States among recipients of first round of Great Lakes restoration funding

The federal government will be relying on the states to make the most of its historic federal commitment to clean up and restore the Great Lakes.

Stateline Midwest, Volume 19, No. 10 - November 2010

The first round of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants has been awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for projects that address ecological threats such as invasive species, non-point source pollution and contaminated sediment.

The initiative marks an unprecedented federal commitment to Great Lakes protection. It will result in an additional $475 million being spent on Great Lakes-related projects in fiscal year 2010. (A total of $500 million was spent in FY 2009 on the Great Lakes via various programs and agencies.)

Projects of varying scopes and with a diverse set of restoration goals are being funded. One clear focus of the initiative is cleaning up and delisting “Areas of Concern” — geographic areas within the Great Lakes basin identified by the U.S. and Canadian governments as being “severely degraded.”

Here is a brief summary of some of the grants awarded in the first round.

  • A total of 24 Illinois-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $1 million going to a University of Illinois at Chicago outreach program for health care professionals to learn more about the benefits and risks (such as mercury exposure) of Great Lakes fish consumption. Several other grants in Illinois aim to improve water quality at Chicago’s beaches, with a goal of reducing the need for swim advisories and beach closings.
  • A total of nine Indiana-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $1.7 million going to the state’s Department of Environmental Management. That money will, in part, be used to restore the Grand Calumet River and Harbor — the only site in Indiana identified as an Area of Concern. The state agency will receive another $1.3 million to restore 230 acres of wildlife habitat within the Grand Calumet River.
  • A total of 81 Michigan-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $7 million going to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. The commission will use the money for new techniques designed to control sea lamprey, an invasive species introduced to the lakes in the early 20th century. The first round of Restoration Initiative funding also targets ecological improvements to or the delisting of many of Michigan’s 13 Areas of Concern.
  • A total of 13 Minnesota-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $1.6 million going to the state Department of Natural Resources for a project that will seek to control mercury emissions during the processing of taconite.
  • A total of 28 Ohio-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $3 million going to Cuyahoga County for the restoration of fish habitat within the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern.
  • A total of 24 Wisconsin-based projects received funding, with the largest grant of $2 million going to Brown County for an initiative to delist the Green Bay Area of Concern. Under this project, a portion of the man-made Renard Island will be capped with clean dredged material — thus protecting humans and wildlife from the island’s PCB-contaminated soil. Another $4 million is going to the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to limit non-point source pollution and improve habitat in watersheds that feed into the Great Lakes.