This past weekend, in a rare show of bipartisan agreement, the United States Congress passed The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act. The bill is significant for Northeast Ohio due to some provisions that will directly affect Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. According to the Plain Dealer, the act would:
- Create a harmful algal bloom coordinator within the U.S. EPA;As for that last bullet point, Scene's extensive coverage of the battle between the Port and the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on dredging the Cuyahoga River is well worth your time.
- Solidify the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative with $300 million per year in funding through 2021;
- Require the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to adhere to state water quality standards, preventing the agency from dumping polluted sediment dredged from Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga River shipping channel directly into Lake Erie without Ohio EPA approval.
Some of the other benefits and evidence of bipartisan cooperation:
$170 million for Ohio and other states to address lead in water, including improving health programs aimed at treating those who have been exposed. That's partially credit to Rob Portman, who joined a bipartisan compromise that funded those efforts.
And a portion of the bill that would provide federal grants to schools and daycare centers to test for lead and other contaminants. In addition, it would heighten public alerts in case of positive lead tests, increase federal money to cities facing lead issues and provide preventative education. Sherrod Brown co-sponsored that provision.
It allocates some $10 billion in all and passed 78-21.
The bill now goes on to President Obama for approval.