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Senators Baldwin, Stabenow and Kirk Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect and Restore the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA) would improve the world’s largest system of fresh surface water

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), members of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, today led a group of Great Lakes senators in introducing bipartisan legislation to authorize a comprehensive approach to clean up and restore the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act (GLEEPA) would help communities combat invasive species, speed cleanup of contaminated sediments from old industrial sites, protect fragile Great Lakes habitat and improve water quality for the 30 million Americans who get their drinking water from the Great Lakes. By cleaning up the Great Lakes, this bill would make it possible for communities across the Great Lakes basin to revitalize their shorelines and industrial sites, which is expected to generate $80-100 billion in economic benefits across the Great Lakes region.  

“The Great Lakes are a critical asset for our quality of life in Wisconsin and our state’s economy depends on them for shipping, tourism and fresh drinking water,” said Senator Baldwin. “The Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act will help our communities clean up their shorelines, redevelop old industrial sites and restore fish habitat to make the Great Lakes healthier for everyone who uses them and to drive economic redevelopment in our towns and cities. Our coastal communities know there is more work to be done and this legislation will help ensure that our Great Lakes are protected and preserved for generations to come.”

“Just like generations before us, it is our responsibility to protect and preserve the Great Lakes,” said Senator Stabenow. “With the Great Lakes facing numerous threats from invasive species like Asian carp and water contamination, there must be a larger commitment to protect our Lakes for years to come. Michigan’s economy relies on the Great Lakes’ multi-billion dollar fishing, boating, and tourism industries, and this bill will help protect those jobs and our Michigan way of life.”

"As Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I remain committed to working with my colleagues to clean up toxic hot spots, end sewage dumping, remove the threat of invasive species and ensure the Great Lakes remain a safe source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans," Senator Kirk said. "I am pleased to work with Sen. Baldwin to reintroduce the bipartisan bill which Senator Levin and I authored last year in order to tackle the Lakes' most pressing environmental challenges."

The Great Lakes support a diverse regional economy and are directly connected to more than 1.5 million U.S. jobs, according to research by Michigan SeaGrant. These jobs generate $62 billion in wages each year and nearly one million of the jobs are in manufacturing sectors, from steel production to pharmaceuticals.

Restoration and improvement efforts on the Great Lakes will lead to growth throughout the region and in local economies. Improvements to harbors and marinas will support commercial and recreational boating. Revitalizing fisheries would benefit the 1.7 million Great Lakes anglers, who already generate $7 billion for shoreline communities each year. Improved technologies could reduce water operation costs for municipalities and then spur more effective ways of meeting ecosystem challenges.

GLEEPA will enhance the coordination of federal efforts to clean up and restore the Great Lakes to ensure that they continue to provide clean drinking water and serve as an economic driver for the region by:

  • Authorizing and investing in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), an inter-agency program designed to address the most significant problems in the Great Lakes ecosystem, with a focus on tangible, measurable results.  
  • Continuing to invest in the Great Lakes Legacy program, which cleans up the most contaminated sites in the region.
  • Ensuring that federal efforts to clean up the Great Lakes are coordinated efficiently, reflect input from a variety of stakeholders and ensure that taxpayer funds are used effectively to produce tangible, measurable results.

The Senators were joined in introducing the legislation by Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Joseph Donnelly (D-IN).

Support for the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act:

"I applaud the leadership of Senators Tammy Baldwin, Mark Kirk, and Debbie Stabenow who have joined together to help the Great Lakes at a critical moment. Our lakes face big challenges. This legislation should become a foundation on which we can restore and protect the environment, economy and quality of life that millions of people depend on every day."
Joel Brammeier, President & CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes

“The mayors of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence applaud Senators Tammy Baldwin, Debbie Stabenow and Mark Kirk on the introduction of GLEEPA.  Not only does this recognize the critically important link between our economy and protection of the Great Lakes, it provides a solid foundation of funding and organization for future restoration work.  Right now, there is nothing more important to our economic future than protection of the Great Lakes.”
Mayor John Dickert of Racine, Wisconsin, Chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

“This bill will strengthen Great Lakes restoration efforts. Programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are producing results in communities across the region, but more needs to be done. We commend Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Mark Kirk and Debbie Stabenow for sponsoring the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2015. This bill will help keep federal restoration efforts on track. We urge the full U.S. Senate to support and pass this legislation.”
Todd Ambs, Director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition

“The Great Lakes Commission is pleased to offer its support for this important bill and urges Congress to move it forward. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a vital program, bringing environmental cleanup and, in its wake, economic rejuvenation to our region.”
Kelvin A. Burch, Chairman of the Great Lakes Commission and Executive Director for Oil & Gas Operations, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection