Great Lakes Legacy Fund Act

Great Lakes Legacy Fund Act


by Laurel O’Sullivan, Lake Michigan Federation

The Lake Michigan Federation is working again, with U.S. Congressman John Ehlers (R-Grand Rapids), to seek passage of the Great Lakes Legacy Fund Act. The Act would secure $50 million per year over the next five years for much needed clean up of contaminated sediments in designated Areas of Concern throughout the Great Lakes. When the Act was first introduced last spring, the Federation’s Executive Director, Cameron Davis, testified before Congress urging its support.

Prior to its introduction in Congress, the Federation coordinated efforts among area stakeholders to establish principles to inform funding priorities. The principles are grounded in an understanding that sediment contamination by pollutants that lie in silt and mud at the bottom of rivers, harbors and lakebeds is perhaps the most pressing toxic pollution problem facing the Great Lakes. Often the result of past discharges, sediment contaminants are frequently referred to as “legacy pollutants.” Summarized, the principles are as follows:

1. Priority funding should be directed at contaminated sediment cleanup in Areas of Concern, but may secondarily support contamination prevention efforts. Areas of Concern are any one of 31 toxic hotspots, located wholly within the United States, and named by the Internal Joint Commission.

2. Priority consideration should be given to cleanup efforts that seek to use innovative technology, such as consideration of permanent destruction approaches to cleanup. .

3. The funding would have a bias for “action”, supporting cleanup first and monitoring or studies second.

4. Non-federal matching funds are an important way to build local and state support for restoration. Non-federal matching funds can include environmental penalties or settlement funds, but not Superfund enforcement monies.

5. Federal allocations should be set at $50 million per year for five years. Even then, it may well be that 10 more years of work is necessary to get us to the point where we’re addressing ongoing problems, not contending with legacy problems at the same time.


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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.