must include "immediately shutting off the water source or making it unavailable until the hazard has been minimized."
  • Illinois' HB 2650 requires the state's Environmental Protection Agency to prioritize a portion of water infrastructure funding to help disadvantaged communities build their capacity for "sustainable and equitable water management." Examples of how the money can be used include identifying and replacing lead-service lines, conducting studies on water rates, and developing asset management plans.
  • New York may join a handful of other U.S. states (including Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Montana) with constitutional protections in place to ensure access to clean air and water. The proposed constitutional amendment was passed by the state Assembly and Senate earlier this year. If approved again in the state's next two-year legislative session, the proposal would go before New York voters. lt states that "Each person shall have a right to clean air and water, and a healthful environment."
Toxic Substances
Annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would gradually rise from its current level of $300 million to $475 million by FY 2026 under a plan unveiled in July by a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. lawmakers from this region.

Since 2010, the GLRI has boosted federal investments in projects to control invasive species, protect native habitat and reduce nonpoint sources of pollution. But every year, the greatest amount of money has gone toward removing toxic substances and cleaning up "Areas of Concern" (see the EPA's pie chart showing how funds were allocated in FY 2017).

Areas of Concern are "toxic hotspots" in the Great Lakes basin where there has been a significant impairment of beneficial uses due to human activity. Since the start of the GLRI, 70 Beneficial Use Impairments in 23 Areas of Concern have been removed — seven times the number removed in the preceding 22 years, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Three Areas of Concern (White Lake and Deer Lake in Michigan, and Presque Isle Bay in Pennsylvania) have been delisted under the GLRI.

An August study by the International Association for Great Lakes Research examined the impact of cleanup efforts at 10 Areas of Concerns across the basin. The study concluded that "cleanup and restoration of degraded areas of the Great Lakes are also an important economic driver in revitalization of industrial heartland communities."

Along with the recent legislation to get GLRI funding to $475 million by FY 2026, some Great Lakes legislators have been working to boost the amount from $300 million (FY 2019) to $320 million (FY 2020), the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition reports.
Coastal Communities
High water levels in the Great Lakes are wreaking havoc on shorelines in coastal communities from the Rogers Park neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, to cabins in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, and beyond.

MLive, a statewide news site in Michigan, posted a story on the extensive damage being done by erosion and inland by rising water tables. The story notes lake water levels are anywhere from 14 inches (35.5 centimeters) to almost three feet (91 cm) above average, which triggered states of emergency after heavy spring flooding, emergency sandbagging along the Detroit River, and emergency road repairs in the state's Upper Peninsula on the eastern flank of the Porcupine Mountains.

There is an upside to higher lake levels, however, in that deeper water lets ships carry more cargo, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich., reported. Its story quotes Jayson Hron, spokesman for the Duluth Seaway Port Authority in Duluth, Minnesota, citing the lake freighter Edwin H. Gott, which can carry an additional 267 tons of iron ore per extra inch of draft.

“That’s something like $26,000 worth of extra ore per inch, so if you multiply that by 2 or 3 inches of water level, and then multiply it by more than 30 trips over the course of a shipping season, it adds up to some significant benefits,” Hron said.

“That’s something like $26,000 worth of extra ore per inch, so if you multiply that by 2 or 3 inches of water level, and then multiply it by more than 30 trips over the course of a shipping season, it adds up to some significant benefits,” Hron said.

Erosion is a major problem for the Indiana Dunes National Park, too, where Lake Michigan is threatening one of the state's major tourism destination, legislators were told in August.

Lake Ontario is threatening the Chimney Bluffs in New York, while Lake Erie is reshaping Ontario's shoreline along its waters.

To learn more about high water levels in the region, tune in to the GLLC's September 6 web meeting.
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 Here are links to the trackers:

D.C. Capitol
2019 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. There is no charge to attend web meetings. For the GLLC's Annual Meeting, registration is free for Caucus members, but there is a registration fee for other attendees. 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 or 920.458.5910.