U.S. Senate Prepares to Take up Great Lakes and National Restoration Bills

A year ago, a group of organizations and individuals who work on restoration projects around the nation met in New Orleans, La. Why? To discuss forming a coalition to fight for federal dollars to restore our nation’s most important aquatic ecosystems. Now, the U.S. Senate is preparing to take up a host of bills that would jump-start restoration efforts across the country.

That’s great news—and reflects the subsequent efforts of the Great Waters Coalition and its members—including the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition.

The Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee was scheduled to hold a mark up on a package of restoration bills this Thursday. We are now hearing that the mark-up will be pushed back a week. This is welcome news—and we hope that the Senate EPW tackles these bills as as they can.

The Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection Act (S.3073) is one of the ecosystem restoration bills that the committee will consider. It is an important bill for the Great Lakes. The legislation rolls the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Great Lakes Legacy Act and the Great Lakes National Program Office into one authorization to be held every five years. If it passes, it will mean that we will not have to fight each year for each seperate bill and we can really roll up our collective sleeves and get to work on restoration.

In addition to GLEPA, the restoration package being considered by the Senate committee includes the Clean Estuaries Act, the Puget Sound Recovery Act, the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, Columbia River Restoration Act, Gulf of Mexico Restoration and Protections Act and the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act.

On Capitol Hill last year, numerous congressmen joined restoration activists to laude the launch of the Great Waters Coalition, because a unified voice carries a lot of weight in the halls of Congress and with the White House. The goal of the coalition was to band together so that all of the nation’s great waters could receive federal support for their restoration efforts. The bills currently being considered by the Senate EPW represent a huge step forward for restoration across the nation. And that is good for the ecology and really good for the economy.

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