Great Lakes Basin Compact now moves to Congress
With the recent signing by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm of that state’s legislation
ratifying the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, the focus shifts to the U.S. Congress which must grant its consent for the Compact to become law. All eight Great Lakes states and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Québec have approved the agreement which ensures that authority over Great Lakes water usage is retained in the region, and promotes efforts toward water conservation and efficiency.
Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said, “It is gratifying to see our region uniting as never before to protect the Great Lakes. We must now build on this momentum, working with our congressional partners to turn these protections into law.”
Support in Congress appears to be building; according to the Council of Great Lakes Governors, at last report more than 20 members of Congress including both of the presumptive nominees of the major parties (Senator McCain and Senator Obama) have expressed their support for the Compact. Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan), Senator George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Congressman James L. Oberstar (D-Minnesota) will lead efforts to secure the consent of the U.S. Congress.
In addition to safeguarding Great Lakes water from diversion from the basin without consent of the signatory states and provinces, the Compact provides a comprehensive management framework for achieving sustainable water use and resource protection. The eight Great Lakes States reached a similar, good faith, agreement with Ontario and Québec in 2005, which the Provinces are using to amend their existing water programs for greater regional consistency. Contact: Tim Eder, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislation reauthorizing Great Lakes Legacy Act moves forward
One of the Commission’s top congressional priorities is moving forward with legislation reauthorizing the Great Lakes Legacy Act now introduced in both the House and Senate. Passed into law in 2002, the Legacy Act authorizes funding to clean up contaminated sediments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern designated under the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and George Voinovich (R-OH) introduced S. 2994 in May, and Representatives James Oberstar (D-MN) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) introduced H.R. 6460 last week.
The Legacy Act program has been highly successful in cleaning up toxic hot spots in Great Lakes rivers and harbors and has become a cornerstone of Great Lakes restoration efforts. With strong support from the Great Lakes states and other nonfederal partners, the Legacy Act has already removed nearly a million cubic yards of toxic sediments from the Great Lakes.
Reflecting the collective experience of the eight Great Lakes States, the Commission has presented Congress with a detailed suite of recommendations for improving the Legacy Act’s effectiveness and efficiency. The House and Senate bills respond to many of the Commission’s recommendations and staff are working with the sponsors of the bills to resolve outstanding issues. Together with other regional partners, the Commission is urging the Great Lakes Congressional delegation to pass the legislation and ensure the Legacy Act is reauthorized and strengthened during the current session of Congress. Contact: Matt Doss, email@example.com.
Basin Program resumes grants, awarding over $350,000 for 2008 projects
Over $354,000 in grant funding will be distributed this year among 17 projects selected by the Great Lakes Commission under its Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control. The Basin Program improves Great Lakes water quality by promoting erosion and sediment control and sound land-use practices through demonstration grants, technical assistance and information/education projects in the Great Lakes states.
The 2008 awards mark a return to project funding by the program which suspended grant activity in 2007 while the Farm Bill authorization was awaiting passage in Congress. The program is conducted through a cooperative agreement between the Great Lakes Commission and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service. Grant recipients are selected by the Commission's Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Task Force, comprised of state and federal officials.
Grants were awarded to projects in all eight Great Lakes states. Projects range in scale from $6,448 for promoting best agricultural management practices along Lake Erie up to $40,000 each for three riverbank stabilization and agricultural soil runoff programs in two states. Contact: Gary Overmier, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workshop held to identify benefits of restoring Areas of Concern in Michigan
A June 18 workshop held in Lansing, Mich., explored how cleanup efforts in Michigan's 14 Great Lakes Areas of Concern are generating economic benefits for local communities. The session included an overview of methodologies and strategies for assessing and communicating about economic benefits from river restoration efforts, as well as case studies of how local communities are benefiting from cleanup work. Four project sites highlighted were the Manistique River, the Detroit River, Muskegon Lake and White Lake, and the Rouge River.
Participants included members of local public advisory councils, elected officials, economic development and environmental organizations, and others interested in the impact of environmental restoration on economic development. Discussions focused on content and data needs, and resources for communications and marketing. Workshop sponsors included the Statewide Public Advisory Council for Michigan's Great Lakes Areas of Concern Program; the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality; U.S. EPA, Great Lakes National Program Office; and the Great Lakes Commission. Contact Matt Doss, email@example.com.
Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species holds first-ever joint meeting with Mississippi River counterpart
In the first joint meeting of the two groups, the Great Lakes Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species held a combined session in Milwaukee June 17-18 with the Mississippi River Basin Panel. A key objective of the meeting was to provide a forum to facilitate further communication and opportunities for collaboration among members of both panels given the shared issues of concern existing within these interconnected watersheds.
The meeting focused on common priority issues, such as the transfer of aquatic invasive species (AIS) between basins, the recently discovered lethal fish virus VHS (viral hemorrhagic septicemia) and ballast water. Sessions included a 20-year retrospective on lessons learned from the zebra mussel infestation in the Great Lakes, and discussions on the AIS risk presented by commercial and recreational activities other than vessel ballast water. Contact: Kathe Glassner-Shwayder, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Sea Grant Fellow joins Great Lakes Commission
Kristina Donnelly was recently named the 2008-09 Sea Grant Fellow at the Great Lakes Commission and started her one-year fellowship in June. Donnelly graduated with a Master of Science in 2008 from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment, with a focus on water resource management. Her master's project involved developing a water sustainability strategy for a global, research driven pharmaceutical company. In addition, she worked with her academic advisor, Dr. Don Scavia, on updating a dynamic model of hypoxia occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico.
Donnelly received a B.S. in Mathematics in 2005 from the American University in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she spent a year working as an analyst with an environmental consulting firm in Arlington, Va. Contact: email@example.com.
Three new interns join Great Lakes Commission staff
The Great Lakes Commission recently welcomed three new interns, including two from Quebec. The Quebec government sponsors two interns for a six-month period to work on projects of shared interest between Quebec and the Commission.
Maite Chavez of Montreal holds a Master of Science degree in Management of Marine Resources from the University of Quebec in Rimouski, and is working toward a Master of Science degree in Agricultural Economics at McGill University. She also holds a Bachelor's Degree in Fishery Engineering from La Molina Agrarian National University in Lima, Peru. Maite will be working primarily on issues involving aquatic invasive species.
Sarah Gagnon-Turcotte, also of Montreal, holds a Master's degree in International Law from the University of Quebec in Montreal, and a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from the University of Montreal. Sarah's project work at the Commission will include the International Submerged Lands conference and renewable energy policy. She is also researching state and provincial policy on adaptation to climate change.
John Cherry III of Ann Arbor is a summer intern at the Commission working on alternative energy programs and the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment and is working toward a Master's degree in Public Policy.