November 17, 2020

Young, Peters Bill to Update Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Maps Passes Senate

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) yesterday applauded Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes. The legislation 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. These new 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.


“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.”


“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,” said Senator Peters. “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 this 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.”


In 2019, Senators Young and Peters reintroduced the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes. In July of that year, the bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.


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. 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.