EPA, Members of Congress, Partners and Stakeholders celebrate a decade of GLRI success
Launched in 2010, GLRI has funded over 5,400 projects totaling more than $2.7 billion; $16 million slated for two newly selected projects
CHICAGO (Dec. 9, 2020) — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined elected officials, key partners and stakeholders at a virtual event to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and celebrate its unparalleled successes.
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has made a critical difference in dramatically improved water quality and sustainable habitat across the Great Lakes region,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “In 2010, Congress and EPA started to take action, and a decade later, the environmental and economic benefits of the Initiative are now a major source of pride for everyone involved.”
“The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system on Earth, providing drinking water to more than 30 million Americans and supporting nearly 1.5 million jobs that generate over $80 billion in wages every year. The crucial importance of our shared success cannot be overstated,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “The preservation and protection of this binational treasure has been a top priority in the Trump Administration, and EPA is leading efforts to restore and maintain the overall health and ecosystems of the Great Lakes watershed."
The Trump Administration’s EPA has accelerated efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. In October 2019, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced the GLRI Action Plan III, an aggressive plan that will guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its many partners over the next 4 years. This strategic investment of GLRI dollars is key to building upon the agency’s results in providing a cleaner, safer environment and fueling the historic economic growth of the Great Lakes region.
“For the last 10 years, the GLRI has been critical in bringing together federal agencies like EPA, states, Tribes, local communities, academic institutions, and non-profit organizations to accelerate restoration efforts that preserve the national treasure that is the Great Lakes system,” said Rep. Dave Joyce (OH-14). “As someone who grew up on the shores of Lake Erie, I am proud to lead the effort in Congress to secure the necessary funding for this critical initiative. By providing the resources needed to support the GLRI’s more than 5,400 projects, we have been able to mitigate human impacts on the Lakes, clean up and delist Areas of Concern, reduce nutrient discharges and prevent harmful algal blooms, control invasive species like Asian carp, and improve water quality. The GLRI’s success is a great example of what we can accomplish when we work together to address the issues facing our communities. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure it is reauthorized and continues to receive the investments necessary to protect the Lakes for future generations of Americans.”
“Thank you to the EPA for convening the celebration of the GLRI’s decade worth of outstanding progress to restore our region’s most treasured natural resource, our Great Lakes,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). “As Co-chair of the Great Lakes Task Force, I am grateful for the GLRI as a catalyst of progress. The program is instrumental in controlling invasive species, rehabilitating our waters, and preventing nutrient runoffs that lead to harmful algal blooms. Every GLRI dollar produces more than $3 dollars in economic activity. This is why our bipartisan delegation fights so hard to make sure the program stays fully funded. I am delighted with what we have accomplished in the last 10 years, and I am excited to see where we can take the program in the next 10 years and beyond.”
“Growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan has given me a deep appreciation for the Great Lakes and all they have to offer,” said Rep. Fred Upton (MI-06). “For the past ten years, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has helped protect, preserve, and clean up our lakes by addressing a wide range of issues, including invasive species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment. ‘Don’t mess with the Great Lakes’ is our rallying cry as we continue our work defending of one of our nation’s most treasured national resources for generations to come.”
“Lake Superior and the rest of the St. Lawrence Seaway are national treasures,” said Rep. Pete Stauber (MN-08). “Implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in my district alone will benefit several Areas of Concern, from the St. Louis River up to the tip of the Arrowhead. Thank you to Administrator Wheeler and this EPA for making the Great Lakes a clean and healthy place to live.”
“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been the most significant investment the federal government has made to protect and preserve the Great Lakes,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga, who serves as Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “Studies from Grand Valley State University and the University of Michigan continue to show that investing in the ecology of the Great Lakes yields a significant benefit to our economy. Over the past 10 years, the GLRI has made significant leaps forward in cleaning up legacy pollution, stopping the spread of invasive species, and restoring critical habitat. I look forward to continuing to support this bipartisan initiative because of its positive impact on Muskegon, Holland, and communities across the Great Lakes Region.”
“The Great Lakes are an unparalleled natural resource we are entrusted to protect for the health of our people, our environment, and our economy,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12). “With water that binds our region across 8 states, 2 provinces, and 2 countries, we cannot afford to let artificial divides like partisan politics hinder our efforts to protect them. As we celebrate a decade of success under the GLRI, we must continue to uphold our Great Lakes as one of the true vestiges of bipartisanship so that future generations can enjoy these precious resources that will long outlive us.”
“In Michigan, the Great Lakes are a critical part of our economy, environment and way of life. We must protect the Great Lakes from harm,” said Congressman Kildee. “For the past ten years the GLRI has made tremendous progress defending our Great Lakes against climate change, invasive species and pollution. Protecting our Great Lakes has never been a partisan issue and I will continue working with my colleagues at the EPA and in Congress to support this vital program.”
“EPA’s success in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes highlights work we are doing to improve water quality in communities across the country—including efforts to reduce excess nutrients in the water, remove lead from drinking water, and modernize our nation’s water infrastructure,” said EPA’s Office of Water Senior Policy Counsel Jessica Kramer. “We look forward to advancing this progress with our federal, state, and local partners under the new Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure.”
“The Cities on the Great Lakes and St Lawrence River appreciate the GLRI funding to assist them in the cleanup of Areas of Concern," said Sheboygan Mayor Mike Vandersteen, who also serves as the chairman of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. "These Cities are not in the financial position to undertake cleanup projects and many sites lay vacant because of this stigma. Working with the EPA and financial assistance from the GLRI to restore these sites, the cities have rebounded with new development and economic growth that makes these cities more livable.”
GLRI was launched in 2010 with the goal of protecting and restoring the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Great Lakes basin. Over the past 10 years, the ambitious work of EPA and the hundreds of GLRI partners has resulted in tremendous progress, including funding more than 5,400 projects totaling over $2.7 billion to improve water quality, protect and restore habitat, control invasive species and manage other challenges in the Great Lakes ecosystem.
In the past four years, preserving and protecting the Great Lakes has continued to be a top priority as EPA leads GLRI efforts to restore and maintain the overall health of the ecosystem. Recent accomplishments include:
- Last August, EPA announced the delisting of the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern (AOC), making it the fifth U.S. area to be removed from the list of heavily polluted sites. Prior to the GLRI, only one site had been removed from the list of 31 U.S. AOCs identified in the 1980s.
- In FY20, EPA removed eight beneficial use impairments at seven AOCs in five states, including the removal of the final beneficial use impairment at the Ashtabula River AOC. This brings the total to 88 beneficial uses restored since the start of the GLRI, more than 8 times what had been accomplished in the previous 23 years. Restoring beneficial uses is a key step towards delisting these AOCs and promoting community revitalization.
- After Administrator Wheeler established the first-ever Great Lakes Trash-Free Waters program in 2019, the agency awarded seven grants totaling nearly $2.1 million to support community efforts to clean up beaches and water bodies. EPA will soon announce a second opportunity to apply for Trash-Free Waters program grants totaling $5 million intended to fund projects that use mechanical devices, vessels and other technology to remove trash from Great Lakes harbors and waterfronts.
- This year, EPA also provided $11 million in competitive grant funding for 20 projects that will reduce excess nutrients in the Great Lakes. This included $1.8 million for funding innovative market-based nutrient reduction projects in the Great Lakes.
- EPA also strongly supports critical activities to prevent Asian carp from establishing self-sustaining populations in the Great Lakes. In March, Administrator Wheeler sent a letter to the chairs of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force underscoring EPA’s enhanced and vigorous role as co-chair of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. This was demonstrated in October when EPA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed the Ohio Erie Canal Barrier to block one the last remaining potential points of entry.
- EPA also announced that Clarkson University has been selected as the successful competitive applicant to receive $5.9 million of GLRI funding to support a project to monitor legacy and emerging contaminants in top predator fish in each of the Great Lakes. In addition, EPA has selected Central Michigan University (CMU) as the successful competitive applicant to receive $10 million of GLRI funding to support a project to monitor Great Lakes coastal wetlands. EPA anticipates awarding Clarkson University and CMU cooperative agreements once all legal and administrative requirements are satisfied.
The GLRI accelerates efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world – the Great Lakes. Since 2010 EPA has chaired the interagency task force of 16 federal agencies strategically targeting the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and accelerating progress toward achieving long-term goals:
- Fish safe to eat
- Water safe for recreation
- Safe source of drinking water
- All Areas of Concern delisted
- Harmful/nuisance algal blooms eliminated
- No new self-sustaining invasive species
- Existing invasive species controlled
- Native habitat protected and restored to sustain native species
GLRI Action Plan III was developed with input from states, tribes, local governments, universities, business and others. It outlines priorities and goals for the GLRI for fiscal years 2020-2024, working to accelerate environmental progress in five Focus Areas:
- Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern
- Invasive Species
- Nonpoint Source Pollution Impacts on Nearshore Health
- Habitats and Species
- Foundations for Future Restoration Actions
For more information on GLRI, visit: https://www.glri.us/