On July 12, 2019, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finished accepting applications for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants. EPA awarded a total of approximately $14 million for about 30 projects in five categories addressing excess nutrients and stormwater runoff.
The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Federal agencies have funded more than 4,700 projects totaling over $2.4 billion to address the most important Great Lakes priorities such as addressing agricultural nutrients and stormwater runoff, cleaning up highly-contaminated “Areas of Concern”, combating invasive species and restoring habitat. Making GLRI funding available through a competitive application process is just one way that the GLRI achieves results.
This year, EPA included a new category to provide funding for innovative water quality trading projects. Approximately $1.5 million is available for four projects in this category which promotes cost-effective and market-based approaches to reducing excess nutrients to surface waters.
“EPA looks forward to collaborating with the Great Lakes states and agricultural communities on innovative water quality trading programs that deliver significant environmental results at a lower cost,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Water David Ross.
Another $12.5 million was made available to fund projects that target the following priorities:
- Riparian restoration to reduce runoff to the Maumee River;
- Green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff;
- Manure management to reduce nutrient runoff from farms; and
- Accelerating adoption of nutrient management through farmer-led outreach and education
“Reducing stormwater and nutrient runoff is a critical part of restoring the Great Lakes,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp. “EPA is proud to offer GLRI funding for on-the-ground projects that will reduce runoff pollution and improve water quality in the Great Lakes basin.”
EPA has supported the use of water quality trading, offsets, and similar programs for achieving compliance with regulatory requirements of the Clean Water Act for many years.
In February 2019, EPA issued a water quality trading memorandum that modernized the agency’s water quality trading policies to leverage emerging technologies and facilitate broader adoption of market-based programs that promote nutrient reductions and water quality improvements at a lower cost. The February 2019 memorandum is a part of the agency’s broader efforts to reduce nutrient losses through enhanced federal and state coordination and stakeholder engagement.
In December 2018, EPA and USDA issued a letter to state co-regulators encouraging a reinvigoration of state, tribal, and federal efforts to reduce excess nutrients in waterways, with a focus on market-based and other collaborative approaches. In February 2019, EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Water Research Foundation to develop affordable technologies to recycle nutrients from livestock manure.
Non-federal governmental entities, including state agencies, interstate agencies, federally recognized Indian tribes and tribal organizations, local governments, institutions of higher learning (i.e., colleges and universities), and non-profit organizations were eligible to apply for funding.
Photo (by USFWS) shows Andrea Ania and Tom Young holding a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative sign back in 2010, when the GLRI was announced.