NEMWI and GLC Host Congressional Briefing on Green Infrastructure

  • Congressman David Joyce (OH) - Co-Chair of the Congressional Northeast-Midwest Coalition
The Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) and the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) co-hosted a Congressional briefing on green infrastructure in the Great Lakes region on Wednesday, September 5. The briefing, which coincided with the GLC’s release of a report outlining steps to increase the adoption of green infrastructure throughout the Great Lakes, included perspectives by the GLC, ECT Inc., the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, and American Rivers. Green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, green roofs, and porous pavements, can serve as a critical tool in decreasing the amount of pollutants and toxins that are discharged into rivers and lakes by storm and wastewater.  These measures can dramatically help improve water quality by trapping and filtering sediment and nutrients that would otherwise containment our bodies of water.

Speakers and highlights of their presentations include the following:

Victoria Pebbles, Program Director at the Great Lakes Commission, discussed the Commission’s report and its recommendations to promote the installation of green infrastructure. These recommendations include fully funding the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) to provide financing for local communities, and to establish performance based requirements for runoff volume and water quality, among others.

Sanjiv K. Sinha, Vice President at Environmental Consulting & Technology Inc., emphasized the importance of private financing opportunities through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) and how this federal program can be beneficial to green infrastructure efforts for businesses, as well as local communities.

John Dickert, former Mayor of Racine, Wisconsin and current Executive Director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, explained that by choosing to incorporate new green infrastructure into current local infrastructure projects, local elected officials have the opportunity to save the private sector, taxpayers, and future generations tremendous amounts of money, while also giving the community the assurance of clean and safe drinking water. He emphasized that the federal government must continue to play a pivotal role in incentivizing these new green infrastructure investments.

Gary Belan, Senior Director of Clean Water Supply at American Rivers, provided a NGO perspective, stating that of critical importance is fully funding the CWSRF, because the program plays such a critical role in protecting water quality, especially in lower-income communities that are more prone to water potential contaminations.

Dr. Sri Vedachalam, Director of the NEMWI’s Safe Drinking Water Research and Policy Center, facilitated a discussion among the panelist about the need and importance of green infrastructure that reduces runoff and improves water quality.

Concluding the briefing, Congressman David Joyce (OH), who is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Northeast-Midwest Coalition, provided remarks on the importance of federal support for green infrastructure projects, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), to promote improved water quality in the Great Lakes.

A copy of the presentations can be viewed here.

A full audio recording of the briefing is available here.