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EPA secures new Great Lakes funding, details nutrient runoff projects

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a detailed action plan to fight nutrient runoff and announced that Congress has approved an additional $20 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). 

The EPA announced that the new funds would be used to address persistent challenges affecting the Great Lakes Areas of Concern, invasive species control and prevention, excess nutrients, and habitat restoration. 

The GLRI launched in 2010 as a non-regulatory program to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world, and provide additional resources to make progress toward the most critical long-term goals for the ecosystem. 

The health of the Great Lakes are very important to Canadians, especially for the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. According to the government of Ontario, the Great Lakes watersheds are home to nearly 40% of Canadians and 75% of Canadian manufacturing. In 2011, Great Lakes fishery industry contributed approximately $234 million to Ontario’s economy with recreational fishing activity contributing another $600 million. 

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“Thanks to this boost in GLRI funding we can expect to see even more progress in protecting and restoring the Great Lakes,” said Kurt Thiede, Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager, in an announcement. “EPA looks forward to working with our partners on ballast water research, cleaning up Areas of Concern and keeping trash and litter out of the Great Lakes,” he added. 

View the full GLRI Action Plan II

 A snapshot of where some the new funds will go include US$5 million to fund the research and development of ballast water treatment systems, and another US$2 million to support the Great Lakes Trash Free Waters Grant Program. 

A week after the $20 million was announced, the EPA also released a list of projects that will be awarded $9 million in grants to reduce excess nutrient runoff from non-point sources, including stormwater and agriculture, to the Great Lakes. To this point under GLRI, more than one million lbs of phosphorus runoff has been reduced from farmlands, and more than 700,000 cropland acres are now under conservation in agricultural priority watersheds, according to the EPA. 

Touching on some of the nutrient runoff projects, The Milwaukee Public School System is planning to implement green infrastructure design methods at five schools to reduce stormwater runoff. Through $600,000 in funding, crews will transform impervious school yard surfaces into areas that can absorb and capture stormwater runoff. The project anticipates a capture capacity of 3.1 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually. 

Nearly $1 million will be given to the American Farmland Trust in Washington and New York to accelerate adoption of soil regenerative and nutrient management practices in the Genesee River Watershed through on-farm demonstrations and farmer-led training and outreach. The project will engage 1,300 farmers, landowners, and advisors to prevent loadings of approximately 45 lbs of phosphorus, 30 tons of sediment, and 7,500 lbs of nitrogen to the Genesee River. 

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has established an effective record of protecting, preserving, and strengthening the Great Lakes for future generations,” announced Congressman Bill Huizenga, Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “This announcement will build on that success by enhancing efforts to clean up legacy pollution, prevent the spread of invasive species, and restore critical habitats in West Michigan and communities across the Great Lakes Basin.”

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