Legislation introduced to boost Great Lakes funding

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U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) today introduced bipartisan legislation to spur Great Lakes funding and research efforts and help support effective fishery management decisions.

The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act gives the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the legislative authority to support the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry.

Despite holding one-fifth of the world’s fresh water, the Great Lakes science program does not have the same funding authorization as science centers on saltwater coasts, and this legislation will close the resource gap between the Great Lakes Science Center and other fishery research centers across the country.

“The Great Lakes ecosystem is a natural treasure and a vibrant economic driver,” said Senator Peters, Ranking Member of Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard. “The Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act will create a steady funding stream and give the USGS, Great Lakes Science Center the legislative authority it needs to conduct the cutting edge research that will protect native fish populations and target invasive species.”

"The Great Lakes are an invaluable resource to Ohio, critically important to both our environment and our economy,” said Senator Portman, co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force. “By authorizing the USGS’s Great Lakes Science Center for the first time, we are prioritizing the research on fish populations and invasive species used by the Great Lakes states as well as Canada to support the health and growth of our $7 billion fishing industry. This bill will ensure we have the resources to help protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.”

“Our Great Lakes and waterways are part of who we are and our way of life,” said Senator Stabenow, Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force. “From water quality issues to invasive species, there are so many challenges facing our lakes and fisheries, which is why funding for cutting-edge research is so important.”

“Senator Peters, Senator Portman, and Senator Stabenow understand that the Great Lakes define our region and are major economic drivers,” said David Ullrich, Chairman of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “The legislation they introduce today recognizes that this world-class resource will only be sustained through 21st Century science. The fishery is worth $7 billion annually to the people of the region, and the tools provided in this bill will help us realize these substantial benefits.”

The USGS Great Lakes Science Center is currently funded through the USGS’s base appropriation with no dedicated funding source of its own.

The USGS, Great Lakes Science Center needs authorizing legislation and a reliable funding stream to conduct and modernize fishery research throughout the five Great Lakes to support wise fishery management decisions.. This bill gives the USGS Director more leverage to devote money to the Great Lakes and authorizes $17.5M per year for fiscal years 2018-2027.

Based in Ann Arbor, the Great Lakes Science Center maintains staff and field stations in five of the eight Great Lakes States, including Michigan, Ohio, New York, Indiana and Wisconsin. It owns and operates five large fishery research vessels and is the only agency that conducts lake-wide fisheries science assessments on each of the five Great Lakes.

Their research has included advancing a suite of projects to support restoration efforts of native prey fish populations throughout the Great Lakes basin; leading world-class research on the most notable invasive species in the history of the Great Lakes: the parasitic sea lamprey; and helping to implement one of the largest freshwater telemetry fish-movement-tracking networks in the world.    

Also today, U.S. Senators Stabenow and Peters and Congressman Dan Kildee (MI-05) introduced resolutions, in both the House and Senate, expressing opposition to construction of a nuclear waste repository less than a mile from Lake Huron in Ontario.

“Canada is facing a critical decision that will impact generations in both our countries,” said Senator Stabenow.  “A nuclear waste spill near the Great Lakes could have a devastating impact on our health and environment and threaten our Michigan way of life.  Given what is at stake, I urge our Canadian neighbors to make the right choice and shelve plans for this site once and for all.”

“The Canadian proposal to build a permanent nuclear waste repository less than a mile from Lake Huron could cause significant, lasting damage to the Great Lakes and undermine the progress we have made cleaning up the water quality in the Great Lakes Basin,” said Senator Peters. “President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson should make every effort to prevent the Canadian government from moving forward with this proposal and work to find an alternative solution that does not jeopardize the health of the Great Lakes.”

“Permanently storing nuclear waste less than a mile from Lake Huron just doesn’t make sense and poses a great risk to our Great Lakes,” said Congressman Kildee. “From Detroit to Toronto, a growing number of people – in both the U.S. and Canada – have voiced opposition to this dangerous plan. Surely in the vast land mass that comprises Canada, there must be a better place to permanently store nuclear waste than on the shores of Lake Huron.”

U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Al Franken (D-MN), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) are also original co-sponsors of the Senate resolution.  Mike Bishop (MI-08), Debbie Dingell (MI-12), David Joyce (OH-14), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), Mark Pocan (WI-02), David Trott (MI-11), Jackie Walorski (IN-02), Luis Gutiérrez (IL-04), Sander Levin (MI-09), Paul Mitchell (MI-10), Brian Higgins (NY-26), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), and John Moolenaar (MI-04) are also original co-sponsors of the House resolution.

Over 40 million people in Canada and the United States get their drinking water from the Great Lakes and the highly toxic waste could take tens of thousands of years to decompose to safe levels. Ontario Power Generation is currently seeking approval from the Canadian Ministry of Environment to build a deep geologic repository to permanently store 7 million cubic feet of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste.  The facility would be located less than 1 mile from Lake Huron in Kincardine, Ontario.

The resolution urges the President and Secretary of State to work with their counterparts to prevent a permanent nuclear waste repository from being built within the Great Lakes Basin. It further states that the U.S. and Canada should develop a safe and responsible solution for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.

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