Federal Officials Unveil Blueprint for Great Lakes

February 22, 2010 at 10:21 AM 1 comment

The Obama administration has developed a five-year blueprint for the Great Lakes, a sprawling ecosystem plagued by toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species.

The plan envisions spending more than $2.2 billion for long-awaited repairs after a century of damage to the lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s freshwater.

Lisa Jackson, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, released the blueprint at a news conference on Sunday in Washington.

Among the goals is taking a “zero-tolerance policy” toward future invasions by foreign species, including the Asian carp, a ravenous fish that has overrun parts of the Mississippi River system and is threatening to enter Lake Michigan.

Others include cleaning up the region’s most heavily polluted sites, restoring wetlands and other crucial habitat, and improving water quality in shallow areas, where runoff from cities and farms has led to unsightly algae blooms and beach closings.

A strategy for monitoring the ecosystem’s health and holding federal agencies accountable for carrying out the plan are also included.

During his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama pledged $5 billion over a decade toward fulfilling a Great Lakes cleanup wish list developed by a coalition of agencies, scientists and advocates.

Congress approved his request last year for a first installment of $475 million. The plan assumes yearly appropriations of the same amount through 2014, except for the $300 million Mr. Obama requested this month in his 2011 budget.

The 41-page plan sets out ecological goals and specific actions to be taken by 16 federal agencies working with state, local and tribal governments and private groups.

Among the goals officials hope to achieve by 2014: cleanup work at five toxic hot spots that have languished on lists for two decades; a 40 percent reduction in the rate at which invasive species are discovered in the lakes; measurable decreases in phosphorus runoff; and protection of nearly 100,000 wetland acres.

It also will help save species like the lake sturgeon, which can reach 8 feet and 200 pounds but is endangered because of overharvesting and habitat degradation. The plan promises to provide 25,000 young sturgeon for stocking programs.

Officials said the plan — combined with enforcement of existing environmental rules and the creation of new ones where needed — would help make Great Lakes fish safe to eat, their waters suitable for drinking and swimming, and their native plants and animals able to thrive.

The lakes provide drinking water to more than 30 million people and are the backbone of a regional economy dependent on tourism, outdoor recreation, shipping and manufacturing.

“We now have a golden opportunity, even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make huge progress,” Gov. James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, co-chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said in a telephone interview Saturday. “We’ve been talking about this for a long time. Now the federal government is putting some real resources behind it.”

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Entry filed under: Conservation, Green Help, National News. Tags: , , , , , .

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Moranna  |  April 14, 2010 at 7:27 AM

    Not being an American, but knowing about the Great Lakes, I have been very interested in the research blogging I have been doing on the Great Lakes. It is very good to see the protection plansfor the Lakes endangered species and other projects for the repairs to the damage to the Lakes.


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