Waukegan mayor takes leading role on panel looking at quality, cost of Great Lakes water

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By: Steve Sadin
Lake County News-Sun
December 4, 2020

Growing up in Waukegan, Mayor Sam Cunningham often took the plentiful supply of fresh water from Lake Michigan for granted.  Read more


Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative supports new Canadian stimulus program but asks that water restoration funding be included

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The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative supports the recently announced $10 billion Canadian government infrastructure stimulus program but asks that water restoration stimulus funding also be included. Read more

Spotlight on the News: Sheboygan, WI Mayor and Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, Chair Michael Vandersteen

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August 16, 2020
Interview with Chuck Stokes, WXYZ Detroit

To view the interview with Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen, Chair of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative advance your viewer to 13 minutes. They discuss the Sheboygan, the GLSLCI, The need for federal funding assist Cities to deal with erosion mitigation and infrastructure replacement.


House Lawmakers Seek $10 Billion for Coastal Restoration

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A bipartisan group of Congressional representatives, led by the co-chairs of the House Oceans Caucus, recently called on House leadership to approve $10 billion for coastal restoration programs. The letter was organized by Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) and Don Young (R-Alaska).

“As our efforts continue to confront the economic and health consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Congress cannot neglect the needs of our coastal communities and the blue economy, the members wrote in their letter. “We need to provide a vital lifeline to create new and ongoing economic opportunities.” The letter requested more funding for ocean research, more aid for fishing businesses, and the creation of a National Coastal Resilience Fund and a Resiliency and Habitat Grant Program. Great Lakes members signing the letter included Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). View letter.

Stimulus Activities Report – Ottawa

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Canadian Parliament and Government of Canada update:

COVID-19 dramatically changed Parliament’s plans in the Spring of 2020, with most of the debate taking place within a special COVID-19 Committee.  Please plan to speak with your local MP and regional Ministers regarding your community's water projects.  Materials have been developed for your use and are available on the Cities Initiative’s website.

Spring Session of Parliament 

With “Spring Session” now over,  the House of Commons will convene four times over the summer with rare July and August sittings. The first summer sitting, on July 8, will include a Federal Government “Economic Snapshot” by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.  This Economic Snapshot is expected to be less substantial than the historic fall  “Economic Updates” and dramatically smaller than the spring Budget. However,  Finance Minister Bill Morneau will be putting forward the first fiscal plan since the Liberal Government was re-elected last October.  We expect that this budget will address many of the issues we face as a result of the COVID-19 economic crisis.

“Shovel-Ready” Stimulus

Many Federal Departments are exploring ways to stimulate the economy to assist all regions and sectors recover from COVID-19.  Departmental officials at Environment and Climate Change Canada and Infrastructure Canada along with other departments are developing “lists” of shovel- ready projects and partners who can get to work if new money was made available.  Building upon the July 8 Economic Snapshot and the Cities Initiative “Stimulus Ask”, July 2020 offers an opportunity for Municipal leaders to speak with Federal leaders about the creation of a short-term (two construction season) program funded by the Government of Canada to address water infrastructure needs in your community.  Read more.

Party Update Conservative Party of Canada (CPC)

During the spring session of Parliament, the opposition Conservatives under Andrew Sheer, successfully advocated to have Parliament sit in person and for the return of Question Period.  They have been calling for the Liberal Government to ensure that emergency funding is targeted to those in need while limiting overpayments or fraud.  They have also asked for various Federal Auditors to review the different COVID-19 emergency programs as soon as possible.

In June, the Conservatives put forward a “Back to Work Bonus” for businesses to attract individual workers who are currently on CERB to transition back into the workforce.

NOTE – the Conservative Party of Canada is in the process of choosing their next leader with approximately 240,000 members of the party receiving their ballots by mail in early July and votes counted in mid-August. To learn more please visit the CPC’s website.

Bloc Quebecois (BLOC)

In line with the Liberal and NDP, the BLOC has called for CERB to be expanded to ensure everyone affected by COVID-19 can stay home and stay safe.  Recently, they have focused on the effects on agriculture, tourism and other sectors that are undergoing dramatic changes to their operations.  To learn more, visit BLOC’s website.

New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP)

The Federal NDP, under Jagmeet Singh, has advocated for an expansion of the CERB to ensure more Canadians are eligible for the $2,000 per month federal subsidy. As COVID-19 lockdowns have extended to almost 100 days in some communities.  In March 2020, The Federal Liberal Government announced some changes to the program or other funding to address specific demographic groups not supported by CERB. 

NOTE – The Federal NDP has been very vocal with issues around systemic racism within Federal and Municipal Policing and other institutions. This led to an altercation that had the NDP leader, Jagmeed Singh, removed from Parliament for part of a day.  To learn more, visit NDP’s website.

Green Party of Canada (GPC) 

Similar to the Conservative Party, GPC is also undergoing a Leadership Race at this time.  Their Leader in the House, Former Party Leader Elizabeth May, has been critical of the speed the Federal Liberal has expanded CERB to ensure all affected Canadians are safe.  To learn more, visit GPC’s website.


Although there have been some individual heated exchanges in Parliament over the past 100 days and all four Opposition Parties have advocated for the Federal Liberals to put more support or oversight into the COVID-19 emergency funding programs, they have collectively been supportive of the overall direction and actions of the Federal Government.

FEMA Rolls Out New Resilience Program

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is rolling out an important new program entitled Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), which replaces the existing Pre-Disaster Mitigation program. It will support states, local communities, tribes and territories, as they undertake hazard mitigation projects to reduce the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards. Its guiding principles are supporting communities through capability- and capacity-building; encouraging and enabling innovation; promoting partnerships; enabling large projects; maintaining flexibility; and providing consistency. FEMA anticipates releasing a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the program this fall.

FEMA is holding a series of public engagement webinars in July to discuss key elements of the BRIC program. The sessions are geared toward leaders in states, local communities, tribes and territories, as well as private sector entities, private non-profit organizations, and other interested parties. The webinars are being held each Wednesday in July from 2:00-3:00 pm Eastern.  They will be recorded and made available online. Information on the BRIC program and the summer engagement webinars is available on the website.  

The BRIC program is a potentially important new source of support for state and local efforts to prepare for, respond to, and minimize impacts from disasters and natural hazards. Cities Initiative staff are following the new program closely and will look for opportunities to inform and engage its member cities and assist them in accessing the program to address critical issues such as coastal erosion, flooding, and impacts for severe weather events.

Stimulus Activities Report – Washington D.C.

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Discussions are underway in Congress on a new economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said recently that the Senate will consider a new package when it returns from its July recess on July 20. He said that the Senate bill would focus on “kids, jobs, and healthcare,” in addition to liability protection against lawsuits related to the coronavirus. 

The House of Representatives has passed two major pieces of legislation. The HEROES Act, passed in May, would provide an additional $3 trillion toward boosting the economy, including new provisions for student loan relief, rent and mortgage assistance, and an extension of the $600 monthly unemployment bonus currently set to expire in July. In early July the House passed The Moving Forward Act, which authorizes $1.5 trillion over five years for a wide array of measures to modernize infrastructure and address climate change and clean energy. Of special interest to Great Lakes cities are provisions that increase investments in water infrastructure, promote drinking water safety and affordability, increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and provide funding for coastal resilience.

The House bills were passed largely along party lines and are unlikely to be considered by the Senate in their current form.  While there is broad support for infrastructure investments, paying for it is a major hurdle.  The White House has signaled support for a new stimulus package, which may generate support for significant new spending. Ultimately, House and Senate leaders will negotiate a new stimulus package, with Democrats leveraging provisions from the House-passed bills and Republicans advancing their priorities.  

The voices of Great Lakes mayors will be front and center as the Cities Initiative’s Stimulus Water Restoration Initiative advances our priorities with Congressional leaders.

Cities Initiative Launches Stimulus Water Restoration Initiative, Needs Your Support

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The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative launched the Stimulus Water Restoration Initiative on Monday, July 6, 2020, calling on federal elected officials in Canada and the United States to include water restoration priorities in any upcoming economic stimulus programs.  

Our key message is that our federal governments must make every effort to accelerate the pace of recovery and that the investments we are calling for will put residents to work and generate economic activity while addressing urgent needs in our communities. Specifically, the Cities Initiative is seeking investments that:

  • Safeguard drinking water and modernize clean water infrastructure
  • Help communities respond to coastal erosion and impacts from extreme weather events

We are asking for the following funding to be made immediately available to municipalities with no financial match requirements.

United States

  • $20.5 Billion in water infrastructure and erosion mitigation project funds, which will create over 400,000 jobs. 
  • Local Government Revenue Replacement program. We are also asking Congress to move forward on the Local Government Revenue Replacement Program – This Fund will reimburse localities for a reduction in revenue for the 2020 calendar year. City and county governments may apply to be reimbursed for up to 75% of lost revenue compared to the previous calendar year, with a cap of 2% on the total loss in revenue that a locality will lose compared to the 2019 calendar year. 


  • $7 billion in water infrastructure and erosion mitigation project funds, which will create over 150,000 jobs.
  • Municipal Government Funding – The Cities Initiative calls upon the Government of Canada to support Municipal Governments during the unprecedented COVID 19 economic upheaval. We are asking the Government of Canada to provide $10 billion in emergency operational funding to Municipal Governments.

This campaign requires your active engagement to be successful.   

How to Take Action

The Cities Initiative asks you and your council to take the following actions to build support for investments in water infrastructure and coastal resilience:

  • Complete the online survey of water infrastructure and coastal protection projects.  Click Here for Survey
  • Send a letter to your federal representatives.
  • Ask your city council to adopt a resolution.
  • Engage with fellow municipal leaders.
  • Meet with your federal representative to convey your needs.
  • Talk with the media.

Materials to support these actions are available on the Cities Initiative's website.

We are asking that you take immediate action on these activities because stimulus legislation is already being discussed in both Ottawa and Washington D.C.  Our staff will be reaching out to our members over the next few weeks to arrange virtual meetings with federal officials.  If you have any questions about this initiative please contact our Executive Director, Jonathan Altenberg at