ANN ARBOR, MICH. (December 9, 2020) – The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 yesterday, paving the way for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investments to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes and to prevent flooding in communities through nature-based solutions. The bill (S. 1811) also prioritizes better consultation with local communities—especially those that have historically borne the brunt of pollution, such as minority, low-income and indigenous communities—when carrying out projects. The bill does not re-authorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the successful program that has been cleaning up toxic pollution, restoring wildlife habitat, and reducing runoff pollution.
Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said:
“This bill advances important priorities for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their drinking water, health, jobs, and quality of life. We support many provisions in this bill and look forward to final passage by the Senate. However, we are disappointed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act was left out of the final package. We look forward to working with bipartisan members of Congress to ensure that we re-authorize this important program that is producing results for the environment and economy. Serious threats remain, and it’s important to address these problems now, before they get worse and most expensive to solve.”
The bill now heads to the Senate for final passage. It includes several provisions that are important to Great Lakes communities, including:
- Authorizing Brandon Road Lock and Dam to help prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.
- Expanding the Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study that will provide critical guidance to help protect communities, infrastructure and ecosystems from flooding and high lake levels.
- Prioritizing nature-based features (vegetation such as wetlands, parks, rain gardens) in Army Corps projects.
- New standards for consultation with local and vulnerable communities.
- New technical assistance and pilot programs to address resiliency planning and flood risk reduction in economically disadvantaged and rural communities.
The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition sent a letter to House and Senate leaders, supporting Great Lakes priorities in the bill, while urging Congress to enact the full five-year reauthorization for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative via some other method, as previously proposed and passed, with incremental increases to its original funding level of $475 million.
Since 2004, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 160 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at www.healthylakes.org or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.