Great Lakes Czar Cam Davis came to the HOW conference bearing gifts, in the form of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dollars. He used his time at the podium to announce several GLRI awardees from the Western New York area and he also explained the inner-workings of the GLRI process.
Fiscal year 2010 was the first year that the President and Congress provided funds to this region specifically meant to be used toward the total restoration of the Great Lakes. Davis explained that during this first year, the Environmental Protection Agency deliberately frontloaded projects that would monitor future GLRI projects setting up baselines to detect progress and meet statutory requirements.
Still, many of the projects that have already been announced are not just attacking the problems facing the lakes head on – they are providing jobs right now.
“We are starting to see that we are getting the money to move out to those on the ground projects,” Davis said. In Michigan, grants are dedicated to building up green infrastructure to prevent street pollution and storm runoff from hitting the lakes. Wisconsin’s barrier islands are going to be revived so that they can better provide protection for wetlands that are vital for cleaning up pollution in the lakes. In Duluth, Minn. money from GLRI will put disadvantaged people to work on an Area of Concern. “People will be getting paid at a time when jobs are at a premium,” said Davis.
Even better news, is that in FY2011, the EPA plans to grant more money to on the ground, water projects, according to Davis. The end of the approval process for this year’s grants comes at the end of this month. More information about the grants will be available at: www. greatlakesrestoration.us.
Finally, Davis made an appeal to the coalition to make sure Congress hears about our restoration success. “Please make sure you are shouting from the mountaintops or the dune tops your success stories. If you have funding under the GLRI we need you to tell your stories around the world,” he said.
“You get a sense, we really are trying to live up to a promise that we have all made to ourselves, we are going to restore the great lakes on a comprehensive basis and not just nibbling around the edges,” said Davis.