Congressman Higgins Hails EPA Announcement for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan
Over the weekend, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in collaboration with 15 other federal agencies, unveiled an ambitious and unprecedented plan to make restoration of the Great Lakes a national priority through the five year, $2.2 billion Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan.
"Prioritizing the health of the Great Lakes, our area’s greatest natural resource, is not only imperative to the well being of Western New Yorkers but also the region’s economic development," said Congressman Higgins, a member of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force. "With this plan of action, the EPA is taking historic and necessary steps to ensure that water from the Great Lakes is both safe for the 30 million Americans who consume it and viable for the multi-billion dollar economy based on boating, fishing and recreation activities."
In 2008, the Brookings Institution released a report which concluded that a collaborative Great Lakes Restoration strategy, such as the one proposed by the EPA, could develop benefits as high as $50 billion in new jobs, development, and increased property values. [ Report]
Last year, Congress approved the first funding installment of $475 million towards Great Lakes cleanup. Collectively, the GLRI Action Plan calls for more than $2 billion over the next five years to support the various restoration programs.
This plan defines the most pressing ecosystem problems and the best strategy to implement in five major focus areas:
- Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern: Coordination with state and municipalities to combat pollution prevention and cleanup of the most polluted areas in order to ensure healthy fishing and recreation
- Invasive Species: Institution of "zero tolerance policy" toward new invasions; includes allocation of additional funds to fight invasion of Asian Carp
- Nearshore Health and Nonpoint Source Pollution: Targeted geographic focus on high priority watersheds and reducing runoff from urban, suburban and agricultural sources in order to keep beaches open more often to people to enjoy
- Habitat and Wildlife Protection and Restoration: Effort to bring wetlands and other habitat back to life, and first-ever comprehensive assessment of entire 530,000 acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands
- Accountability, Education, Monitoring, Evaluation, Communication and Partnerships: Implementation of goal and results-based accountability measures, learning initiatives, outreach and strategic partnerships with Great Lakes states, non-profits, stakeholder groups and Canada
Starting with the fiscal year 2011, the Action Plan will be used by the coordinated federal agencies in developing the federal budget which further ensures the administrative priority of restoring the Great Lakes. Lastly, the Action Plan encourages the advancement of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada.
For more information on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan visit: https://greatlakesrestoration.us/