On April 9, 2020, following Congress’ appropriation of an additional $20 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding for FY2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it anticipates using the increase to further its efforts to restore the Great Lakes by focusing on Areas of Concern (AOCs), such as invasive species control and prevention, excess nutrients, and wildlife habitat restoration.
“Eliminating water pollution and boosting restoration of the Great Lakes is a priority for me as Administrator at EPA,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With this additional $20 million, we will be able to target many harder-to-solve challenge areas like invasive species and high nutrient loads.”
The GLRI program represents a concerted coordination of federal agency resources to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
“Thanks to this boost in GLRI funding we can expect to see even more progress in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede.
Each year, Congress appropriates GLRI funding to EPA, which then transfers a significant portion of the GLRI funds to other federal agencies. The funds are used to implement projects that address the most important Great Lakes priorities.
When contemplating how best to use the additional $20 million, EPA considered the GLRI Action Plan III, the traditional targets of GLRI funding, statutory and congressional directives, and current agency priorities.
EPA plans to use the additional $20 million as follows:
- Accelerate the Cleanup and Restoration of Great Lakes AOCs ($7.5 million): The additional funds will be targeted to significant sediment remediation and habitat restoration projects to help meet the aggressive goals in GLRI Action Plan III to remediate, restore and delist U.S. AOCs.
- Fund Research and Development of Ballast Water Treatment Systems ($5 million): The additional funds will support further invasive species prevention by funding research and development of ballast water treatment systems for cargo vessels that operate primarily, but not exclusively, within the Great Lakes.
- Support the Great Lakes Trash Free Waters Grant Program ($2 million): The additional funds will continue efforts to provide healthy habitat for fish and wildlife by keeping trash out of the Great Lakes.
- Support Great Lakes states activities to reduce excess nutrient loads, restore habitat, and control and prevent invasive species ($5 million): The additional funds will be targeted for the highest priorities of the Great Lakes states to reduce excess nutrient loads, protect or restore habitat, and prevent and control aquatic invasive species such as Asian carp.
- Support Great Lakes National Program Office operations ($500,000): Additional funds are needed to support operations in the Great Lakes National Program Office.
Bipartisan support for Great Lakes Restoration was voiced by officials in the region:
- Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force: “I applaud the EPA for using Congress’ recent funding increase for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to build upon its efforts to clean up Areas of Concern, combat Harmful Algal Blooms, control invasive species, and keep trash out of the Great Lakes. As someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, I am proud to have led the bipartisan effort in Congress to increase funding for this critical initiative and look forward to continuing to work with EPA and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect the invaluable natural resource and economic powerhouse that is the Great Lakes system.”
- Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force: “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative meets an enormous unmet need for our region and the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, work, and leisure. The Great Lakes are among our planet’s greatest gifts. They provide our nation with 90% of our fresh surface water, are home to thousands of unique plant and animal species, and generate over $60 billion in wages every year. Put simply, our Great Lakes cannot be replaced – they must be protected and deserve robust federal investment. Today’s announcement reflects the bipartisan Congressional effort to increase funding for GLRI in Fiscal Year 2020, a process set in motion by the House Appropriations Committee, on which I serve. The GLRI is reshaping the ecological future of our Great Lakes for the better. I look forward to the good these funds will do through a wide variety of projects and initiatives in the region.”
- Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force: “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has established an effective record of protecting, preserving, and strengthening the Great Lakes for future generations. This announcement will build on that success by enhancing efforts to clean up legacy pollution, prevent the spread of invasive species, and restore critical habitats in West Michigan and communities across the Great Lakes Basin.”
- Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-07): “As I have said for years, the Great Lakes is one of our nation’s most important resources. From the commerce it drives regionally to the drinking water it provides locally, the ecological safety of the lakes is important to the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. As an advocate for the Great Lakes in Congress, I have fought to make sure the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative gets the funding it needs to maintain projects like pollution reduction and stopping invasive species. I am happy to see the EPA putting Congress’ funding to good use.”
- Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01): “Those of us who call Michigan home know the importance of our water and the need to protect, preserve, and restore this treasured natural resource. These additional funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will further allow us to fight invasive species, conserve species habitats, and further protect our nation’s freshwater. The continued focus on the Great Lakes region by the Administration and Congress is critical to the health of our Great Lakes, our communities, our rich sportsman heritage, and the economy of northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.”
- Congressman John Moolenaar (MI-04): “Right now, millions of Michigan residents are looking forward to when we can once again enjoy the Great Lakes with our friends and family. This new funding will go towards invasive species control, restoring habitats and protecting the Great Lakes for all of us. That’s why I worked in Congress on the House Appropriations Committee to support the GLRI and get this funding for Michigan. Finally, I want to thank the EPA for its support of the GLRI and for moving this funding forward.”
- Congressman Paul Mitchell (MI-10): “Throughout my time in Congress I have advocated for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) because of its importance to Michigan and the entire Great Lakes region. I’m pleased to see the EPA’s announcement of an additional $20 million in GLRI funding. I will continue to support efforts like this that protect and restore this national treasure that our communities rely on for drinking water, recreation, and commerce.”
- Congressman Pete Stauber (MN-08): “Lake Superior is a national treasure and key pillar of our economy. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is vital in preserving this special place for future generations to enjoy and guaranteeing continued economic prosperity for Minnesota’s Eighth District. I was happy to vote for this increased funding and am pleased to see it implemented.”
- Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson: “This additional funding can help Ohio and other states improve our areas of concern and support other important water quality priorities in the Lake Erie basin.”
- Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina): “I’m grateful for the EPA’s continued focus on Lake Erie. This additional funding is critical to protecting the lake’s viability as an incredible natural resource and economic powerhouse, not only for Ohio but also for the United States.”
- Indiana State Senator Ed Charbonneau, Chair of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus: “Indiana’s water quality is one of my highest priorities, and protecting the Great Lakes is extremely important to ensuring clean water is available for the communities of northern Indiana and our entire nation. These bodies and channels of water are globally significant natural resources and ecosystems, and this increased funding will play a central role in our continued efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes.”
- Minnesota State Senator Jason Rarick (R-Pine City): “I’m very pleased our communities could benefit from the $20 million in additional funding for the Great Lakes Initiative. In the land of 10,000 lakes, caring for our waters is more than just maintenance, it’s about improving and restoring the lakes to their full beauty for future generations to enjoy. I appreciate having a federal partner in the effort to restore and improve our Great Lakes.”
- Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller: “This additional investment in the health and continued improvement in our Great Lakes is both welcome and needed. Our magnificent Great Lakes are a national treasure, and continued funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative demonstrates our nations commitment to them.”