Stateline Midwest ~ March 2013

Since 2009, an unprecedented amount of federal money has been flowing into this region to protect and restore the Great Lakes.

On top of other existing programs in place, more than $1 billion has been allocated through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — viewed at the time and now as a historic commitment by the federal government to clean up the lakes and protect them from ongoing threats such as invasive species.
But it is unclear whether similar levels of help can be expected on Great Lakes projects in the future, due to budget concerns and policy gridlock in the nation’s capital.

When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, it was fairly vague about which bodies of water would be protected by the new legislation. Supreme Court rulings over the past 12 years have done little to add much clarity to the issue.  “In 1972, Congress enacted the Clean Water Act and indicated that all its programs were designed to protect the navigable waters,” said Donna Downing, an attorney in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water. “Then in the act they defined navigable waters as meaning waters of the United States, including the territorial seas. That’s all the statute says about what waters are protected and subject to all those different Clean Water Act programs.”

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in favor of the Los Angeles County Flood Control District and overturned a decision made by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals which found there could be a "discharge" under the Clean Water Act when water is moved from one part of a river to another. The Circuit Court originally agreed with environmental groups that concrete, channeled portions of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, which carry storm water from numerous other upstream municipalities, constituted a point source for a discharge of pollutants.

CSG Director of Energy and Environmental Policy Brydon Ross outlines the top five issues for 2013, including the future of coal, Clean Water Act legal actions, energy infrastructure hardening, managing the energy wave, and EPA air regulations. 


Stateline Midwest ~ December 2012

A group of states wanting to wall off Asian carp entry into the Great Lakes via the Chicago Area Waterway System have run into another legal stumbling block. 

Stateline Midwest ~ December 2012

Every year, billions of gallons of raw sewage, trash and personal hygiene products flow into the Great Lakes. And as a 2012 report by the Alliance for the Great Lakes notes, this problem poses not only environmental and health risks (due to the bacteria, viruses and pathogens in untreated sewage), but has economic costs as well (the forced closure of beaches, for example).

Stateline Midwest ~ October 2012

When the history is written about Great Lakes policymaking in the early 21st century, at least two groundbreaking initiatives will stand out. The first was enactment of a state compact and companion agreement with the provinces to prevent diversions of Great Lakes waters and improve basin-wide management of them. The second was the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an unprecedented funding commitment by the U.S. government to clean up and protect the lakes.

On paper at least, says Andy Buchsbaum of the National Wildlife Federation, a new binational agreement has the potential to be added to this short list of history-making Great Lakes protections.

CSG's upcoming webinar, "Restoring the Mississippi River Watershed" will highlight an initiative driven by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and Louisiana Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne called the "Big River Works." Please join us at 2PM/Eastern on October 9th for this informative event. For registration information, please click here.

Water is critically important to Michigan. “If you ask most people in Michigan about the importance of water, they would say, ‘it’s the essence of our being’ or ‘it’s the essence of our living’ or ‘it’s the essence of our life,'” said Patty Birkholz, a former state senator and current director of the Michigan Office of the Great Lakes. Just look at the state—it touches four of the five Great Lakes and is almost completely surrounded by water. Agriculture, manufacturing and tourism—the state’s three largest industries—depend on the Great Lakes.

The Council of State Governments recently joined briefs supporting state and local government in two cases heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. The briefs, filed by the State and Local Legal Center, both involve the interpretation of the Clean Water Act.