EPA Names Finalists for $160 Million to Advance Great Lakes Restoration, Economic Recovery

Coalition urges U.S. Congress to continue to fund program at $475 million to
create jobs, restore Lakes, and lay foundation for long-term prosperity

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (June 1, 2010)—The EPA today announced preliminary grant awards to restore the Great Lakes as part of a federal $475 million program to restore the Lakes—the largest fresh-water resource in the world.

The agency has identified 270 projects totaling more than $160 million that will be eligible for funding as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollution, reduce non-point source pollution and control and prevent invasive species.

“The awards are the result of a tremendous commitment by President Obama and the U.S. Congress to restore an iconic national resource and to revitalize the region’s economy,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “The nation’s investment in the Great Lakes will benefit people, communities and businesses. It will create jobs immediately while helping to lay the foundation for long-term prosperity in the region.”

The agency’s goal is to start awarding money this summer so that projects can get underway in the Great Lakes states which may be receiving grants, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

For the list of grant finalists and projects, visit: http://www.epa.gov/glnpo/fund/2010rfp01/index.html

The Great Lakes face many serious threats. More than 185 invasive species in the Lakes cost the region at least $200 million annually in damages and control costs; a legacy of toxic pollution threatens the health of people and wildlife; sewage overflows close beaches; and habitat destruction hurts water quality, wildlife, and the region’s outdoor recreation industry.

President Obama and the U.S. Congress have made Great Lakes restoration a national priority. President Obama announced the $475 million initiative last year to reverse decades of abuse. Congress enacted and fully funded the measure.

As part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the EPA has obligated around $410 million of the $475 million: more than $245 million through interagency agreements – money awarded directly to federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service – and $160 million as part of today’s announcement. The agency has stated that it will put out another request for proposals to distribute the remaining funds.

After years of inadequate federal investment, the backlog of work remains enormous. When the EPA put out its request for restoration proposals, the agency was inundated. It received proposals that outpaced funding by more than 7-to-1. Many projects will not be funded.

The announcement by the EPA comes as federal lawmakers continue to work on the 2011 budget. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is urging Congress to fund the initiative at $475 million for fiscal year 2011.

“The need has never been greater,” said Skelding. “It is imperative that Congress fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million now and in the coming years so that we can continue to make progress. Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery hinge on a sustained commitment by the federal government. Otherwise, the problems will get worse and the solutions will get more costly.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is in the midst of launching a program to help local conservation organizations participate in the federal $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Coalition will be providing $200,000 to help local groups jump-start restoration projects in five priority areas around each of the Great Lakes. Coalition grants will help provide the tools, capacity and expertise to apply for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.

“Our top priority is to ensure that Great Lakes restoration succeeds,” said Skelding, ”so that public officials continue to support solutions to serious problems that threaten our environment and economy. It’s going to take a sustained, multi-year effort to restore the largest freshwater resource in the world. ”

The Brookings Institution found that restoring the Great Lakes will bring the eight-state region at least $2 in economic benefit for every $1 investment.The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 115 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

For more information, visit: healthylakes.org

For immediate release:
June 1, 2010

Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (410) 245-8021
Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, (734) 904-1589

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