WASHINGTON, DC - Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) hailed Congressional action moving forward measures that would provide Great Lakes protection and cleanup. Today, Congressman Higgins and his colleagues on the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee approved the Great Lakes Legacy Act of 2008, a bill authorizing funds for the remediation of contaminated sites around the Great Lakes, including the Buffalo River Area of Concern. Yesterday the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary passed the Great Lakes Compact, a bill also cosponsored by Congressman Higgins, which prevents the diversion of water from the Great Lakes.
“The Great Lakes represent the largest surface source of fresh water on this planet,” said Congressman Higgins. “Our geographic position along this stretch of water provides us with unique environmental and economic opportunities. Actions we take today will protect this enormous natural resource located in our own backyard for generations to come.”
The remediation projects authorized under the Great Lakes Legacy Act are negotiated between the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office and a region sponsor. The bill passed in Committee would authorize $150 million annually from 2009-2013, three times the amount included in the 2002 bill.
The Great Lakes compact is an agreement between the Governors of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and the Premiers of Ontario and Québec, to be ratified by Congress which will ban new diversions of water from the Great Lakes basin and provide for coordinated conservation, use and data collection efforts. Recently Congressman Higgins signed letter congratulating Great Lakes Governors for signing the Compact and he sent a letter to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging approval of the Compact bill sponsored by Chairman Jim Oberstar.
Congressman Higgins is a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force and led a local roundtable discussion on the Great Lakes last November. The Congressman is the lead sponsor of H.R. 3331, a bill to limit phosphorus in detergents which when discharged into water causes excessive growth of weeds and algae which rob the water of oxygen that fish need to survive. He is also a cosponsor of the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act, the Beach Protection Act, the Clean Water Restoration Act and the Water Quality Investment Act.
Most recently Rep. Higgins was involved with The Healthy Lakes, Healthy Lives tour, organized by the Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which was designed to raise awareness and call for action on the problems facing our lakes. A ship named the Earth Voyager traveled to several cities as a part of a public awareness campaign. Buffalo was the first stop on the tour.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes basin. Recently the Brookings Institute found that Buffalo would see economic gains between $600 million to $1.1 billion if the Great Lakes are restored.