Freshwater Weekly 11/30/17
This week: progress report on Great Lakes protection + full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative + weigh in on a Canadian plan to clean up Lake Erie + long-term water decision for Flint + an agreement on Line 5 + ways you can make a difference.
NEW REPORT TRACKS BINATIONAL PROGRESS ON GREAT LAKES PROTECTION
The International Joint Commission (IJC) has been helping the US and Canada prevent and resolve disputes over shared waters like the Great Lakes for over a century. This week, the IJC released a report that evaluates how these governments are doing at cleaning up and protecting the lakes.
The report, which focused on progress over the last three years, reiterates much of what Freshwater Future has been saying—that over the the last three years, both governments have failed to reduce the runoff pollution that fuels toxic algal blooms, make critical improvements to wastewater and drinking water infrastructure, and stop chemical contamination of the Great Lakes.
The report calls on the US and Canadian governments to speed up efforts and set long-term goals to restore and protect the lakes, and cites the US Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) as a step in the right direction.
Learn more about the report on our blog.
US SENATE INTERIOR BILL MAINTAINS GREAT LAKES FUNDING, CUTS AGENCY FUNDING
Freshwater Future supporters like you have been advocating for full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since the Trump administration first announced plans to eliminate the program in March. Thanks to our collective efforts, Congress fully funded the GLRI for 2017, and last week the Senate’s Committee on Appropriations released its funding bill for the Department of the Interior, which again funds the GLRI at 100%.
Unfortunately, the bill also includes cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and others agencies that administer Great Lakes restoration programs. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which Freshwater Future helps to lead, issued a press release about the Interior Bill and the importance of fully funding Great Lakes restoration. Read it here on our blog.
WEIGH IN ON A CANADIAN PLAN TO CLEAN UP LAKE ERIE
Last year, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario pledged to reduce the runoff pollution that feeds toxic algae in Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025. Ontario—working with the federal government—has now released the second draft of an action plan that outlines how they are going to achieve this goal. Our colleagues at our sister organization Freshwater Future Canada have analyzed the plan and identified a number of weaknesses.
This year’s algal outbreak in western Lake Erie was double the size of Lake St. Clair, and beaches and marinas on both sides of the border were turned slimy green. You can help ensure that all the responsible jurisdictions create plans that adequately tackle toxic algae.
TAKE ACTION: The Ontario and Canadian governments are currently accepting comments on their plan. Tell them to address the plan’s largest weakness—its failure to stop agricultural pollution. Speak up now. Ontario needs to do its part with real action to clean up Lake Erie.
LONG-TERM WATER DECISION FOR FLINT, MICHIGAN
Freshwater Future commends the Flint City Council for their vote last week to approve a 30-year agreement to continue the city’s current water source. Freshwater Future’s Hilliard Hampton has worked alongside Flint residents and community groups for over a year. He said, “while contentious, this decision will provide long-term pricing stability that could potentially lead to lower bills for residents, as well as provide safe, fully-treated drinking water to city taps. Now the city can direct its full attention and resources to replacing lead-pipe infrastructure.”
Under the deal, a Flint representative will be appointed to the Great Lakes Water Authority’s (GLWA) governing board, $750,000 will be granted for residential water bill relief, $100 million will be pledged for infrastructure improvements, and the city will be relieved of debts to the Karegnondi Water Authority—a recently formed water system to serve mid-Michigan and the Thumb area.
MICHIGAN GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES LINE 5 AGREEMENT WITH ENBRIDGE
On Monday, November 27, the Canadian corporation Enbridge Inc. signed a deal with the State of Michigan that will implement newly agreed-upon actions to move toward a long-term solution for the controversial Line 5 oil pipeline. The governor made clear that Monday’s agreement is not the final say on the future of the pipeline, which is still under review by the Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.
At Freshwater Future, our mission is to protect all of the Great Lakes and inland waterways. As Michiganders evaluate the alternative methods of transporting Line 5 petroleum products, we must take care not to export serious spill risk elsewhere in the Great Lakes basin. It is imperative that community voices are solicited and incorporated in all stages of decision making, that the final recommendation be in the best interest of Michigan residents, and that the spill risk is minimized for the entire Great Lakes basin.
Read more about the agreement—and our position—on our blog.
There are lots of simple ways to help protect our waters. Find more at freshwaterfuture.org/take-action.