President Biden’s administration is bringing policy changes from immigration, to the minimum wage, to stimulus checks and more.
In this Great Lakes Now report, there could be some changes when it comes to funding projects around the Great Lakes.
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Christy McDonald The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI, was created to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world
Cameron Davis, VP, GEI Consultants Really, over about 5 to 6 years, there was a great deal of effort to convince Washington that the Great Lakes are a national treasure. President Obama came into office; he had made it a priority in his campaign. And a bipartisan Congress signed off on the deal to create the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which went through in 2009
Christy McDonald Cameron Davis coordinated a Great Lakes interagency task force of 11 federal departments under the GLRI, to address five focus areas, toxic substances and areas of concern, invasive species, nonpoint source pollution impact on nearshore health, habitats and species, and foundations for future restoration actions.
Cameron Davis, VP, GEI Consultants So there are things like trying to block invasive species, keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes like Asian carp. Trying to clean up toxic hotspots, these are working harbors and rivers around the Great Lakes that have seen what we call legacy pollutants, be discharged over time into those waterways. Trying to reduce polluted runoff that creates harmful or toxic algae, like the kind we’ve seen around Lake Erie is a real priority. Rebuilding habitat is a priority, and also working to help educate the public, and make sure that climate change does not undo the important work that’s being done right now to restore the Great Lakes.
Christy McDonald Since 2010, GLRI federal agencies have invested over 2.7 billion dollars in more than 5,400 projects across all 8 Great Lakes states. According to the EPA, of the 31 U.S. sites that were originally listed as areas of concern, 15 have been delisted or have achieved, an all-management actions complete status
Cameron Davis, VP, GEI Consultants Actually, I think we’re going to wind up finishing the job of these cleanups, really in the next in the next 10 to 20 years. There are many of us who thought that we may never see that day
Christy McDonald Funds to support the GLRI are appropriated to the Environmental Protection Agency, which provides funding for restoration projects. The GLRI was originally funded under President Obama at 475 million dollars. The budget was reduced to 300 million dollars for 2011, and it stayed at about that level ever since. In 2019, President Trump proposed a budget that would have reduced funding for the program by 90 percent, from 300 million dollars to 30 million dollars. Congress rejected that proposal, so the cuts never went into effect. And in March of that year, Trump reversed direction during a speech at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Donald Trump, Former President I support the Great Lakes, always on. They’re beautiful. They’re big, very deep. Record deepness, right? And I’m going to get, In honor of my friends, full funding of 300 million dollars for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Christy McDonald Dr. Alan Steinman is a member of the Great Lakes Advisory Board that provides advice and recommendations to the EPA on GLRI projects.
Dr. Alan Steinman, Great Lakes Advisory Board Member With the latest appropriations, it’s going up to 475 million dollars a year. So in 25 million dollar chunks it’s going to be increased with each year, assuming that Congress actually appropriates that money each year. So that’s a really significant increase.
Christy McDonald Aside from the environmental impacts, the GLRI’s effect on the region’s economy is significant.
Dr. Alan Steinman, Great Lakes Advisory Board Member It’s been shown through a number of economic studies. For every dollar you invest in restoration, large scale ecosystem restoration, there’s a return on that investment of somewhere between 3 to 1, to 6 to 1. And so it makes good economic sense to restore these systems beyond just the spiritual, and recreational, and human health aspects associated with this.
Cameron Davis, VP, GEI Consultants Restoring the Great Lakes is not just the work of a lifetime, it’s the work of a hundred generations. Nobody else in the world has Great Lakes like these, nobody. We have them they’re ours, we like to share them. But with that privilege comes the responsibility to keep them healthy so that we in return can keep ourselves healthy.