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News Release

May 8, 2008


Levin and Voinovich Introduce Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008

WASHINGTON – Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Senator George Voinovich, R-Ohio, co-chairmen of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 to expand on legislation passed six years ago. The bill aims to clean up contaminated expanses in the Great Lakes known as “Areas of Concern” within 10 years.

“The Great Lakes are an indispensable natural, economic and recreation resource for Michigan and many other states,” said Sen. Levin. “We must continue the progress we’ve made on cleaning up the contaminated sites in the lakes. This legislation builds on the existing Legacy program in several crucial ways and will help protect and restore this unique treasure for the benefit of citizens throughout the Midwest and across the nation.”

“Protecting and restoring the Great Lakes has been a top priority of mine throughout my political career,” Sen. Voinovich said. “As co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, I am focused on working with the Great Lakes delegation to advance restoration efforts in this critical region. This bill will provide EPA with the tools and resources to remove contaminated sediment and clean up Areas of Concern and is a vital piece of a comprehensive strategy that is absolutely necessary to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.”

The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 focuses on Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. Forty-three Areas of Concern have been identified in the Great Lakes, 13 of which are in Michigan and four in Ohio. These sites do not meet the water quality goals established by the United States and Canada in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, mainly because of contaminated sediments from historic industrial activity. This contamination results in several detrimental consequences including fish advisories, degradation of fish and wildlife populations, taste and odor problems with drinking water, beach closures, and bird and animal deformities or reproductive problems.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008 would authorize $150 million annually for clean up of the Areas of Concern within 10 years. The legislation gives the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) greater flexibility to manage funds by allowing the EPA to distribute funds directly to contractors and would provide relief to states from burdensome requirements. Under this bill, eligible projects would be expanded to include habitat restoration. Many Areas of Concern cannot be delisted until habitat restoration work is done. Also, the bill would give the EPA the discretion to provide Legacy Act monies to demonstration and pilot projects.

The Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2002 contributed significantly to the effort to clean up Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes. Almost 800,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments have been removed since the program was created in 2002. This material has been safely removed from riverbeds so that it no longer poses a threat to human health or the wildlife.

The cosponsors of the bill are Senators Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Summary of Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008

* Gives EPA the Discretion to Provide Legacy Act Funds to Demonstration and Pilot Projects: This provision would amend the definition of “eligible project” to include demonstration and pilot projects using innovative approaches, technologies, and techniques for the remediation of sediment contamination. While demonstration and pilot projects are currently authorized in a separate section of the law, EPA has said that without a specific appropriation for such work, it will not fund these types of projects.

* Allows Legacy Money to Be Used for Habitat Restoration: This amendment would add aquatic habitat restoration projects to the definition of “Eligible Projects.” While contaminated sediments are the primary reason why sites are listed as Areas of Concerns, there are additional issues that need to be addressed in order to be delisted.

* Polluter Eligibility: This amendment would clarify that polluting parties may participate in future Legacy projects.

* Maintenance of Effort: Current law requires that state resources going to a site be maintained after Legacy funds are awarded. The current law has had unintended consequences because expenditures can widely fluctuate from year to year. Rather than waste non-federal money by requiring that it be spent at the previous year’s level, the amendment would strike the requirement.

* Funding Flexibility: Current law limits how the EPA may distribute Legacy funds to contractors. Unfortunately, that limitation has caused delay at various project sites when a contractor has begun work for the non-federal partner. This amendment would provide greater flexibility to the EPA by allowing them to use an existing contractor.

* Authorization of Appropriations: This amendment would increase the amount authorized to be appropriated from $50 million to $150 million per year for projects. The significant increase in the authorization of appropriations is a recommendation from the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy. In that Strategy, participants calculated that $150 million per year would be needed to cleanup the contaminated sediments at the Areas of Concern within 10 years.


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