Legislative Opportunities Discussed at Great Lakes Summit

Pictured from left to right, Matthew McKenna Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program, Rep. David Joyce (OH), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH) and President and CEO of the NEMWI, Michael Goff, Ph.D

The annual Great Lakes Environmental Summit convened by the Northeast-Midwest Institute on February 14, 2018, brought together Members of Congress, Congressional staff, and a wide array of Great Lakes stakeholders for a review of Great Lakes legislative opportunities critical to the environmental health of the Great Lakes and a discussion of the challenges ahead

Kicking off the Summit, NEMWI President and CEO Dr. Michael J. Goff emphasized the Institute’s longstanding commitment to the restoration and preservation of the Great Lakes and the exciting Institute research and policy initiatives planned for the year ahead. Matthew McKenna, Director of the Great Lakes Washington Program, provided an overview of the gathering’s ambitious agenda and highlighted critical legislative priorities. Representatives Marcy Kaptur (OH) and David Joyce (OH), who serve on the House Appropriations Committee as key leaders in Washington on Great Lakes issues, addressed the vitality of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

Rep. Joyce discussed the Great Lakes region and how critical it is to remain attentive and keep up with the needs and priorities of the Great Lakes. Rep. Joyce emphasized the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the importance of understanding that the Great Lakes are a national treasure. In his remarks, the Congressman urged the attendees  to reach out to legislators and let them know that the Great Lakes are indispensable.

Rep. Kaptur stressed the importance of federal investment in Great Lakes infrastructure and the importance of recognizing the Great Lakes region as an interconnected system. Rep. Kaptur noted an urgent need to upgrade water systems in the Great Lakes region for the benefit of all.

The group also received several updates on legislative items including: the upcoming farm bill, FY 2018 and FY 2019 appropriations, and potential infrastructure packages. Dr. Sridhar Vedachalam, Director of the Safe Drinking Water Program at NEMWI, discussed the role of federal contributions to infrastructure as well as rising utility rates, water supply challenges, and lead pipes. Dr. Vedachalam noted that many cities across the nation continue to utilize lead pipes,  and that the NEMW region is home to two-thirds of the lead service lines in the nation.  

There was a concluding discussion about the Great Lakes Collaborative which seeks to create a GLRI-like program in Canada. Members of the collaborative include the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, the Council of the Great Lakes Region, and Freshwater Future.