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Peters, Young, Kildee, Dingell, Huizenga, Joyce Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Update Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps for Great Lakes

Maps Help Assess Ecological Risks of Oil Spill & Natural Disaster; Great Lakes Maps Have Not Been Updated in Over 20 Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. –U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Todd Young (R-IN) along with Representatives Dan Kildee (MI-05), Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and David Joyce (OH-14) today reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes. The legislation would direct the Great Lakes Region ESI maps to be updated for the first time in over twenty years, joining maps for the East coast, West coast, and Gulf coast that have been updated more recently. These new maps will provide 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. Peters and Young coauthored similar legislation that passed the Senate last September and Kildee led similar legislation in 2017.

“The Great Lakes are an invaluable economic and environmental resource not just for Michiganders but for countless others across the nation, and it is critical that they are monitored and studied as closely as other shorelines and major bodies of water,” said Senator Peters. “This bipartisan legislation would provide scientists and researchers with the necessary tools and data to rapidly respond to a potential oil spill and keep the Great Lakes vibrant and strong for generations to come.”

“The Great Lakes are one of America’s greatest natural resources,” said Senator Young. “Hoosier families treasure our coastline along Lake Michigan and our close proximity to all the Great Lakes. It is in all of our interests to robustly protect them. Updating the ESI maps will allow us to better protect our natural resources and effectively respond in the event of a natural disaster.”

“I’m proud to join Republicans and Democrats in introducing this bill. Protecting the Great Lakes is about protecting our economy and access to safe drinking water, said Representative Kildee. “If an oil spill or natural disaster occurs on the Great Lakes, we need all the resources available, including up-to-date maps and information, to respond quickly and effectively.”

“Whether it is responding to rapidly evolving events such as a natural disaster or planning long term projects such as habitat restoration, we need to have reliable and accurate information available,” said Representative Huizenga. “Having up to date ESI maps are vital to correctly identifying vulnerable locations and establishing priorities to properly protect Michigan residents as well as the Great Lakes ecosystem.”

“Protecting our Great Lakes is an important responsibility we all share,” said Representative Dingell. “Having modern, updated Environmental Sensitivity Index maps is critical to safeguarding these waters, coastline, and wildlife for all the generations to come. If the worst happened, we would have a better understanding of the ecological affects, proper response, and restoration process. This is important bipartisan legislation for all of my colleagues in the region, and I will be working hard with them to navigate this through the Natural Resource Committee and the House.”

“The Great Lakes are an invaluable natural resource and economic powerhouse, and we need to make the necessary investments to treat them as the national treasure they are,” said Representative Joyce. “That investment includes updating ESI maps. I applaud Senators Peters and Young for reintroducing this important legislation and am proud to be part of the bipartisan, bicameral effort to protect the Lakes for both current and future generations.”

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. This information is used in planning to create cleanup strategies before an accident occurs so that authorities are better prepared to take action if needed. At Senator Peter’s urging, NOAA initiated work last year to update the ESI maps for the Mackinac Straits. 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 data and information by making the data available in multiple searchable formats.