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GLIN==> Great Lakes Basin Program authorized

Water quality will benefit

Congress authorizes Great Lakes Basin Progam for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Great Lakes water quality advocates are applauding new federal legislation authorizing the Great Lakes Basin Program for Soil Erosion and Sediment Control, a Great Lakes Commission-coordinated effort that supports innovative soil conservation and water quality enhancement projects throughout the Great Lakes basin.

The legislation, passed by Congress as part of the Farm Bill and recently signed into law by President Bush, authorizes the program at a level of $5 million per year for five years.

“This is a huge win for state and local efforts to improve water quality through responsible urban and agricultural land use,” said Nat Robinson, chairman of the Great Lakes Commission. “The program has been in place on a year-to-year basis for a decade, but through this authorization Congress has shown that it recognizes the crucial role of soil conservation and sediment control in protecting and enhancing Great Lakes water quality.”

The Great Lakes Basin Program supports local projects to control soil erosion and sedimentation, and reduce sources of sediment and associated pollutants to the Great Lakes and their tributaries. The program directs grants to demonstration and information/education projects aimed at farmers, builders, public officials and others in positions to affect land management.

“Securing the future of this program was a key Commission priority identified in our  Great Lakes Program to Ensure Environmental and Economic Prosperity,” said Mike Donahue, Great Lakes Commission president/CEO. “It’s a major tool for controlling nonpoint source pollution, which is one of seven goals we identify in the Great Lakes Program to help ‘Restore the Greatness’ to the Great Lakes.”

Donahue called on Congress to follow through by appropriating funding for the program at the authorized level.

“That level of funding, if appropriated, would enable us, and our state and local partners,  to significantly improve water quality and responsible land use in the Great Lakes region,” he said.

During the past decade, the Great Lakes Basin Program has provided more than $5.9 million to projects in all Great Lakes states, funds that have been matched with more than $3 million in state and local support. Current year appropriations are $1.2 million. The Great Lakes Basin Program is a state-federal partnership involving the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Great Lakes Commission.

Each year, more than 600 million tons of topsoil, with a nutrient value of more that $3 billion, erode from cropland in the Great Lakes States. Much of this soil ends up in the Great Lakes and their tributaries, where it is joined by erosion from construction sites, shoreline development and other land use practices. Sediment from this runoff can clog wetlands and waterways, compromising fish and wildlife habitat. Residues from fertilizer, pesiticides and urban pollutants are also carried off with the soil and find their way into the water.

Sediment buildup also inhibits the ability of wetlands to act as water filters. Further down the system, accumulated sediments in rivers and harbors clog shipping channels, resulting in higher dredging costs.

Projects supported by the Great Lakes Basin Program directly address the causes of erosion, nonpoint pollution from stormwater runoff, and sediment buildup. Examples from the current fiscal year include:

• The creation of “buffer strips,” zones of thick vegetation along streams and rivers that slow stormwater runoff and control erosion

• The use of bioengineering techniques to stabilize streambanks by ensuring that vegetation has a chance to take hold

• Education programs to increase landowners’ knowledge of nonpoint source pollution issues and conservation practices they can apply to reduce such pollution

• Dam removal and other projects to restore stream channels

• Development of training opportunities and materials for local officials and road supervisors to address runoff from rural roads

A total of 34 grants were awarded in the 2001 fiscal year. A regional steering committee comprised of state and federal agency representatives selects all grant recipients. For more information, visit http://www.glc.org/basin/glbp.html


Contact:  Tom Crane
Phone:  734-665-9135
E-mail:  tcrane@glc.org

The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Nathaniel E. Robinson (Wisconsin), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents.  The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.  Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.”  The Commission maintains a formal Observer program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests.  The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.