By Cynthia Collins
The pollution in the once pristine waters and along the shorelines of the Great Lakes is getting attention in Washington, D.C. President Obama’s 2014 fiscal year budget includes $300 million for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This latest amount is part of an ongoing program that has spent over $1 billion to deal with environmental issues concerning the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is the result of a task force made up of 11 federal agencies that addressed five urgent issues to be covered from fiscal years 2010 through 2014:
1. Cleaning up toxic waste and areas of concern – This includes cleanup of current polluted areas as well as future pollution prevention.
2. Combating invasive species – Includes the prevention of self-sustaining groups of invasive species such as Asian carp and a “zero-tolerance policy” on new invasions.
3. Nearshore health and nonpoint source pollution – Targeting high-priority watersheds and polluted run-off reductions from urban, suburban, and agricultural sources.
4. Restoration and Protection of wetlands and wildlife habitat – In addition to restoring wetlands and wildlife habitat, the 530,000 acres of the Great Lakes coastal wetlands are scientifically assessed for restoration and protection efforts.
5. Tracking progress and working with strategic partners – This includes accountability measures, education, goal tracking, and outreach. The program has provided 1,500 grants in eight states for university students, government agencies, and nonprofit groups to study environment cleanup and restoration.
The federal agencies included in the GLRI task force are: Council on Environmental Quality, Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA has stated in a budget document that funding at the current level exercises fiscal restraint while making it possible for the continuation of ecosystem restoration. Chad Lord, policy director of the Great Lakes Coalition, sees this proposed budget to maintain successful Great Lakes programs as a strong investment in the environmental and economic health of our nation.
This amount is in addition to $63 million the president is seeking for Great Lakes projects to be overseen by the Detroit district of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Projects include monitoring water levels and flow, and dredging seven harbors where low water levels are a threat to commercial shipping. These dredging operations will affect Michigan ports at Detroit, Holland, Grand Haven, Monroe and Saginaw; Green Bay and Superior, Wisconsin; and Duluth, Minnesota.