WATCH: Graves Advances Legislation to Restore the Health of Lake Pontchartrain
Washington, DC – Congressman Garret Graves (South Louisiana) advanced legislation to protect the health of Lake Pontchartrain and to preserve and restore critical U.S. estuaries like the Barataria-Terrebonne system out of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week – setting the bills up for full passage in the House of Representatives. The committee approved the measures unanimously.
Graves said, “As we recognize National Estuaries Week, you can’t miss the outsized importance of America’s coastal regions: estuaries comprise just 13% of continental US land area but are home to more than half the country’s population, account for 49% of economic output, and support more than 69 million jobs. The bills we advanced today will help ensure the continued management and restoration of these critical areas - their ecosystems, fisheries, communities, economies, and the abundant coastal resources they host.”
H.R. 4044, the Protect and Restore America's Estuaries Act, was co-authored by Reps. Garret Graves, Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), and Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), and reauthorizes EPA’s National Estuary Program from 2022-2026, with funds to be distributed evenly across each of the 28 estuaries within the program, including the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program, which strives to preserve and restore the Barataria-Terrebonne estuarine system, the 4.2 million-acre region between the Atchafalaya and Mississippi Rivers.
H.R. 4275, the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program, was co-authored by Reps. Garret Graves (R-LA) and Cedric Richmond (D-LA). The bill reauthorizes EPA’s Lake Pontchartrain Basin Restoration Program for fiscal years 2020 through 2024 and clarifies that the LPB and watershed is not limited to the 5000 square miles, but in fact is well over 10,000 square miles in Louisiana and Mississippi. The bill also requires EPA to review the basin’s restoration plan in order to examine program administration and look forward to future need and challenges. The Lake Pontchartrain Basin supports numerous species of fish, birds, mammals, and plants, and its fisheries contribute over $35 million to the local economy by providing much of the seafood harvested in the Gulf Coast.
Graves said, “Historic water levels on the Mississippi River triggered two separate openings of the Bonnet Carre spillway this year – that has never happened before. It was not Louisiana water that rushed from the Mississippi River to Lake Pontchartrain. It came from the two-thirds of the United States and parts of Canada that drain through this river valley. Restoring Lake Pontchartrain is a national priority because it is a national responsibility.”
“All across the United States, the protection of rivers, streams, lakes, bays, and adjacent lands can create jobs, protect fisheries relied upon by the fishing industry, protect food sources, protect and create tourism opportunities, enhance property values, decrease local government expenditures and provide recreational opportunities. Although Lake Pontchartrain and its surrounding area continue to face environmental challenges, the Lake and its resources have made a tremendous comeback. Much of this success is due to interested and concerned citizens who want a clean, healthy Lake and Basin for this and future generations, all of which would not be possible without [your] support of this funding,” said Kristi Trail, Executive Director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
Click here to watch Graves explain the importance of H.R. 4275.