CSG Midwest
After a tumultuous year in national politics, and in advance of a new U.S. Congress and presidential administration, advocates of Great Lakes protection and restoration won some important legislative victories at the tail end of 2016. Those accomplishments, perhaps most notably a formal authorization of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, provide the region with some much-needed certainty about federal Great Lakes policy during a period of change in Washington, D.C., said Chad Lord, policy director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether federal courts of appeals versus federal district courts (lower courts) have the authority to rule whether the “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) regulations are lawful.

Numerous states and local governments have challenged the WOTUS regulations. In National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense the Supreme Court will not rule whether the regulations are lawful. Instead, they will simply decide which court gets to take the first crack at deciding whether they are lawful.

CSG Midwest
Though it likely won’t change much of the work already under way to protect western Lake Erie from excessive algal blooms, Michigan’s recent designation of its part of the watershed as “impaired” signals the importance of reaching new binational goals to control phosphorus runoff.
Every two years, as part of compliance with the Clean Water Act, all states must determine which of their water bodies are polluted and/or don’t meet water quality standards. They then submit their impairment list to the U.S. Environmental Protection. The new designation for western Lake Erie is due to the presence of extensive algal blooms and their harmful impact on aquatic life and other wildlife, Michigan environmental officials say. The blooms are the result of excessive levels of phosphorus.
CSG Midwest
When the problem of tainted drinking water created a public health crisis in the Michigan city of Flint, the state’s legislators had two clear missions to fulfill. First, fix the problem, with strategies — both immediate and longer-term — that help affected residents, bring back some normalcy to their lives, and then assist in the entire community’s recovery. Second, find ways to prevent the problem from ever occurring in another Michigan city.
And that idea of prevention has spread well beyond the borders of Michigan, with legislators in nearby states taking notice of the crisis and beginning to think more about the safety of the water supply in their own districts.

During the "Water: Trending Issues in the States" session at the 2016 CSG National Conference on Friday, a few attendees sipped the ice water poured from pitchers on the tables. In the U.S., there is not typically concern about whether or not it's safe to drink the water. However, "we do have, in this country, a problem with our drinking water infrastructure on the pipes side of it," said Brian Pallasch of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The problem will only get worse, and costly, if the nation doesn't invest in the aging infrastructure, he said.

CSG Midwest

Could the Great Lakes be used even more to satisfy the U.S. demand for seafood? There is no question that U.S. consumers seem to have an insatiable appetite for it. In addition to the production of $9 billion worth of edible fish in 2015, we imported more than $20 billion worth. And as a result of decades of overfishing, natural fisheries cannot meet global demand — about half of all seafood is farmed fish from China, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. 

In Michigan, state agencies have received concept proposals to establish privately owned net-pen operations (where fish are raised in an underwater net) in the Great Lakes. And various bills were introduced this year to modify state law on aquaculture.

Today, the Council of State Governments joins nearly 350 other organizations, businesses and government agencies in expressing support for Imagine a Day Without Water, an initiative of the Value of Water Coalition, a group focused on elevating the importance of water in the economic, environmental and social well-being of America.

CSG Midwest
When Charles Fishman, author of the acclaimed book “The Big Thirst,” praised the Great Lakes compact this summer at the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, he also called for Kansas and Nebraska to lead an effort to create a similar interstate agreement to protect the Ogallala Aquifer....

Since April, environmental groups in Colorado have been working to gather signatures for two statewide initiatives that would amend the state constitution to increase regulatory control on energy industries. Coloradans Resisting Extreme Energy Development submitted two measures, Initiatives 75 and 78, that would grant local governments the authority to regulate energy industry development and establish that facilities be at least 2,500 feet from an occupied structure.

A new study conducted by the economic research group Power Consulting suggests that the overall costs of operating the Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River in Northern Arizona may outweigh the benefits of increased electricity production.

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