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Peters Bill to Update Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps Passes Senate; Peters Has Passed More Bills Through Senate Than Any Senator This Congress

Passage of Latest Peters Bill Marks 10 Standalone Bills Peters Has Passed Through Senate This Congress, More Than Any Senator Regardless of Party

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today applauded Senate passage of his bipartisan legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes. The legislation, which he introduced with U.S. Senator Todd Young (R-IN), would require 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. It would additionally require periodic Great Lakes mapping updates. The legislation marks 10 Peters-led standalone bills that have passed the Senate this Congress – more than any other Senator since January 2019, regardless of party.

“The Great Lakes are more than an economic engine and resource – they are simply in our DNA as Michiganders. They must be protected for future generations and that is why I pressed to pass my commonsense, bipartisan legislation,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “There’s no reason Great Lakes maps shouldn’t be updated just as frequently as East and West coast maps. I’m pleased to pass my legislation through the Senate, and I’ll continue working with my House colleagues to advance this legislation and get it to the President’s desk to be signed into law.”

“The Great Lakes are one of America’s greatest natural resources. Hoosier families treasure our coastline along Lake Michigan and our close proximity to all the Great Lakes and it’s in all of our interests to robustly protect them,” said Senator Young. “I’m glad the Senate voted to pass our bipartisan bill to update the ESI maps, allowing us to better protect our natural resources and effectively respond to natural disasters.”

New ESI maps 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. Bipartisan companion legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Dan Kildee (MI-05), Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and David Joyce (OH-14).

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 that 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.

Peters has made protecting the Great Lakes one of his top priorities in the Senate. He secured the first increase in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative since the program was established. Peters also got signed into law a provision to establish a U.S. Coast Guard National Center of Expertise for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes National Center of Expertise will examine the impacts of oil spills in freshwater environments and help develop effective responses. Current oil spill response technologies are primarily designed for saltwater environments. Peters also secured a provision in the bipartisan Coast Guard Reauthorization that passed the Senate Commerce Committee that would direct the Coast Guard to update their oil spill pollution response plan for the area around the Straits of Mackinac to account for a potential “worst-case” spill from a pipeline in possible severe weather conditions, such as ice cover and rough seas. In response to questioning by Peters, Coast Guard officials testified that they did not have the capability to contain and cleanup a large-scale oil spill in northern Michigan if it occurred during severe weather conditions, particularly if the spill were to originate from the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.