Royal Oak Tribune
Great Lakes environmental maps to be signed into law
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.
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.