Today, Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02) spoke on the House floor after introducing an amendment to H.R. 729, the Coastal and Great Lakes Communities Enhancement Act. H.R. 729 creates a “Living Shoreline Grant Program” which authorizes $50 million per year from Fiscal Year 2020-2025 for grants to state and local governments, Indian tribes, and nonprofit groups for projects to protect and restore shorelines from erosion, coastal storms, and high water. The Huizenga Amendment, which was adopted unanimously by the House, requires that no less than 10% ($5 million annually) of this grant funding will go to projects within the Great Lakes. H.R. 729 passed the House by a vote of 262 to 151.
“Our communities are facing devastating consequences if we don't act to protect our shorelines now,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga, who serves as a Republican Chair of the bipartisan Great Lakes Task Force. “It is imperative that resources are provided through all available options to enhance the shorelines of the Great Lakes and protect our homes and our communities. I have a responsibility to not only highlight this issue but to advocate for those who are in desperate need and in desperate situations. That is one of the reasons why I supported this package.”
Congressman Bill Huizenga:
While I stand here today as I offer my amendment, residents across the Great Lakes are facing imminent threats to their property, their infrastructure and to the shorelines themselves due to historically high water levels. Great Lakes communities, including many in my own district along the shores of Lake Michigan, are in critical need of shoreline projects to protect against devastating erosion.
For those of us who call the region home, the Great Lakes forever shapes our way of life. It's where we recreate. It's where we do business. It's where we pass along the heritage of our region. The Great Lakes form the largest fresh surface water system on the earth holding nearly 20% of the world's freshwater supply.
They directly generate more than 1.5 million jobs, provide the backbone of a $5 trillion dollar regional economy and are the home for more than 3,500 different plants and species. As I often say, we can and should both protect and promote both the economy and the ecology of the Great Lakes.
However, our communities are facing devastating consequences if we don't act to protect our shorelines now. The high water levels combined with the effect of recent storms which brought even higher waves and strong winds are threatening our communities.
Public infrastructure including roads, bridges, and docks have been battered and in some cases actually lost. Recreational beaches have disappeared and others covered with dangerous debris. Habitats have been destroyed and numerous homes are teetering on the edge of dune cliffs or threatened by the rising water level.
This amendment, which would set aside 10% of spending for these particular projects, would ensure that communities within the Great Lakes receive necessary funding through the Living Shoreline Grant Program to protect and preserve our shorelines. It is imperative that resources are provided through all available options to enhance the shorelines of the Great Lakes and protect our homes and our communities.
I understand the Ranking Member’s position on this particular package of bills and Senate activity or maybe lack thereof on this. Yet, I do have a responsibility to not only highlight this issue but to advocate for those who are in desperate need and in desperate situations. That is one of the reasons why I will be supporting this package and I ask for consideration of my colleagues to help adopt this amendment. Whether it is going together as a package or whether it gets dealt with separately in the Senate, I know that this is something that we need to look at as a legislative body and we need to act now.