May 7, 2019

Senators Reintroduce Bipartisan Legislation to Update Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps for Great Lakes

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) along with Representatives Dan Kildee (Mich.-05), Bill Huizenga (Mich.-02), Debbie Dingell (MI-12) and David Joyce (Ohio-14) today reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes.

“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.”

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. Young and Peters 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.”

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. 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.