Legislation to protect the Great Lakes from oil spills and natural disasters, co-authored by Congressman Dan Kildee and Senator Gary Peters, passed in the U.S. House Thursday, December 3 with bipartisan support.
The Great Lakes Environmental Sensitivity Index Act prioritizes and updates federal mapping of the Great Lakes, which are used to respond to emergencies and protect habitat, species and structures that are most likely to be impacted by a potential oil spill or other major disaster.
The Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps for the Great Lakes are maintained by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA announced at a field hearing that the agency updated the ESI maps for two specific priority areas in the Great Lakes, including the Mackinac Straits. Other maps in the Great Lakes, however, have not been updated in over two decades.
ESI maps are detailed guides that highlight vulnerable locations, structures and natural resources near the lakeshore.