ANN ARBOR, MICH. (September 1, 2010) —The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today announced $189,564 in grants that will be awarded to 12 organizations poised to jump-start restoration projects on each of the Great Lakes.
The Coalition grants will help conservation organizations participate in the $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to clean up toxic pollution, confront aquatic invasive species and restore habitat and wetlands.
Grants of up to $15,000 per project are being awarded to groups in five geographic priority areas: The St. Louis River and St. Louis Bay in Lake Superior; the waters of Lake Michigan in the Chicagoland area; Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay; western Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay and eastern Lake Ontario.
The funds will support efforts to restore fish habitat on Lake Ontario, reduce bacterial contamination that forces beach closures near Chicago, control the invasive reed phragmites in coastal areas around Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, remove contaminated sediments from Duluth Harbor and decrease the amount of sediment washing into Lake Erie from the Maumee River.
“These grants will address an array of issues that are important to the health of the Great Lakes and the regional economy,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We’re excited to partner with local groups to advance Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery.”
In the inaugural year of the Coalition’s grant program, 12 organizations received funding of the 14 that applied. The coalition is funding 13 projects.
“There were a lot of great proposals demonstrating an amazing array of projects to restore and protect rivers, lakes, and wetlands that came out of each of the five priority areas ,” said Cheryl Mendoza, Freshwater Future associate director and Healing Our Waters implementation coordinator. “There were some tough choices to make and while we couldn’t fund everyone, we are thrilled that the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition will to be able to support some great efforts.”
A panel of Great Lakes scientists advised the Coalition in its selection of priority areas, recommending sites suffering from some of the biggest, most acute problems, while also exhibiting the potential to be successfully restored. Coalition staff and outside advisors selected the final grant recipients.
The coalition’s announcement comes as the U.S. EPA prepares to unveil the final grant awards of the $475 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—the most ambitious federal effort to date to restore the Great Lakes. The initiative—proposed by President Obama and enacted by the U.S. Congress—has been widely hailed as kick-starting a lagging federal response to the many serious threats facing the Great Lakes, the largest source of surface freshwater in North America.
Funded at $475 million in its inaugural year, President Obama requested the program to be cut to $300 million in the 2011 budget. House of Representative appropriators agreed, slashing the program to $300 million. The Senate has yet to agree on a funding level for the program.
“Now is not the time to scale back the nation’s commitment to a resource that is the backbone of our economy and way of life,” said Skelding. “After years of neglect and abuse, there is a huge need for a robust federal investment in Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery.”
When the EPA put out its request for restoration proposals as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the agency was inundated. It received proposals that outpaced funding by more than 7-to-1. Many projects will not be funded.
Every day, the lakes face serious threats, including:
• Sewage contamination, which closes beaches and threatens public health.
• Aquatic invasive species, which cost people, communities and businesses at least $200 million annually in damage and control costs.
• A legacy of toxic pollution, which leads to drinking water restrictions, beach closings and fish consumption advisories.
• Habitat destruction, which threatens water quality and harms the region’s outdoor recreation economy.
Restoring the lakes will be good for fish and wildlife, tourism, human health and the economy.
A study by the Brookings Institution found that every $1 investment in Great Lakes restoration leads to $2 in economic benefit for the eight-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery go hand-in-hand,” said Skelding. “We have solutions to restore the environment and jump-start the economy. It is time to use them. Every day we wait, the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”
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 Immediate Release:
September 1, 2010
Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 734-887-7109
Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 410-245-8021