Congress signs off on water bill with projects to help Lake Erie

October 10, 2018

Congress signs off on water bill with projects to help Lake Erie

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The U.S. Senate on Wednesday signed off on legislation that authorizes federal spending for water projects and demands that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promptly release a long-awaited final report on keeping Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

The legislation, which was previously approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, contains language that would require the Corps to “make every effort” to comply with a February deadline to release its Brandon Road Study on how to keep Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes and threatening its $7 billion fishing industry.

It also authorizes funding for a Great Lakes Coastal Resiliency Study (GLCRS) to protect and manage the Great Lakes coastline, and an increase in funds to modernize the Soo Locks in Michigan, which iron ore from Minnesota must traverse to reach Ohio’s steel mills.

It requires the Corps to implement a five-year demonstration program to develop technology to improve harmful algae bloom detection, and orders the Corps to undertake research on the management and eradication of invasive species in the Great Lakes, including Asian carp and zebra mussels.

99-1: Senate passes water infrastructure bill. Lee was only Senator to vote No. WRDA passed House by voice vote last month and now heads to White House. pic.twitter.com/Y0bVJoMzcD— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) October 10, 2018

“Lake Erie is a source of pride for Ohio -- it’s important for local businesses, local jobs, and the local ecosystem,” Ohio Democratic Sen. Brown said after the 99 - 1 vote.  “These provisions will help us keep Lake Erie clean, keep cargo moving through our ports, and ensure the Lake will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

“This measure provides the resources necessary to upgrade our water infrastructure and ensure safe navigation around the country, as well as increasing the resources available to protect our Great Lakes from coastal erosion,” agreed Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman. “Protecting the Great Lakes is one of my biggest priorities, and I look forward to the president signing this bipartisan legislation into law soon.”

Update: Great news for park waters! The Senate today passed a landmark water resources bill that includes critical protections for the Great Lakes, Hudson River, and the Everglades. https://t.co/tDmvjz6nNt— National Parks Conservation Association (@NPCA) October 10, 2018

The bill also authorizes money to test for water system contamination and grants that Ohio communities can seek to update outdated sewage overflow systems whose failures threaten the health of waterways including Lake Erie and contribute to algae blooms and swimming bans. Brown noted that a 2012 EPA survey found more than 70 Ohio communities with serious sewage overflow problems.

And it includes measures authored by Holmes County GOP Rep. Bob Gibbs that would require the Corps to speed up its planning process for disposing of the sediment it dredges from areas like the Port of Cleveland, which had had ongoing disputes with the Corps over dredging and sediment disposal

“The Port of Cleveland, and many like it across the country, should not have to wait years for dredged material management plans to be studied and implemented,” said a statement from Gibbs.

The Brandon Road Study is the one thing delaying us from responsibly acting to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp. We need to keep to the schedule and my amendment to #WRDA, that just passed the House unanimously, promises that. pic.twitter.com/t5nHqIij7T— Dave Joyce (@RepDaveJoyce) June 6, 2018

The bill also contains provisions authored by Bowling Green GOP Rep. Bob Latta that give state and local governments more flexibility to repay federal loans for water infrastructure repairs, and help disadvantaged communities better finance their water infrastructure projects.

“Fixing and upgrading their water infrastructure is a significant issue that many Ohio communities face,” said a statement from Latta.

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