On September 24, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the second of two five-year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plans, outlining steps the federal government plans to take protect water quality, control invasive species and restore habitat in Great Lakes ecosystem through 2019.

 

Sunset on Georgian Bay. EPA has distributed $2 Billion since 2009 to help restore the Great Lakes, and is likely to distribute another $2 Billion under the new 5-year plan.

Sunset on Georgian Bay. EPA has distributed $2 Billion since 2010 to help restore the Great Lakes, and is likely to distribute another $2 Billion under the new 5-year plan. (Photo credit: Mom.)

Proposed by President Obama in 2009 and funded by annual Congressional appropriations laws beginning in 2010, the GLRI represents the latest of this country’s many efforts, stretching back decades, to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. The GLRI grew most immediately out of the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, which was created in 2004 to form a regional collaboration of stakeholders and develop strategies for restoring the Great Lakes. To implement these strategies, EPA, as chair of the Task Force, issued in 2010 an initial five-year GRLI “action plan” (Action Plan I). EPA’s new plan (Action Plan II) is a continuation of Action Plan I that covers 2015 through 2019. Action Plan II establishes four principal areas of focus, which are largely the same as those in Action Plan I:

However, Action Plan II also incorporates certain new elements, including a requirement that agencies develop and incorporate climate resiliency criteria in the project selection process, and a science-based adaptive management framework to help prioritize issues and select and evaluate projects.

 

With the assistance of a Great Lakes Advisory Board, EPA administers implementation of GRLI action plans and distributes funds to federal and state agencies for qualifying projects. (For example, EPA has appointed the MPCA and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources as the regulatory agencies under the GRLI to receive funds and direct clean up of contaminated sediments in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.) EPA distributed close to $2 Billion under the GRLI Action Plan I, and the price tag for Action Plan II is expected to be similar. To learn of some of the verified success of the GRLI, have a look at this recent publication of the U.S. Geological Survey.

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