Huizenga Backed Bill to Protect Great Lakes, Preserve Environmentally Sensitive Areas Passes House
Last night, the House unanimously passed S. 1342, the Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act. This bipartisan legislation is designed to modernize the environmental sensitivity index maps for the Great Lakes region, which haven’t been updated in over 20 years. These maps are critical to respond to a natural disaster, restore habitat, and protect infrastructure, homes, and public lands impacted by high water and erosion. The legislation was introduced by Congressman Dan Kildee in the House and by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) in the Senate.
Congressman Bill Huizenga:
In the midst of a divided Washington, it’s important that Congress comes together to prioritize the protection of the Great Lakes.
As co-chair of the Great Lakes task force, building bipartisan consensus that preserves the Great Lakes, strengthens their economy, and protects them for future generations has been one of my top priorities.
While the Environmental Sensitivity Index maps may not be headline grabbing legislation, these maps are critical to communities across the Great Lakes.
We must have accurate assessments of coastal resources that are at risk of severe damage from an emergency or a natural disaster.
These environmental assessments include information on endangered and threatened species, vulnerable shorelines, and widely used community resources such as beaches, parks, and boat ramps.
The maps are vital to disaster planning as well as recovery, research, and restoration efforts. It is essential that we have an accurate representation of vulnerable locations and areas in the Great Lakes that are need of protection in the event of an emergency.
While maps for the east coast, west coast, and gulf coast have all been updated recently, maps for the Great Lakes have not been updated in over twenty years.
To be clear - while the Great Lakes hold over 20% of the world's freshwater, provide drinking water to more than 48 million people, support over 1.3 million jobs, and generate billions upon billions of dollars in economic activity – yet as I stated before, our region hasn't had a proper environmental map update in more than two decades.
This legislation, which I am proud cosponsor, would solve this problem by modernizing and updating our maps of the Great Lakes.
Along Lake Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes shoreline, the current state of erosion and high-water damage is at a crisis point.
In my district, along the shores of Lake Michigan, the high-water levels are a threat to people's homes and public infrastructure, but the overall ecology and economy of the Great Lakes.
Communities throughout the region have declared state of emergencies as roads, bridges, harbors, and wastewater treatment facilities, to name just a few, are in danger due to high-water levels.
As we continue to see disasters and emergencies in the Great Lakes region, government at all levels must be prepared and have up to date information to act upon. This bipartisan bill would help accomplish that while demonstrating another way my Michigan colleagues and I are making sure the federal government prioritizes, protects, and preserves the Great Lakes.
Whether it is responding to rapidly evolving events such as a natural disaster or planning long term projects such as habitat restoration, we need to have reliable and accurate information available.
When it comes to protecting our lakes, habitats, and shorelines, these updated maps will allow us to better prepare to face natural disasters or emergencies.
Having this updated information will help us analyze and assess the threats facing the Great Lakes and allows us to be more proactive instead 100% reactive.
The Great Lakes are a way of life for many in West Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes system. These pristine resources help define who we are as a community. I will continue to work, support, and advocate for common sense reforms like today’s legislation that will protect these incredible natural resources for generations to come.
I do want to thank my fellow colleagues, Mr. Kildee of Michigan, Mr. Joyce from Ohio, and the Great Lakes Task Force. This has been a great bipartisan success story as we have looked at increasing funding to protect the Great Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as well as through initiatives like this.