Federal Funding to Keep The Great Lakes Great

The U.S. President, Barack Obama, began to make good on a campaign promise calling for a $5 billion (US), 10 year program aimed at restoration of the Great Lakes. This summer, the President delivered his request for funding to the U.S. Department of the Interior and in that document the President requested a boost in spending of approximately $475 million in FY 2010 targeting Great Lakes cleanup and restoration efforts. The additional funding adds to the roughly $500 million that Congress routinely appropriates each year. In total, the President’s request would mean nearly $1 billion for the effort. At the time that this article was written, both the House and the Senate have passed their versions of the FY 2010 Interior appropriations bill and the House has passed the conference committee version which marries the two original bills into one. The Senate is expected to take up the conference committee version in the coming weeks and it is widely expected to pass. In addition to simply adding money to the coffers, President Obama has also appointed a “Great Lakes Czar” to oversee cleanup and restoration efforts. The President named Cameron Davis, president of the Chicago-based Alliance for the Great Lakes, to coordinate federal programs on the lakes, including efforts to clean up contaminated sediments, reduce existing pollution sources and stanch the onslaught of invasive species in recent decades. Upon hearing of Mr. Davis’ assignment to the position, Jack Bails, the Chairman of the Alliance, stated that “Cameron Davis’ work at the Alliance during the last 23 years has helped put the Great Lakes on the national radar – not only with the new administration and Congress, but with states, cities and countless citizens. His passion and commitment to the Great Lakes has earned him the unofficial title of ‘Mr. Great Lakes’ in recent years. This makes it official.” Davis will report to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and his official title will be “Senior Adviser “.

In his new role, Mr. Davis will be largely accountable for overseeing the new restoration projects that are funded in the 2010 budget. The projects that feed into this effort are wide and varied, but fall into a handful of major categories: partnerships, monitoring, habitat restoration, thwarting invasive species and near-shore health. A sampling of the FY 2010 Great Lakes restoration programs are detailed, below.

The US EPA will coordinate/collaborate with Canada, Federal Agencies, states, industry, tribes and NGOs, and the public to implement critical lake-wide management plans, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative programs, projects and activities. This effort is funded at a level of $13 million and will allow for strategic implementation of critical projects that have already been identified by Great Lakes resource managers. The US EPA will also spearhead an effort to coordinate the development of monitoring networks and enhance related state agency and university capabilities with a goal of developing comprehensive monitoring and predictive ecosystem capabilities. This $15.5 million program is specifically aimed at monitoring near-shore water quality and identifying “non-point” sources of pollution. Non-point pollution includes septic system and leech-field emissions, agricultural runoff, and erosion from stream banks and construction sites.

Through the “Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will award grants to the eight Great Lakes States, Native American Tribes and private interests to implement practical solutions to restore and conserve the region’s fish and wildlife resources. This $8 million effort is the primary federal program dedicated to restoring important fish and wildlife and the habitat on which they depend. In conjunction with the Fish and Wildlife effort, a separate Bureau of Indian Affairs program will award $3 million in grants to approximately 25 tribes and inter-tribal organizations to protect and restore culturally significant native species such as wild rice and the habitats which support these species.

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