Online Staff Report
CHICAGO — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced Aug. 23 that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is setting aside approximately $6 million for federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to implement restoration projects in federally-protected areas, on tribal lands and in Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes basin. EPA will fund individual projects up to $1 million. To qualify for funding, each proposed project must provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people.
“These projects will help to restore the Great Lakes and put Americans back to work,” said EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager and Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. “In a sense, we will be using these funds to create a small-scale 21st century Civilian Conservation Corps.”
Funded projects will advance the goals and objectives of the GLRI Action Plan, developed by EPA with 15 other federal agencies in 2010. Projects must provide immediate, direct ecological benefits; be located in areas identified as federal priorities such as national lakeshores or areas of concern; include a detailed budget; and produce measurable results. EPA will award funding for selected projects by the end of September.
The Great Lakes provide some 30 million Americans with drinking water and support a multi-billion-dollar economy. Since February 2009, President Barack Obama has championed the GLRI, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades.
The GLRI Action Plan, which covers FY 2010 through 2014, ensures accountability by including measures of progress and benchmarks for success over the next three years. It calls for aggressive efforts to address the following five urgent priority “Focus Areas”:
1. Cleaning up toxics and toxic hot spot areas of concern.
2. Combating invasive species.
3. Promoting near-shore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off.
4. Restoring wetlands and other habitats.
5. Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.
In addition to EPA, the Great Lakes Inter-Agency Task Force that coordinates federal and binational restoration efforts includes the following: White House Council on Environmental Quality; U.S. Department of Agriculture; U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Department of Homeland Security; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Department of State; U.S. Department of the Army; U.S. Department of Interior; and U.S. Department of Transportation.
More about the GLRI and the Action Plan is available at the multi-agency website at http://www.glri.us.