GLWP Hill Happenings June 2013


  • Great Lakes Navigation System Sustainability Act, R. 2273
    • Introduced by Reps. Candice Miller (MI), Bill Huizenga (MI), Dan Benishek (MI), Louise Slaughter (NY), and Brian Higgins (NY)
    • Establishes a $200 million authorization from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund to fund operation and maintenance work on Great Lakes ports, funding the region as a system similar to the Mississippi River
    • Provides incentives for recreational harbors by giving those providing a 50% cost share a higher priority for funding
  • Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act of 2013 ( 1232) introduced
    • Original co-sponsors: Great Lakes Task Force Co-Chairs Sens. Carl Levin (MI) and Mark Kirk (IL); Great Lakes Task Force members Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Sherrod Brown (OH), Richard Durbin (IL), Al Franken (MN), Charles Schumer (NY); and Great Lakes delegation member Sen. Tammy Baldwin (WI).
    • Bill authorizes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million; Great Lakes National Protection Office (EPA) at $25 million; and the Great Lakes Legacy Act at $150 million, all through 2018.
    • Bill also codifies and requires the involvement of the Interagency Task Force, to coordinate the federal agencies with Great Lakes restoration and development, as well as the Great Lakes Advisory Board, to provide input and advice to the Administration on Great Lakes restoration and protection
    • A similar bill was introduced in the Senate during the last Congress (112th). The House last introduced a bill during the 111th Congress, although discussions are underway for companion legislation.
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Conservation and Recreation Act ( 23) passes Senate by Unanimous Consent
    • Bill sponsors: Levin (MI), Stabenow(MI)
    • House companion bill, R. 163, sponsored by Michigan Reps. Benishek, Bentivolio, Camp, Dingell, Huizenga, Kildee, Levin, Miller, Peters, Rogers, Upton, and Walberg
  • Farm Bill Updates
    • Senate: passed the full bill on June 10, 2013
      • Final bill included a tie between conservation practices and insurance subsidies, as well as limits on insurance subsidies for farms having over $750,000 in income
    • House: considered 103 amendments; final vote failed 234-195
      • Bill included authorization for a National Drought Council and Action Plan, to better prepare and respond to droughts like that experienced in 2012
      • An amendment to tie conservation practices to insurance subsidies, as included in the Senate Farm Bill, was withdrawn


Proposal to expand Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary released
On June 14, 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a draft proposal for public comment that would expand the boundaries of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron from 448 square miles to 4,300 square miles. The proposed expansion would encompass an additional 47 known shipwrecks and stems from NOAA’s 2006 review of the sanctuary’s management plan when public comments indicated support for expanding the boundaries. The expansion was supported by the Thunder Bay Sanctuary Advisory Council in 2007. Comments are due by August 13, 2013. Legislation expanding the boundaries was introduced and reported out of Committee in the 112th (S. 485) and 111th (H.R. 905 and S. 380) Congresses.

Great Lakes low water levels featured on NBC Nightly News
On June 18, NBC Nightly News featured a story on the low water levels’ impact on the Great Lakes economy. The story highlighted the central role the Great Lakes shipping industry plays in delivering raw products, like iron ore, to other areas of the county, and the economic impacts low waters have had on the $34 billion shipping industry.  Vessels must “light load”, that is carry less product so the ship stays higher in the water, in order to prevent running aground when water levels drop. The story noted the additional impacts on recreational and charter fishing on the Great Lakes, as low water levels in the marinas and boat launches make it more difficult for boaters to get out on the water.  The story also featured the role of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose water gauges measure the water levels and are used to evaluate the changes in the water budget over time. The NEMWI has coordinated briefings on low water levels and potential management options, most recently in December 2012 and May 2013.


Briefing: Ballast Water Regulations in the Great Lakes
On Wednesday, June 12, the NEMWI coordinated a Congressional briefing on the implementation of the U.S. Coast Guard Ballast Water Standard (authorized in the National Invasive Species Act) and the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Water Act-based Vessel General Permit (VGP), both of which cover discharges of ballast water from vessels. Agency representatives provided history on the formation of their respective regulations, including the nature of public input in the final rules. The EPA described the unique role of state certification in their permit. The U.S. Coast Guard provided information on the Alternative Management System, which provides temporary acceptance of foreign type-approved systems, for use in vessels in the U.S, pending U.S. type approval. Additionally, the speakers provided background on their respective requirements to protect the Great Lakes, and how they are avoiding unnecessary overlap or regulatory conflicts. Question and answer period discussion focused on complementarity of the programs, and possible unanticipated gaps. Carolyn Juneman (Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration), Craig Middlebrook (St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation), and Allegra Cangelosi (NEMWI President and Great Ships Initiative Director) were on hand to answer questions. The Great Lakes Task Force Co-chairs, Reps. Candice Miller, John Dingell, Sean Duffy, Louise Slaughter and Sens. Carl Levin and Mark Kirk, served as honorary co-sponsors of the briefing.

Briefing: Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes
On Monday, June 17, the NEMWI coordinated a briefing on history, current research, and mitigation efforts for Harmful Algal Blooms in the Great Lakes.  Dr. Jeff Reutter, Director of Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab with Ohio State University, and Mr. Mike Shelton, Sustainability Manager for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, presented.  Dr. Reutter provided background on algal blooms, using Lake Erie as the “canary in the coalmine” for impacts and measures to address blooms, due to its geography and water circulation properties.  Dr. Reutter discussed Lake Erie’s history of extensive and severe blooms in the 1970s, its recovery through better treatment and management of sewage outputs and agricultural practices in the 1980s and 1990s, and the resurgence of harmful blooms since the early 2000s.  He pointed out the differences with today’s problem, in that the majority of the nutrients going into the lake originate from non-point sources, like agricultural runoff, whereas the main source of nutrients in the 1960s and 70s originated from point sources, like sewage treatment plants.  Severe storms, which have been and are projected to increase in frequency and intensity, are also implicated in the increases in nutrient runoff, specifically phosphorus, into the lakes.   The ability to predict algal blooms has improved, as researchers at NOAA, Heidelberg University, the University of Toledo, and Ohio Sea Grant and Stone Lab at Ohio State University have narrowed the critical loading period for phosphorus to cause HABs in the western basin to 1 March to 30 June. Predictions for 2012 accurately predicted the bloom level experienced.  The prediction for 2013 will be announced on July 2 in a press briefing at Stone Laboratory followed by a webinar open to the public. Additionally, Mike Shelton discussed the efforts Scotts Miracle-Gro has taken to reduce the impact runoff from lawns and residential areas has on algal blooms.  These efforts include removing phosphorus entirely from its lawn maintenance products, which will remove, nationwide, 10,000 tons of phosphorus from those products annually, making that material unavailable for potential runoff. Additionally, the company has developed other projects, such as spreaders with better application methods, as well as best management practices, to continue to reduce nutrient loading.  Mr. Shelton also described recycling efforts by the company to reuse green waste from agriculture and other sources, and the water quality benefits dense turf grass can provide. Dr. Reutter highlighted the positive impacts of the company’s efforts, even though residential lawns are projected to contribute only about 2% of overall nutrient loading. The Great Lakes Task Force Co-chairs, Reps. Candice Miller, John Dingell, Sean Duffy, Louise Slaughter and Sens. Carl Levin and Mark Kirk, served as honorary co-sponsors of the briefing.

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Cities Initiative Annual Meeting, June 19-21, 2013, Marquette, MI
The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative celebrated its tenth anniversary in Marquette, Michigan. The mayors adopted nine resolutions, touching on water use and needs, invasive species, shoreline protection, restoration, and economic and revitalization. Additionally, the Cities Initiative launched its Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Service, which will provide municipalities with resources and training to promote resiliency.

Det Norske Veritas gains approval from U.S. Coast Guard to test Ballast Water Treatment Systems under recent regulations
The U.S. Coast Guard has approved DNV, a Norwegian classification company, as an Independent Laboratory (IL). With this announcement, DNV becomes the second company approved for testing ballast water treatment systems for submission under the U.S. Coast Guard’s type-approval process. The other, NSF International based in Ann Arbor, MI, has contracted with testing facilities, including NEMWI’s Great Ships Initiative, to provide testing services.


Lake Erie Algal Bloom prediction webinar, Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 2-4 p.m.
Announcement will occur at Ohio State University’s Stone Lab; register for the webinar.

THE GREAT LAKES “FUNNY”… although sometimes just “cool”

Ghost Ship discovered in Lake Superior