Statement by Kathy Evans, Chair of the Statewide Public Advisory Council for Michigan’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern Program
on passage of Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008
“I am very happy that Congress has passed legislation reauthorizing the Great Lakes Legacy Act. This action will maintain the Legacy Act program, which is critically important to cleaning up Michigan’s Great Lakes toxic hot spots. On behalf of the Statewide Public Advisory Council, I thank Michigan’s Congressional delegation for advancing this important legislation. In particular, we thank Congressman Vernon Ehlers and Senator Carl Levin for sponsoring the legislation and pushing for its passage.
The legislation reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act for two years and makes a number of important changes that will improve the Act’s effectiveness. Most noteworthy, Legacy Act funding can now be used to restore habitat at sites where contaminated sediments have been cleaned up. The legislation maintains Legacy Act funding at its currently authorized level of $54 million a year.
The Legacy Act is vital to Michigan’s efforts to restore the Great Lakes and maximize their benefit for our communities. Michigan has 14 Areas of Concern, more than any other Great Lakes state and nearly half of the areas in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes.
Using the Legacy Act program, we have removed nearly 300,000 cubic yards of toxic sediments from local rivers and lakes, and leveraged more than $21 million in federal funds. We have implemented large-scale sediment cleanups in the Detroit River, St. Marys River and Muskegon Lake, and several more cleanups are being planned. These cleanups are facilitating waterfront development and improving recreational opportunities in our communities. The Brookings Institution has projected that cleaning up contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes will increase coastal property values by $12 billion to $19 billion.
The sediment cleanups funded by the Legacy Act are making a real difference for our communities. Following the cleanup of Black Lagoon on the Detroit River, the City of Trenton is building a marina and park, which will complement redevelopment plans for adjacent areas. Nearby property values are projected to increase by $60 million or more.
In my hometown of Muskegon, cleaning up toxic sediments in Ruddiman Creek is leading to habitat restoration, nonpoint source pollution prevention and improved enjoyment of Muskegon Lake at shoreline parks and recreational facilities. In both cases, these improvements, and the economic benefits they will provide for our communities, would not have been possible without the sediment cleanups conducted under the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
With reauthorization of the Legacy Act, it is more critical than ever that Michigan pass a new environmental bond program to continue the progress made under the Clean Michigan Initiative. The CMI dedicated $25 million to cleaning up contaminated sediments in Michigan’s Areas of Concern. Michigan used these funds to provide the non-federal funding required under the Legacy Act. Without the CMI funds, we wouldn’t have been able to tap into Legacy Act funding and the sediment cleanups wouldn’t have happened. Every dollar that we contributed from the CMI leveraged two dollars from the federal government. Simply put, the Legacy Act is a great deal for Michigan.
Our work is not done. Many more costly sediment cleanups are needed to fully restore Michigan’s Areas of Concern. Sediment funding from the CMI is nearly exhausted, and without a new environmental bond program we won’t be able to continue leveraging federal funding under the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
The Statewide Public Advisory Council supports the current efforts of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to develop a new environmental bond program with additional funding for sediment cleanups in Michigan’s Areas of Concern. We call on the Michigan legislature to begin considering this proposal to ensure it is ready to present to Michigan voters in 2010.”
The Statewide Public Advisory Council is a coalition of local advisory councils that works with state, federal and local agencies in cleaning up Michigan’s 14 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Background on the Council, including a list of Council members, as well as information on Michigan’s Great Lakes Areas of Concern is available from the Council’s website at http://www.glc.org/spac/.