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Great Lakes Strategy 2002

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Great Lakes Strategy 2002
A Plan for the New Millennium

A Strategic Plan for the Great Lakes Ecosystem

Physical Integrity: Promoting Habitat Protection, Water Quantity Management, and Improved Land Use Practices

Goal: Protect and restore the physical integrity of the Great Lakes, supporting habitats of healthy and diverse communities of plants, fish, and other aquatic life, and wildlife in the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem. Protect Great Lakes water as a regonal natural resource from non-sustainable diversions and exports, and promote improved land use practices.

The Great Lakes Basin is a unique Ecosystem, containing many ecologically rich areas and diverse community types, including terrestrial forests, dunes, prairie, savannah, barrens, wetlands, alvars, islands, and aquatic habitat. These areas, many of which are at risk of being lost or degraded, provide essential habitat for important native biota and rare species. Numerous stressors threaten the physical integrity of the Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem, as discussed in more detail below.

Habitat Protection and Restoration

Risks to habitat in the Great Lakes Basin include sprawl and the loss of greenspace, invasive species, hydrological alterations, shoreline hardening, incompatible land uses, and the problems of urbanization and pollution. The long-term restoration and protection of the Great Lakes Ecosystem requires the cooperation of a wide variety of partners, including non-governmental organizations, private landowners, industry, and government, because many of these issues cut across traditional political and organizational boundaries. Several ongoing multi-partner programs comprise the primary tools for prioritizing and coordinating Great Lakes habitat protection, including the State of the Lakes Ecosystem Conference (SOLEC), LaMPs, and RAPs, which continue to identify ecologically rich areas for protection and restoration. Through the SOLEC process, "Biodiversity Investment Areas" have been identified in the Great Lakes Basin to assist local land use jurisdictions as they develop protection and restoration plans. Lake-specific habitat work is coordinated through the LaMPs, and local habitat restoration is taking place through the RAP process at AOCs.

All federal agencies have a mandate to conserve federal endangered and threatened species under Section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act. Several Federal and State agencies are conducting ongoing analyses to identify important habitat for protection and restoration. "Critical Ecosystems" are being identified in the Basin by a variety of partners. The Fish and Wildlife Service's Coastal Program and, through NOAA's Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Program, State coastal management programs provide grants for State, Tribal and local initiatives such as: biological inventories, site management plans, greenways, ecological corridors, on-the-ground restorations, and site conservation plans. NOAA's

National Strategy to Restore Coastal Habitat continues to direct restoration and protection activities. USEPA supports support habitat improvement practices, including construction and enhancement of coastal wetland systems, under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. The USGS, USFWS, and Tribes are involved in mapping fish spawning grounds. Some States are preparing "biodiversity management plans" and mapping fish spawning grounds as well.

In addition, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are identifying "priority conservation areas," "potential wilderness areas," "American Heritage Rivers," "biodiversity hotspots," "important bird areas," and preparing many other recommendations for protecting or restoring high priority natural areas. Most of these efforts are ongoing, and this short list is far from complete.

Recognizing the particular vulnerability of coastal habitat, this Strategy focuses on its protection and restoration as a first priority, with a special focus on coastal wetlands, a unique and limited resource. It also recognizes and addresses the long-term need to protect and restore habitat throughout the entire Great Lakes Basin.

Key Objectives:

With the philosophy of no net loss, continue to fulfill Federal, State, and Tribal management responsibilities for the estimated 10 million acres of coastal and inland wetlands on the U.S. side of the Basin.

By 2005, support the restoration of fish and wildlife habitats by developing partnerships with Federal, States, Tribes, and private interests to construct habitats by beneficially using dredged material at six sites.

By 2005, support the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Tribes and others in the control and management of sea lampreys by constructing 20 sea lamprey barriers on tributaries to the Great Lakes, taking into account effects on fish populations.

By 2005, support the restoration of aquatic habitats by developing partnerships between Federal and State agencies to dredge contaminated sediments at five locations, using existing non-regulatory Federal, State, and Tribal programs.

By 2007, support the restoration of the Great Lakes fishery by developing partnerships with Federal, State, and private interests to construct 20 wetlands, using existing non-regulatory Federal, State, and Tribal programs.

By 2007 restore and protect coastal bald eagle habitat to allow the recovery of eagle populations and achieve a 10% increase, relative to the year 2000, in the number of occupied territories that produce at least one young per year in coastal habitat.

By 2010, restore, enhance, or rehabilitate 100,000 acres of coastal and inland wetlands in the Great Lakes Basin, using existing Federal, State, and Tribal programs.

[This goal will be achieved primarily through non-regulatory programs (e.g., USDA’s Wetland Reserve Programs and Emergency Wetlands Reserve Program, USFWS’ Partners for Fish and Wildlife, various State programs, etc.). USACOE’s Section 404 regulatory program is designed to ensure no net loss of wetlands from projects involving the discharge of dredge or fill material to waters. Due to site-specific factors affecting mitigation projects, (e.g., timing, probability of success, differing ecological values and functions), Section 404 permits sometimes require greater than one-for-one mitigation of last wetland acreage. In such cases, additional wetlands that are created, restored, or enhanced may be counted toward this goal.]

Key Actions:

By 2002, USFWS’s Great Lakes Basin Ecosystem Team will prioritize and coordinate conservation efforts for Great Lakes islands and lake sturgeon habitat.

The USGS, through its Gap Analysis Program (GAP), will work with State and Tribal natural resource and wildlife agencies to identify conservation priorities for preservation and restoration of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity in the Great Lakes Region.

By 2002, the USACE, with the Great Lakes Fishery Commission and the signatories to A Joint Strategic Plan for The Management of The Great Lakes Fisheries, will complete the support plan for Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program.

By 2003, collect the lists, descriptions, and maps of the high quality ecosystems that have been identified by the great variety of partners in the Great Lakes Basin. By 2004, develop selection criteria and compare the various high quality ecosystems from all of the partners and make recommendations to the USPC about which sites are of greatest interest.

Ensure that management plans for publicly-owned land in the Great Lakes Basin address the critical species, natural communities, and ecosystems that are representative of Great Lakes Basin biodiversity.

Promote native species and plantings in contiguous watershed environments through Conservation Districts and Drain Commissions.

By 2005, identify a continuum of stopover sites for migratory birds that pass through the Great Lakes Region, and critical areas in need of restoration and/or protection.

By 2005, establish projects in coastal National Parks or National Wildlife Refuges in the Great Lakes Basin as demonstration sites for successful invasive species eradication and control, as well as habitat restoration, on public lands.

States’ Coastal Zone Management Programs, in partnership with NOAA, will continue to inventory and designate areas of special coastal-related value, including Areas of Particular Concern and Areas for Restoration and Preservation.

Special Focus Area: Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands

The Great Lakes coastal zone includes the relatively warm and shallow waters near the shore, coastal wetlands, and the land areas directly affected by lake processes. These areas are the most diverse and productive parts of the Great Lakes ecosystem. Great Lakes coastal wetlands play a pivotal role in the aquatic ecosystem of the Great Lakes, storing and cycling nutrients and organic material from the land into the aquatic food web. Most of the Lakes' fish species depend upon them for some portion of their life cycles. Large populations of migratory birds rely on them for staging and feeding areas. Coastal areas also receive some of the most intense human activity. As a result, the areas that contain the greatest biological resources are subject to the greatest stress.

Two important tools in coastal wetland protection are NOAA’s CZM Program and the SOLEC Indicators Initiative. Under the CZM Program, NOAA, and the States select enhancement areas for funding to protect, restore, or enhance the existing coastal wetlands base or to create new coastal wetlands. Participants in the SOLEC Indicators Initiative have identified coastal wetlands as a special focus area, and the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium will develop basin-wide monitoring methods for these important habitats.

Key Actions:

Federal, State, and Tribal agencies will continue to participate in the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium, initiated in early 2000.

By 2003, the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium will create and populate a binational GIS database on Great Lakes coastal wetlands accessible to all scientists, decision makers, and the public. This database will contain data on the location and classification of coastal wetlands and data on indicators of wetland quality.

By 2003, the Great Lakes Coastal Wetland Consortium will design and establish a program for monitoring the quality of international Great Lakes coastal wetlands. In addition, It will identify and rank major threats to coastal wetlands (e.g., development, invasive species, hydrological alteration, resource extraction, shoreline hardening, etc.).

Protection of Great Lakes Water Resources

Over the past few years, the diversion of water from the Great Lakes Basin has become a high profile issue, both nationally and internationally, most notably centered on a Canadian company's 1998 proposal to export Lake Superior water to markets overseas. Throughout the Basin, numerous concerns were voiced over the lack of any consultation or analysis of the environmental implications of such a withdrawal. The request was subsequently withdrawn. This situation brought the issue of water diversion to the top of the Great Lakes agenda.

In accordance with Section 504 of the 2000 amendments to the Water Resource Development Act (WRDA), the Great Lakes Governors have led the development of a stronger regional water management system. Under WRDA, no bulk export or diversions from the Basin can take place without the unanimous approval of all Great Lakes Governors. Recently, the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers have committed to developing conservation and restoration-based standards for reviewing proposed withdrawals. The long-term goal is to manage Great Lakes water resources in a manner which will protect and sustain the Great Lakes Ecosystem, while also maintaining a strong economy.

Ground water is the source of drinking water for about 8.2 million people within the Great Lakes Watershed. Recent publications, including USGS's report The Importance of Ground Water in the Great Lakes Region, have increased public awareness of ground water resources. Besides providing drinking water, this important natural resource is a large, subsurface reservoir that slowly releases water to provide reliable stream water flow and helps ensure habitat for aquatic animals and plants during periods of low precipitation. This resource needs to be characterized according to its availability, quality, and demand to develop a sustainable supply for all uses.

Key Actions:

Support the efforts of the Great Lakes Governors and Premiers, as articulated in"Annex 2001", to prepare a binding agreement within three years, with broad public participation, on conservation and restoration-based standards for withdrawals of Great Lakes water.

Protect Great Lakes groundwater resources through existing multi-agency groundwater protection programs. Increase understanding of the linkage between the watershed, groundwater, and the Great Lakes.

Support the work of the Central Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition whose purpose is to map and characterize glacial and related deposits in three dimensions, from the land surface all the way down to and including the underlying bedrock, so that ground water can be carefully managed and protected.

NOAA and States will continue to implement the CZM Program, including elements which address policies regulating water withdrawals within their boundaries.

USGS will continue to compile information on water use at 5-year intervals for the Great Lakes Basin as part of the National Water Use Program.

USGS will continue to develop an increased understanding of the role of ground water in the Great Lakes through the projects supported by the National Ground-Water Resources Program, National Water-Quality Assessment Program, and in cooperation with the State geologists and State geologic mapping programs through the Central Great Lakes Geologic Mapping Coalition.

Sustainable Land Use

In communities across the Great Lakes Region, there is a growing concern that current sprawling development patterns are not in the long-term interest of the existing suburbs, small towns, inner cities, rural communities, or wilderness areas in the Basin. The cost of abandoned infrastructure in the city, loss of open space and prime agricultural lands at the suburban fringe, and longer vehicle commuting times with attendant increases in air pollution, all impact on the environmental health and overall quality of life in the Great Lakes Basin. These concerns have spurred a national "Smart Growth" movement.

The principles of Smart Growth include the preservation of open spaces, farmland, natural beauty, historic buildings, and critical environmental areas; reinvestment in and strengthening of existing communities; fostering distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place; maintaining local authority for planning and managing growth while recognizing the need for regional perspectives and cooperation; providing a variety of transportation choices; providing incentives for collaboration among local governments, and partnerships among local, Tribal, State, and Federal levels of government; and encouraging revenue policies that promote balanced growth decisions. There are a wide variety of stakeholders in the Smart Growth movement including environmentalists and community activists, community development organizations; real estate developers; planners; Federal, State, Tribal, and local government officials; lending institutions, and architects.

Great Lakes States have been leaders in pioneering innovative Smart Growth legislation. Examples include Wisconsin's Comprehensive Planning Grant programs, and Pennsylvania's $650 million "Growing Greener" investment, "Growing Smarter" land-use reforms, and nationally-known Land Recycling Program. In 1996, the USEPA and NOAA joined with several non-profit and government organizations to form the Smart Growth Network. The Smart Growth Network (SGN) works to encourage development that serves the economy, community, and the environment. The Network provides a forum for:

Other relevant activities include the implementation of State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programsdeveloped pursuant to section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA). This program provides for the implementation of management measures for site development designed to protect sensitive areas, limit increases in impervious cover, and limit land disturbance activities. Also, the Nonpoint Education for Municipal Officials Program (NEMO) supports improved land use decision making by educating local officials on the principles of natural resource based planning.

Key Actions:

Continue to participate in and support the Smart Growth Network.
Continue to implement State Coastal Nonpoint Pollution Control Programs.

Brownfield Redevelopment

A key component of Smart Growth is brownfields redevelopment. A Brownfield is a site that has actual or perceived contamination, as well as an active potential for redevelopment or reuse. It is estimated that there could be as many as 100,000 such sites in the Great Lake States, many of which are in the Basin. Because lenders, investors, and developers fear that involvement with these sites may make them liable for cleaning up contamination they did not create, they are more attracted to developing new sites in pristine areas, or "greenfields."

USEPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative is designed to empower States, Tribes, communities, and other stakeholders to work together in a timely manner to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse Brownfields. Through this initiative, over twenty agencies have worked in partnership to coordinate federal programs related to Brownfields redevelopment. The centerpiece of this national partnership has been the designation of Brownfield Showcase Communities to serve as models for community-based cleanup and redevelopment. USEPA's Superfund Redevelopment Initiative similarly helps communities return Superfund sites to productive use. Great Lakes States have also taken a leadership role in Brownfields redevelopment. For example, in FY1998, Michigan passed the Clean Michigan Initiative bond, a $650 million program focused on cleaning up Brownfields and greenspace preservation. Similarly, in FY2000, the State of Ohio passed Issue 1, a $400 million program also aimed at Brownfields restoration and farmland preservation. All Great Lakes States also have voluntary cleanup programs, by which many of the Brownfield sites are remediated.

Key Actions:

USEPA, Federal, State, and Tribal agencies will continue to support local Brownfield redevelopment efforts through funding and implementation of:

Promoting Conservation Practices on Agricultural Lands

Based on State analyses (305(b) reports), a leading cause of water quality impairment in the Great Lakes Basin is contaminated runoff, and agriculture is one of the most extensive source of this pollution. Continuing efforts over the last several years have promoted the reduction of pesticide and nutrient run-off through improved agricultural practices such as conservation tillage, no-till planting, and the use of buffer strips, while also addressing more recent problems that can occur from mismanagement of large-scale animal production farms.

Practices such as conservation tillage and no-till planting have proven effective in reducing erosion on agricultural lands. Conservation tillage is rapidly becoming the primary cultivation practice in the Basin, affecting as much as 70 percent of the total acreage in many counties, and 48 percent basin wide. Buffer strips, vegetation established between fields and surface waters, also help reduce sediment, nutrients, and chemicals entering tributaries that flow into the Great Lakes. Innovative programs such as USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), National Conservation Buffer Initiative, and the Environment Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) provide a systems approach for addressing agricultural non-point source pollution to the Great Lakes. The federal Farmland Protection Program, administered by the NRCS, supports matching grants and non governmental organizations to purchase conservation easements on agricultural lands. NRCS also supports the Great Lakes Commission’s Great Lakes Basin Program for soil erosion and sediment control.

Through the CZMA, State coastal management programs coordinate, promote, and implement state efforts to address nonpoint sources of pollution. In addition, USEPA has several standing programs to address soil erosion and sedimentation within the Basin. Local conservation districts also play a key role in enhancing efforts to establish conservation buffers and no-till planting methods. Together, these efforts help sustain the production of food and fiber products while maintaining environmental quality and a strong natural resource base.

Thirty-eight percent of the Nation's 450,000 animal feeding operations exist in the Midwest, and the many of these are in the Great Lakes Basin. In 1999, the USDA and the USEPA issued a Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations (UNSAFO) to minimize the water quality and public health impacts of livestock operations. Two important steps in the Strategy were the recently proposed regulations to address water pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations and the voluntary development of Comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans (CNMP). The USEPA and USDA, in coordination with the States, have sought public comment, and will revise and implement this regulation and planning effort.

Key Objectives:

Consistent with the goals of the National Conservation Buffer Initiative, establish 300,000 acres of buffers in the Great Lakes Basin by 2007 (base year 1999), using existing non-regulatory Federal and State programs, and track this progress under USDA's CRP.

In accordance with the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, assist and track the development of CNMP for Animal Feeding Operations in the Great Lakes Basin by 2009. The continued technical and financial support provided under the UNSAFO and EQIP will be necessary to complete this goal.

Key Actions:

USDA will continue to implement CRP and will work with any State's effort to supplement the CRP funding with a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program targeted to the Great Lakes Basin. The development of forested riparian areas in the northern Great Lakes Basin will also be promoted as a means to support cold water fisheries.

Encourage and support the National Association of Conservation Districts' Great Lakes Buffer/No-Till Program, which will help protect and enhance water quality in the Great Lakes and the tributaries that flow into the Lakes.

USEPA will work with States to issue NPDES permits to concentrated animal feeding operations, or implement functionally equivalent approaches as per the Unified National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations, Strategic Issue #3, or future Federal guidance or rules.

Continue to support the implementation of rural and urban nutrient conservation practices by the States under Section 319 of the CWA and Section 6217 of the CZMA.

By 2013, implement the CZARA management measures for facility wastewater and runoff from confined animal facility management.

Overflows from Sanitary Sewers and Combined Sewer Systems

During heavy wet weather events, sewer systems can be overwhelmed by high flows, resulting in the release of raw sewage from combined sewer overflows (CSO) and sanitary sewer overflows (SSO). Combined sewers, systems designed to collect both storm water and sanitary wastewater, can overflow when the capacity of the wastewater treatment facility is exceeded or when flows exceed the capacity of sections of the transport system. Separate sanitary sewer systems can also experience untreated discharges related to wet weather events. These can be caused by excessive inflow and infiltration, inadequate maintenance, and insufficient wet weather transport capacity. SSOs and untreated CSOs can contain pathogens that lead to beach closures and human health concerns, as well as oxygen demanding substances that can lead to low dissolved oxygen levels. Untreated CSOs discharges may also contain industrial pollutants.

USEPA's CSO Control Policy outlines approaches for addressing CSOs in order to achieve the requirements of the Clean Water Act. States have also adopted policies, strategies and rules consistent with the National CSO Policy, and use these as a basis for issuing permits and compliance orders for CSO control. CSO communities are required to develop and implement interim controls and long term control plans for assuring that CSOs do not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards.

Avoidable SSO discharges can lead to enforcement actions by States or USEPA. USEPA is developing an SSO policy to help prevent avoidable SSOs and mitigate the impacts of those which are unavoidable.

Key Objectives:

By 2005 100% of all CSO permits in the Great Lakes basin will be consistent with the national CSO Policy. All issued/reissued permits for CSO discharges will contain conditions that conform to the National CSO policy, and States will prioritize the reissuance of CSO permits under their permit backlog strategies.

By 2010, all sewer systems will be operated under long-term comprehensive management plans which will optimize performance and minimize discharges from SSOs.

Key Actions:

Prioritize wet weather program activities to focus on CSO and SSO discharges impacting bathing beaches and other areas of potential health risk exposure in the Great Lakes Basin.

By 2003, USEPA and States will assist local governments in establishing alternate funding vehicles to implement CSO/SSO abatement construction projects.

Storm Water Discharges

With increasing urban growth, storm water discharges are a growing concern in the Great Lakes. After heavy rains or snowmelt, pollutants from lawns, streets, parking lots, construction sites, and industrial or commercial areas are collected in storm drains and transported directly to nearby waters without treatment. Illicit discharges and discharges from failing septic systems can also find their way to storm drains. "Phase I" storm water regulations currently require permits for storm water discharges from industrial sites, construction activities disturbing five acres of land, and larger municipal separate storm sewer systems ("MS4s"). Phase II regulations will require NPDES permits for construction sites disturbing one acre or greater and from most MS4s in urbanized areas. The focus of the permit requirements is to develop and implement best management practices to control pollutants in storm water. Phase II permits must be effective by March 2003. USEPA and the Great Lakes States are working together to reduce the threat of wet weather discharges to water quality, while reducing pollution control costs. Other relevant activities include the implementation of management measures for new development under CZARA.

Key Objective:

By December 31, 2003, storm water permits will be in place for all phase II storm water discharges (small construction and small MS4s), unless States choose to phase in permit coverage on a watershed basis.


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