“We have an historic opportunity to restore and protect these waters. This action plan outlines our strategy to protect the environmental, human health, and economic interests of the millions of people who rely on the Great Lakes,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re committed to creating a new standard of care that will leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation.”
“The Great Lakes are our region’s greatest natural resource, and I want to thank President Obama for his commitment to making the restoration of the Great Lakes a national priority,” said Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. “Wisconsin is defined by the Great Lakes, and one of our greatest responsibilities is to preserve this important freshwater resource for future generations. This action plan sets a strong course of action as we confront tremendous challenges to not only protect, but also restore the Great Lakes.”
“The Great Lakes are one of our country’s greatest natural resources and economic assets,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, co-chair of the Council of Great Lakes Governors. “We must protect and preserve our lakes for our families and outdoors enthusiasts, as well as the industries that rely on the waterways to transport their goods around the world. I look forward to working with my fellow governors and the Obama administration to continue tackling the challenges facing the Great Lakes now and in the future.”
Some 30 million Americans get their drinking water from the Great Lakes, and the lakes also support a multi-billion dollar economy based on fishing, boating and recreational activities. The lakes face significant challenges, including pollution and the threat of harmful species that threaten their health.
President Barack Obama has committed to making Great Lakes restoration a national priority. In February 2009, President Obama proposed $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the most significant investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. The action plan, which covers FY 2010 through 2014 and was developed by 16 federal agencies as part of the federal inter-agency task force chaired by Administrator Jackson, will help guide the administration’s efforts to implement this historic initiative to restore and protect this natural and economic treasure.
The action plan directs aggressive action under five priority “focus areas” the task force has identified as vital for restoring the Great Lakes. They are:
- Protection and cleanup of the most polluted areas in the lakes: The task force will work with state and municipal partners to clean up toxic hotspots so that these critical “working waterways” are put back to work for healthy fishing and recreation.
- Combating invasive species: Invasive species pose a unique threat to the Great Lakes, and the plan outlines a number of steps to keep such species out of the lakes. For example, recognizing that Asian carp continue to be an emerging threat, we are planning to allocate additional funds under the Initiative to tackle this problem.
- Protection of high priority watersheds and reduced runoff from urban, suburban and, agricultural sources: The Great Lakes are renowned for their beaches. Initiative funding will be targeted toward, among other things, reducing pollution so they can stay open more often for people to enjoy.
- Restoration of wetlands and other habitats: The action plan includes a first-ever assessment of the entire 530,000 acre Great Lakes coastal wetland, to help the task force begin to restore troubled areas; and
- Implementation of accountability measures, learning initiatives, outreach and strategic partnerships: The task force will work closely with the Great Lakes states, non-profits, stakeholder groups and Canada to protect and restore the lakes.
The plan also provides accountability for the administration’s efforts in each of these five priority areas by including measures of progress and benchmarks for success over the next five years.
In November, EPA released a request for proposals (RFP) to solicit applications from a diverse group of participants and partnerships to support the goals of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The deadline for applications was January 29, 2010. Since then, EPA has received more than 1,000 proposals for funding to support Great Lakes restoration activities. Funding through other agencies will be announced separately.