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Peter D.
Democrat OR 4

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  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2016

    by Representative Peter A. DeFazio

    Posted on 2016-04-26

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    DeFAZIO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

    Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 223, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2016. This bill extends the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program which has had bipartisan support among the Great Lakes delegation for 5 years.

    I want to thank my colleagues, Representatives David Joyce, Dan Lipinski, and Rick Nolan, for their hard work and effort to extend the authorization of appropriations for this program through fiscal year 2021.

    These and other members of the Midwest delegation worked diligently to get this legislation to the floor for consideration. I want to thank them all for a job well done.

    It accelerates efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes, the largest system of surface freshwater in the world.

    Through unprecedented Federal agency coordination and the development of partnerships with the Great Lakes States and local communities, the initiative has already funded more than 2,000 projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitats, and prevent and control invasive species in the Great Lakes.

    Mr. Speaker, legislation similar to this bill was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016. However, that authorization was only for 1 fiscal year. This legislation provides for a full 5-year reauthorization.

    That timeline is necessary to allow many longer term projects to be planned, capitalized, and completed.

    Further, this bill will allow States and local communities to coordinate their efforts to combat harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes for the first time.

    The harmful algal blooms that shut down the drinking water system in Toledo, Ohio, for 3 days in 2014 and that re-emerged in 2015 are still fresh in our memories.

    For this reason, I am pleased that this legislation includes the text of H.R. 1923, sponsored by the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Ryan), to require EPA to appoint a Federal coordinator to work with the Federal agencies, the States, the tribes, and other stakeholders to address the recurring challenges of algal blooms in the Great Lakes.

    This coordinator will ensure that GLRI funds are utilized in the most efficient and effective way to reduce nutrients finding their way into the lakes.

    Lastly, this bill includes a savings clause to clarify that the GLRI authorization does not expand the regulatory authority of EPA related to restoration of the Great Lakes.

    I did not advocate for this provision. However, let's make it clear here today on the floor that this language should not be interpreted as preventing EPA or other Federal agencies from continuing to utilize their existing authorities to address ongoing water quality challenges facing the lakes.

    Accordingly, this bill should help ensure that the Federal departments are able to fund work using all the existing tools in the toolbox that cause harmful algal blooms and other pollution and prevent Asian carp from invading the lakes, which would be a disaster, and clean up areas of concern and other high-priority threats.

    Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 223.

    I reserve the balance of my time.

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