U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   08/25/2003
 
Colonel William E. Ryan, III
Deputy Commander
Great Lakes Ohio River Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Water Quality in the Great Lakes.

Introduction

Senator Voinovich, I am pleased to testify before you on the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes system is one of our nation’s most vital natural resources. The world’s largest freshwater system provides millions of U.S. and Canadian residents water for consumption, transportation, power, recreation, and a number of other uses. I look forward to continuing to work with our sister agencies, such as EPA, and other partners and stakeholders on approaches for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes.

My comments focus on Federal and non-Federal roles in addressing water issues on the Great Lakes and the importance of an integrated and collaborative process involving all affected parties to assure the protection of this vital resource. I will conclude with an overview of the various Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works programs and other activities that are focused on addressing Great Lakes water resources issues.

Federal and Non-Federal Roles

Primacy for water resources management in the U. S. has been and must continue to be at the State and local level. While it is appropriate for the Federal government to be involved in issues of international, national or multi-state significance, such as the management of the Great Lakes water resources, it is the States, and in particular the Governors, who should be establishing the priorities for management of these shared water resources. The scope and technical complexity of water issues and the extent of desired participation by stakeholders mean that the Federal government can facilitate state and local leadership by being responsive to their requests for effective coordination among Federal and non-Federal restoration programs and by bringing Federal analysis and program support to State and local efforts.

The diversity of restoration challenges of the Great Lakes Basin has spawned a number of intergovernmental organizations and committees to coordinate one or more specific issue, whether it is invasive species, wetlands restoration, water management, non-point source pollution, or contaminated sediments. A significant amount of planning and coordination has already been accomplished through these existing organizations and committees, including the U.S. Policy Committee, Great Lakes Commission, Council of Great Lakes Governors, and Great Lakes Fishery Commission.

Integrated and Collaborative Watershed Approach

The restoration challenges facing the Great Lakes are numerous and complex. The Great Lakes restoration challenges include contaminated sediments, invasive species, non-point source pollution, habitat alteration and loss, fish and wildlife conservation, and water management within a framework of two countries, eight States and two Provinces.

We believe that continuing restoration of the Great Lakes benefits from a watershed perspective, emphasizing collaboration and integration. Success requires the participation of all interested parties in the planning and decision-making process. This participation would foster an open dialogue to integrate sometimes competing or conflicting water resource needs. Such integration and collaboration are indispensable to meeting water challenges.

Overview of Corps Great Lakes Programs

The Corps has a variety of Civil Works programs that are being utilized for the protection, enhancement and restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem. The size and importance of this water resource and the complexity of the challenges before it necessitate a team approach to its management. The Corps has worked as a team member, as well as team leader, in different aspects of the collective environmental programs for the Great Lakes Basin.

The Corps has been a member of the team that monitors, predicts and regulates water withdrawals, flows and diversions through our support to the International Joint Commission (IJC) Boards of Control and reference studies. The Corps has been a member of the U.S. Policy Committee, and participated in the development of their Strategic Plan to facilitate the implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Corps has provided technical assistance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the development of Lakewide Management Plans. The Corps has also provided technical assistance to States and local groups for the development and implementation of Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) at sixteen of the Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs).

The Corps has been a leader of team efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem from invasive species, including the dispersal barrier on the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and sea lamprey barriers at various Great Lakes tributaries. The Corps is also leading the Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration program and other programs to restore and enhance aquatic habitat in the Great Lakes Basin in partnership with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Great Lakes States and Tribes.

Perhaps the most significant program the Corps has led to date is the removal and confinement of contaminated sediments from Federal navigation channels in the Great Lakes. Although this program was conceived as a measure for environmental protection rather than restoration, the Corps, in partnership with State and local governments has removed over 90 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments from the Great Lakes through this program. Over 70 million of that was from Great Lakes AOCs. Using its expertise in management of contaminated sediments, the Corps has been working with other Federal agencies and Great Lakes States on sediment cleanup projects. The Corps continues to work in partnership with the EPA to evaluate and demonstrate new and improved technologies for managing contaminated sediments.

Through a more recent program, the Corps is currently leading projects for environmental dredging at eight Great Lakes AOCs in partnership with State and local agencies.

The Corps conducted one the first ecosystem restoration plans for Lake Erie in cooperation with the EPA approximately 30 years ago and is conducting watershed management planning for what some call the sixth Great Lake, Lake St. Clair, in partnership with Federal, State and local agencies.

The Corps has four basinwide studies ongoing that are addressing specific or general water resource needs of the Great Lakes. The first of these is a U.S.-Canadian collaborative study of the existing navigation infrastructure in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway. We are working with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Transport Canada, and the U.S. and Canadian Management organizations for the St. Lawrence Seaway to establish the baseline conditions of the existing infrastructure, commercial navigation use, and the environmental conditions of the Lakes and St. Lawrence River that may be impacted by the navigation system. We are also developing a bi-national framework for collaboration and partnership among the States and Provinces, Federal agencies, local entities, and stakeholders.

The second basinwide study is an inventory of biohydrologic information relevant to Great Lakes water management and will include a gap analysis of water-related data. This study is closely integrated with the Annex 2001 activities of the Great Lakes Governors.

The third basinwide study we have initiated in partnership with the Great Lakes States is an evaluation of the economic benefits of recreational boating in the Great Lakes, in particular those utilizing the Federal navigation system.

The fourth Great Lakes study the Corps is helping to develop a strategic plan in collaboration with the Great Lakes Commission. As authorized in Section 455(a) of the Water Resources Development Act of 1999, this study will produce a report to Congress with an analysis of existing water resource needs identified by Great Lakes States and stakeholders and recommendations for new or modified authorities to address unmet needs.

Conclusion

The Corps is pleased to have had the opportunity to appear before you and provide testimony on this important subject. We value highly the water resources of the Great Lakes, the partnerships we have formed with our sister Federal agencies, the Canadians, the Great Lakes States, Tribes, local governments and stakeholder groups in managing and protecting this unique resource.

The Corps looks forward to continuing these partnerships. Mr. Chairman, this concludes my remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions.