Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Board Announced

21 Mar 2013

This week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first advisory board to support implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  A list of the advisory board members, which includes scientists, business leaders, public servants and representatives of non-profit organizations, can be found here.

As you may remember, in 2009, President Obama proposed, and Congress approved, $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  The initial funding allowed the EPA, which leads the initiative on behalf of 16 federal agencies, to take steps toward implementing the FY2010 – FY2014 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan.   So far, the initiative has funded hundreds of projects and Congress has approved Obama’s requests totaling more than $1 billion for the program.

The EPA established five focus areas for the first round of projects under the Great Lakes Restorative Initiative.  The projects are funded through grants to both federal programs and projects implemented by states, tribes, municipalities, universities and other organizations.  The five major focus areas are:

  • toxic substances and “areas of concern”;
  • Invasive species;
  • Nearshore health and nonpoint source pollution;
  • Habitat and wildlife protection and restoration; and
  • Accountability, education, monitoring, evaluation, communication and partnerships.

There are currently 29 EPA designated “areas of concern” within the U.S where conditions have deteriorated enough that authorities have restricted fish and wildlife consumption, dredging activities and water consumption.  14 of those areas are located in Michigan.  One of the goals outlined in the Action Plan is to delist 5 “areas of concern” by 2014.  The first area to be delisted since 2006, the Presque Isle Bay, was delisted just last month

Obama has pledged to fund the initiative at least through 2014.   For the sake of the Great Lakes and the entire country (the lakes make up 95% of the nation’s surface freshwater and supply more than 30 million people with drinking water), let’s hope he doesn’t stop there.

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