Great Lakes Get $475 Million in New Money, Questions Persist

Pollution from industrial facilities like this one at East Harbor in Indiana up to the 1970s left a legacy of contamination still in need of cleanup from new Great Lakes restoration funding.


Giving President Obama a major victory, Congress on Thursday sent him a spending bill containing $475 million in new funding to help restore the Great Lakes. During his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama committed to a multi-year effort to combat Great Lakes invasive species, habitat loss, climate change impacts and threats to water quality. The Great Lakes contain almost one-fifth of the world’s available surface freshwater.

In 2004, former President George W. Bush declared the Great Lakes “a national treasure” but did not support new federal funding for their care. Although the $475 million is in part the result of a five-year lobbying campaign by Great Lakes organizations, questions persist about whether it will be effective in restoring Great Lakes ecological health.  U.S. EPA has released a spending plan dividing the new money among more than 100 different initiatives launched by federal, state and nonprofit agencies.

Cam Davis, the EPA’s Great Lakes coordinator and former long-time director of the nonprofit Alliance for the Great Lakes, defends the plan as a major step forward and that spending plans can be adjusted in future years.

Meanwhile, some Great Lakes cargo vessels have won an exemption from tough new clean air requirements with an approriations rider in the same bill containing the $475 million.

Photo credit:  U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office.

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