Senior EPA Officials Announce Great Lakes Grants During Visit to Superior and Duluth
Funding for ballast water research highlighted
SUPERIOR/DULUTH(September 8, 2020) – Today U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Associate Deputy Administrator Doug Benevento and Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede were joined by Reps. Tiffany and Stauber in Superior, Wis., and Duluth, Minn., where they announced significant federal investments in the Great Lakes region, including a $5 million cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (MARAD) and the University of Wisconsin Superior supporting ballast water research.
“EPA is fully invested in restoring and maintaining the health of our Great Lakes. Today’s action is just one way we are putting to work the $20 million in GLRI funding announced in April,” said Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento. “By supporting research and development of ballast water treatment systems for cargo ships, we can prevent further invasive species from taking hold in the Great Lakes and protect these unique ecosystems.”
“Duluth and Superior are major economic and cultural hubs in Western Lake Superior and today we got to see some of the great work underway in the St. Louis River Area of Concern,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “We’re excited to continue to our support through these latest GLRI projects benefitting both this AOC and the Great Lakes ecosystem as whole, and we look forward to continued collaboration with our federal, state, local and academic partners.”
“In northern Minnesota, Lake Superior along with the rest of the Great Lakes are critical to our economy and overall way of life. Since arriving in Congress, I have advocated for increased funding for the GLRI and I am proud to help deliver this money to Minnesota,” said Rep. Pete Stauber. “These funds will go a long way towards preserving and protecting the vitality of these national treasures, so I thank the EPA for their commitment to this mutual goal and I look forward to continuing this partnership for years to come.”
“Today’s announcement is another example of the Trump Administration’s tireless commitment to working with local communities and job creators as a partner rather than working against them and acting as an obstacle,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany. “Environmental conservation and economic development are not mutually exclusive goals, and I believe that together we can continue to achieve both.”
At a press conference at the University of Wisconsin Superior’s Montreal Pier Testing Facility, Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento announced the MARAD cooperative agreement for Great Lakes ballast water research. Funding will support work at the university’s Lake Superior Research Institute to assess the risk of the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species in the Great Lakes via ballast water and to identify ballast water management practices for use by commercial vessels.
“Ballast water treatment and compliance technologies are a critical part of keeping our maritime industry strong while guarding against the spread of aquatic nuisance species. This effort is illustrative of the Department of Transportation's and the Trump Administration’s effort to promote and protect the Great Lakes,” said Deputy Maritime Administrator Richard Balzano.
“The Great Waters Research Collaborative (GWRC) is looking forward to working with our partners and stakeholders in the Great Lakes region on the development and implementation of the Great Lakes Ballast Water Research and Development Plan,” said Kelsey Prihoda, GWRC project manager and assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin Superior’s Lake Superior Research Institute. “The research conducted under this Plan will identify effective ballast water management strategies within the Great Lakes, leading to a reduction in the environmental and economic risk associated with ballast-mediated aquatic nuisance species.”
At the same press conference, Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento and Regional Administrator Thiede announced a $3 million GLRI grant to the University of Minnesota to sample sediment from each of the Great Lakes for persistent, bioaccumulative, toxic chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and mercury.
"Our research team is excited to have this opportunity to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve understanding of legacy and emerging contaminant fate and transport in the Great Lakes, which will help support management decisions to protect the ecological health of these vital natural resources and the services that they provide to surrounding communities,” said Christopher Filstrup, project PI and applied limnologist at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute.
Additionally, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources was awarded $4.9 million in GLRI funds for several projects in three of the state’s Areas of Concern, or AOCs, including the Pickle Pond Habitat restoration project in Superior located within the St. Louis River AOC.
“These Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds are a crucial investment in our future,” said Wisconsin DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole. “We are grateful for the collaboration with U.S. EPA, Minnesota and the many local partners to restore the health of these waters. Leveraging funding and resources in this way allows more work to be accomplished than any one entity could ever do alone. Pollution cleanup and restoration in the St. Louis River AOC will revitalize this community as both an ecological gem and an economic engine on Lake Superior.”
In Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources was awarded $100,000 of GLRI funding to protect rare native plant communities within the Icelandic Coastal Fen, 38 acres of unique coastal wetland habitat adjacent to Lake Superior. The city of Duluth was also awarded $900,000 of GLRI funding to restore approximately 528 acres of land near the St. Louis River.
“This grant provides a critical funding match that allows the Minnesota DNR to move forward in protecting the Icelandite Coastal Fen with a new Scientific and Natural Area designation,” said AmberBeth VanNingen with Minnesota DNR. “This important site is one of only a few existing coastal wetlands along Lake Superior’s north shore and is home to state endangered orchids and two state special concern species.”
Earlier in the day, Associate Deputy Administrator Benevento and Regional Administrator Thiede toured Great Lakes projects in the St. Louis River AOC from EPA’s second-largest Great Lakes research vessel, the Lake Explorer II. Highlights included Grassy Point, where an $18.8 million project is underway to restore and enhance approximately 240 acres of coastal marsh habitat.
The visit concluded with a tour of EPA’s Great Lakes Toxicology and Ecology Division Laboratory in Duluth. The lab studies the ecological effects of chemicals on our nation’s freshwater ecosystems.
These projects are part of the larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the GLRI. 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.