GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A congresswoman from Ohio has introduced legislation to establish and fund the Great Lakes Authority, a new federal entity to protect and promote economic activities on the Great Lakes.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, serves a district that spans portions of five counties on Ohio’s northern coast, stretching from Toledo to the western border of Cleveland. She is the chair of the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee and a co-chair of the Bipartisan House Great Lakes Task Force. She introduced the Great Lakes Authority Act with support from lawmakers from four other states, including Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills.

If passed, the Great Lakes Authority Act would provide $30 million in funding starting in the 2023 fiscal year and $50 million annually in the years to come. The Great Lakes Authority would promote economic development and job creation along the lakes and lead projects to protect and restore habitats throughout the region.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

“The Great Lakes region is the industrial workhorse that powers America,” Kaptur said in a release. “But after decades of bad trade deals that outsourced living-wage jobs and fomented deindustrialization — the need for a robust new partnership that catalyzes regional revitalization is abundantly clear. By investing in workforce development, innovating energy technologies and manufacturing processes, and responsible stewardship of our precious Great Lakes ecosystem — the Great Lakes Authority will unleash the Heartland’s full potential for this 21st century.”

The Great Lakes are North America’s largest and most vital source of fresh water. And while the federal government has several commissions and bureaus that work in some form with the Great Lakes, Kaptur and the bill’s supporters believe the work would be more effective and efficient if it was brought under regional entity.

“By creating the Great Lakes Authority, the federal government can now become a partner in the economic restoration of the Great Lakes region,” said Steve Fisher, the executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association.

The Great Lakes play a huge role in the regional economy. Congressional data cited in the language of the Great Lakes Authority Act show maritime commerce supports more than 147,000 jobs across the eight Great Lakes States and generates $35 billion dollars of economic activity each year, including $26 billion in the United States.

“The Great Lakes region is not only a treasured environmental watershed but is uniquely positioned, with the right investments, to be an economic powerhouse to drive innovation and economic development for the 21st century,” Dingell said in a statement.

The bill has been referred to two separate committees for further discussion.