By BOB DOWNING
Akron Beacon Journal
Ohio environmental groups are hailing U.S. Rep. David Joyce, R-Russell Township, for a new bill to solidify federal efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.
Joyce held a Monday news conference in Perry on Lake Erie east of Cleveland in Lake County to unveil the Great Lakes Ecological and Economic Protection Act that would continue federal programs to clean up toxic pollution, fight invasive species and harmful algal blooms, restore wildlife habitat and reduce runoff from cities and farms.
Joyce’s proposal would provide $475 million a year for Great Lakes programs.
“Investing in Great Lakes restoration is penny wise,” said Kristy Meyer of the Ohio Environmental Council. “We thank representative Joyce for standing up for Lake Erie and its coastal communities, businesses and recreational users.”
The Nature Conservancy lauded Joyce’s efforts “to continue the momentum of federal investment in the Great Lakes,” said Josh Knights, executive director of the eco-group in Ohio. “Progress has been made but many challenges remain.”
Joyce’s work was also praised by the Great Lakes Commission.
“With the continued challenges of nutrient management and threats from invasive species, Joyce’s bill is of utmost importance to the Great Lakes and Lake Erie, in particular,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director James Zehringer, head of the Great Lakes Commission’s Ohio delegation.
Joyce introduced the bill along with five other representatives: John Dingell, D-Mich.; Sandy Levin, D-Mich.; Candice Miller, R-Mich.; Tom Petri, R-Wis.; and Louise Slaughter, D-New York.
“The Great Lakes is one of the jewels of the United States and it’s imperative we protect it for its environmental significance but also because of its economic might,” Joyce said in a statement. “I’m proud to be part of the bipartisan group fighting for the Great Lakes.”
The bill would:
— Authorize for five years the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million a year. That program has gotten $1.3 billion in its first four years. That includes $72 million for 122 projects in Ohio.
— Reauthorizes the Great Lakes Legacy Act that cleans up toxic hot spots.
— Reauthorizes the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office that oversees federal restoration efforts.
— Permanently establishes the Great Lakes Advisory Board to recommend restoration priorities to federal agencies.
— Permanently establishes the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force to increase coordination among federal agencies and other stakeholders.
Joyce’s bill is virtually identical to a Senate bill introduced June 26.