Royal Oak Tribune

Great Lakes environmen­tal maps to be signed into law

- — MediaNews Group

U. S. Sen. Gary Peters’ bipartisan legislatio­n to update the Environmen­tal Sensitivit­y Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes is headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

The legislatio­n, which he introduced with U. S. Sen. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, requires the Great Lakes Region ESI maps to be updated for the first time in over two decades, joining maps for the East coast, West coast, and Gulf coast that have been updated more recently.

Companion legislatio­n was led by Michigan U.S. House Representa­tives Dan Kildee, Bill Huizenga, and Debbie Dingell, as well as Ohio Congressma­n David Joyce.

This bipartisan legislatio­n will provide more accurate assessment­s of coastal resources that are at risk of severe damage or a natural disaster, including endangered and threatened species, sensitive shoreline habitats, and widely used community resources such as beaches, parks and boat ramps. Additional­ly, this legislatio­n will require periodic Great Lakes mapping updates.

“The Great Lakes are not only a treasured environmen­tal resource and an economic engine – they are simply in our DNA as Michigande­rs,” said Peters, who is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transporta­tion Committee. “It’s important the Great Lakes are provided the same resources and attention as other major bodies of water and shorelines. I’m pleased this bipartisan legislatio­n is now heading to the president’s desk to be signed into law. This will help equip our scientists and researcher­s with more tools and data to protect our Great Lakes for generation­s to come.”

“I’m glad to see our bill cross the finish line to further preserve one of America’s most illustriou­s natural resources, the Great Lakes,” Sen. Young said. “Our bill now heads to the president’s desk so that we can update the Environmen­tal Sensitivit­y Index maps, better respond to natural disasters, and continue to protect the treasured Great Lakes that are so important to the Hoosier way of life.”

“I am pleased to see the Senate pass this bi l l and send it to the president’s desk.

The Great

Lakes support many Michigan jobs, generate billions of dollars in economic activity and provide drinking water for over 40 million people. We must do everything we can to protect them from harm,” Congressma­n Kildee said. “If an oil spill or natural disaster occurs in the Great Lakes, our emergency responders must have up-todate maps and informatio­n in order to act quickly and effectivel­y. I am proud to represent 118 miles of beautiful Lake Huron shoreline and in Congress, I will always work with Republican­s and Democrats to protect our Great Lakes.”

ESI maps, which are coordinate­d through the National Oceanic and Atmospheri­c Administra­tion (NOAA), document the potential ecological impacts to natural and human-use resources from possible oil spills, natural disasters, and resource damage assessment­s. The maps are vital to disaster planning and recovery, research and restoratio­n efforts.

NOAA announced at a field hearing in Traverse City in 2018 hosted by Peters that the agency updated the ESI maps for two specific priority areas in the Great Lakes, including the Mackinac Straits. Other maps in the Great Lakes, however, have not been updated in over two decades.

It is essential ESI maps throughout the Great Lakes are regularly updated to provide an accurate representa­tion of vulnerable locations and areas that need protection in the event of a disaster. Updates would also improve the accessibil­ity of the ESI maps by making them available in searchable formats.

This legislatio­n is supported by the Healing our Waters Coalition, Michigan League of Conservati­on Voters, For Love of Water (FLOW) as well as Superior Watershed Partnershi­p.

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