The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is beginning to produce significant benefits, according to a federal official.
Projects launched during the first two years of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative have restored thousands of acres of wetlands, reduced beach closures in Chicago and beaten back the advance of Asian carp, said Cameron Davis, special advisor to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson.
“We’re starting to see results from the first two years of funding,” Davis said Friday. “We’re off to a very good start … but the Great Lakes aren’t going to be restored overnight.”
Davis, the EPA’s point person on Great Lakes issues, made his comments during a speech at the Saginaw Bay Watershed Conference.
Saginaw Bay is one of 41 Great Lakes Areas of Concern due to historic pollution that contaminated bottom sediments, fish and wildlife. EPA officials have said restoring Saginaw Bay is an agency priority.
President Obama launched the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010; the president and Congress approved $1 billion for the GLRI during the first three years of the program.
The president is seeking another $300 million for the program in fiscal 2013 and has pledged to seek funding for the GLRI beyond 2014.
“If we want the Great Lakes to take care of us we need to take care of the Great Lakes,” Davis said. “That’s what the GLRI does.”
To date, the GLRI has funded more than 600 projects aimed at reducing toxic pollution, restoring wetlands, reducing polluted runoff and preventing new invasive species from colonizing the lake.
Davis said GLRI projects launched in 2010 and 2011 have:
- Restored more than 20,000 acres of Great Lakes wetlands.
- Contributed to Chicago in 2011 recording its fewest beach closures due to bacterial pollution in the past five years.
- Made progress in cleaning up toxic sediments and restoring fish and wildlife habitat in Great Lakes Areas of Concern.
- Stopped the northerly advance of Asian carp in the Wabash River in Indiana and the Chicago Waterway System. The federal government has spent $150 million to date in a bid to keep Asian carp in the Mississippi River system from invading the Great Lakes, Davis said. No reproducing populations of Asian carp have been found in the lakes.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is documenting Great Lakes restoration success stories. Go here to read those stories.