U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Todd Young (R-IN) this past week applauded U.S. Senate passage of bipartisan legislation they introduced to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes.
The legislation will 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.
The bill now moves to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.
“The Great Lakes are a vital economic and environmental resource for not just Michigan but the entire country, and it is critical that they are given as close attention as other shorelines and major bodies of water,” said Senator Peters. “I applaud the Senate for unanimously approving our bipartisan legislation, which will better ensure we have the tools and data to respond in the event of a disaster on the Great Lakes.”
“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,” said Sen. Todd Young. “I thank Sen. Peters for his leadership and am glad this bill passed the Senate unanimously.”
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. NOAA announced at a field hearing in Traverse City last month hosted by Senator Peters that the agency had initiated work to update the ESI maps for two specific priority areas in the Great Lakes, including the Straits of Mackinac.
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.