Calling it one of its top legislative priorities for 2008, the Great Lakes Commission is calling on Congress to reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act in order to continue progress in remediating contaminated sediments in the Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
First passed in 2002, the Great Lakes Legacy Act authorizes funding to remediate contaminated sediments in the U.S. and binational Great Lakes Areas of Concern designated under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
“The Legacy Act program has been highly successful in cleaning up toxic hot spots in Great Lakes rivers and harbors and has become a cornerstone of Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Commission Chair and Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr., in a letter to congressional leaders and members of the House and Senate Great Lakes Task Forces. “It’s critical that Congress reauthorize the Great Lakes Legacy Act and maintain this vital program for restoring the Great Lakes.”
Lt. Gov. Cherry noted that the Commission’s recommendations are consistent with the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration and that the Legacy Act enjoys strong support from the Great Lakes states, the business community, regional environmental organizations and local Area of Concern advisory councils.
The Commission is recommending several amendments to benefit the Great Lakes states and improve the Legacy Act’s effectiveness and efficiency. They include:
• Reauthorize the Legacy Act through 2013 and increase authorized appropriations to $150 million annually. This would be consistent with the recommendations of the Great Lake Regional Collaboration and would better match the projected long-term costs of remediating contaminated sediments.
• Allow the use of general Legacy Act funds for pilot or demonstration projects in order to support research on innovative remediation technologies.
• Allow the use of Legacy Act funds to restore habitat at sites where contaminated sediment has been remediated under the Act.
• Allow contributions from potentially responsible parties (PRPs) to be counted as all or part of the nonfederal cost share for Legacy Act projects as long as that contribution is above and beyond what is required under a legal settlement.
• Allow all nonfederal contributions to Legacy Act projects to qualify for cost-share accounting, regardless of the timing of such contributions.
• Remove the maintenance of effort requirement, which can penalize project sponsors that invest in remediation efforts prior to the start of a Legacy Act project, and which is not appropriate for remediation projects in which costs can fluctuate widely from year to year.
• Allow the disbursal of Legacy Act funds to nonfederal contractors if doing so enhances the timing and effectiveness of a project.
• Extend the life of appropriated Legacy act funds beyond two years so that funds are not lost due to significant, unanticipated delays in completing complex projects.
• Reduce the current 35 percent nonfederal cost-share requirement to 25 percent for orphan sites where no responsible party is available to support the nonfederal cost share, to lessen the burden on states and local communities.
To date, five cleanup projects and seven projects to monitor and evaluate contaminated sediments have been implemented under the Legacy Act, with eight additional projects now under review. The original Great Lakes Legacy Act enacted in 2002 authorized $270 million over five years to remediate contaminated sediments in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
To see the full recommendations, as approved by the Commission’s Board of Directors, visit http://glc.org/advocacy/legacyact.html. Contact: Matt Doss, firstname.lastname@example.org.