EPA Administrator Wheeler Kicks Off Wisconsin Visit with Great Lakes Cleanup Announcement, Views Brownfields Redevelopment Success
Green Bay, Wis. (August 11, 2020) - Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler kicked off his visit to Wisconsin announcing the forthcoming delisting of the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern (AOC), meeting with agricultural partners improving the quality of the Great Lakes, and touring Brownfields redevelopment progress in downtown Green Bay.
"Restoring the health of the Great Lakes has been an important focus of the Trump Administration," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "Our announcement today to delist the Lower Menominee River from the agency's 'Area of Concern' list is the latest example of how communities around the country - and in Wisconsin - are taking charge of their future and cleaning up industrial pollution that has hurt their communities' economic and environmental well-being."
"It is great to be in my home state of Wisconsin to see firsthand the tremendous impact EPA and our partners are having across the state," said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede. "Helping these communities move forward with a cleaner, safer environment is incredibly rewarding."
While on the Lower Menominee River, Administrator Wheeler and Regional Administrator Thiede toured the Menominee Dam and fish elevator for sturgeon in Menominee, Mich., and the WPSC Superfund site to view habitat restoration work for the heron rookery. Afterward, Administrator Wheeler and Regional Administrator Thiede delivered remarks at the Menekaunee Harbor alongside Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot and the co-chair of the Lower Menominee Citizens Advisory Committee.
All management actions have been completed and the six Beneficial Use Impairments on the river have been removed allowing for the historic delisting of the AOC. This will be the first AOC delisting in Wisconsin and only the fifth delisting of the 31 U.S. AOCs.
Delisting will be formally announced in September in partnership with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE). The transformation of this AOC is a significant success story in the overall restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.
"The Great Lakes are the lifeblood of the First District. I appreciate Administrator Wheeler's continued devotion to preserving our water and protecting our Great Lakes. This is a great example of the importance of GLRI funding, and is yet another reason I have fought to expand this funding in Congress," said U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01).
Sediment and habitat restoration projects in the AOC have used $28 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding and leveraged an additional $15 million for projects such as the construction of fish passages for sturgeon around the Park Mill and Menominee Dams and removing invasive species to improve rookery habitat in the Lower Menominee Islands.
The change from a highly contaminated river to one that is a sportfishing destination with successfully reproducing fish and wildfire populations is a result of long-term and substantial commitments from a host of partners over decades.
There are and will be ongoing efforts to advance the Lower Menominee River, though restoration activities can now focus on an enhanced future state without the limitations of an AOC label.
Administrator Wheeler also visited the Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis. located along with Menominee River. EPA Region 5 served in a coordinating role dating back to 2018 to navigate the variety of jurisdictions including the Bureau of Land Management, WDNR, EGLE, and Army Corps of Engineers during the development of this project, which led to the historic $5 billion contract. This is a prime example of environmental protection and a strong economy under President Trump as EPA's Great Lakes Program coordinated with Marinette Marine to ensure the AOC delisting of the Lower Menominee River while the defense contract moved forward.
Administrator Wheeler visited the Deer Run Dairy in Kwaunee with U.S. Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06), which is part of a demonstration farm network funded by GLRI, with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation (WFBF) and Wisconsin Future Farmers of America (FFA) students where he saw cutting edge conservation practices that improve Great Lakes water quality by reducing phosphorus from entering Green Bay and Lake Michigan.
"The health and well-being of the Great Lakes is of paramount importance to Wisconsin's Sixth District, which covers about 90 miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan. It is encouraging to see state-of-the-art agricultural practices put into place through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and see tangible results in the Great Lakes and their tributaries. I was glad to welcome Administrator Wheeler to Wisconsin for the third time in the last six months. It is great for Wisconsin to have the head of major government agency providing our state with such hands-on leadership. I applaud the Trump Administration and the EPA for their dedication to Wisconsin. They are demonstrating how our local farmers can work together with regulators to ensure the health and well-being of our waters by reducing runoff and other pollutants." said U.S. Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-06).
These demonstration farms implement a variety of conservation practices that demonstrate effectiveness in reducing soil erosion and nutrient runoff. They focus on increasing organic matter and improving soil health. It is a partnership is a collaboration between USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, and University of Wisconsin Madison Extension.
In February 2019, Administrator Wheeler signed a first-time Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with National FFA [https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-acting-administrator-wheeler-signs-mou-national-ffa-organization-enhance]. The MOU facilitates internship opportunities, connections between EPA Regional Offices and National FFA Chapters, and furthering outreach on EPA's environmental education efforts to rural areas.
"As farmers, we care for the land, water and other natural resources because they are the lifeblood of our business," said WFBF Board Member and Wisconsin dairy farmer Rosie Lisowe. "Farmers are proud to touch the lives of people they may never meet through the food on their dinner table. We know we must continue to learn and grow in our farming practices to continue feeding our families and yours."
The day concluded touring the Schreiber Foods/CityDeck Brownfields sites in Green Bay. The former Washington Commons Mall was redeveloped into the international headquarters for Schreiber Foods. This site was assessed using $148,805 in EPA funds and leveraged additional public and private funds to open the $85 million, 260,000-square foot headquarters that's now home to over 600 employees.
The CityDeck is a riverfront boardwalk/promenade along the edge of the Fox River in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin. Last October, it was also the location for the rollout of the Trump Administration's proposed Lead and Copper Rule.
While touring Green Bay Brownfields sites, they discussed the June 2019 $500,000 EPA Brownfield Cleanup Grant to the City of Green Bay, which helped to leverage an additional $1 million in cleanup funds from the State of Wisconsin. The cleanup grant will be used to remediate a major new riverfront development known as the Shipyard.
Under the Trump Administration, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfields grants directly to communities and non-profits in need. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, 151 communities were selected to receive 155 grants totaling $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding through our Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants. Of the selected communities, 118 can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated as federal Opportunity Zones.