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Great Lakes Restoration Receives $1 Billion for Cleanup

The funding comes from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and will be used to clean nine “areas of concern” across the state that have damage from industrial pollution, development and agricultural runoff.

(TNS) — $1 billion for the federal Great Lakes restoration program from the bipartisan infrastructure bill will speed the cleanup of nine damaged areas in Michigan to completion by 2030, officials said Thursday.

The Michigan areas to be cleaned up, including the Detroit, Rouge and St. Clair rivers and River Raisin, are among 25 in the lakes region designated as "areas of concern" by the Environmental Protection Agency due to damage caused by industrial pollution, development and agriculture runoff.

President Joe Biden announced the new funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative during a trip Thursday to Lorain, Ohio, noting that the United States and Canada three decades ago made a commitment to restore polluted waterways and habitats that flow into the freshwater lakes.

"For decades, there was a lot of talk a lot of plans but very little progress. It was slow. That changes today," Biden said.

"We're gonna accelerate cleanup of sites across six states in the Great Lakes Basin, from Duluth, Minnesota; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Gary, Indiana; Buffalo, New York; and everywhere in between."

The money, to be released over years, is the largest-ever spending for the program and is in addition to the annual funding approved by Congress, the White House said.

" The Great Lakes are a vital economic engine and an irreplaceable environmental wonder, supplying drinking water for more than 40 million people, supporting more than 1.3 million jobs and sustaining life for thousands of species," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

Regan added that the new spending would make "unprecedented progress" in the agency's efforts to restore and protect waterways and communities in the Great Lakes basin.

Senior administration officials said the bulk of the new funding will be directed at accelerating the cleanup of critical waterways and areas of concern, adding that several of the larger, complex areas like Detroit and Milwaukee are estimated to cost well over $100 million each.

The EPA in a news release said it would award the new funding in line with its environmental justice initiative that aims to send at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from "key" federal investments to underserved communities.

EPA officials aim to complete work at 16 areas of concern across the Great Lakes by 2030 to the point of delisting them, with another nine to go, including six where scientists say that time and nature will have to heal over the rest of the damage after their remediation concludes.

In addition to the Detroit, Rouge and St. Clair rivers and River Raisin, the other Michigan areas of concern where work is expected to be finished by 2030 are Clinton River, Manistique River, Muskegon Lake, St. Marys River and Torch Lake.

The EPA expects there will be three areas of concern remaining for the agency and its partners to complete remediation after 2030, including the Saginaw and Kalamazoo rivers, the latter of which must wait on Superfund brownfield cleanup to wrap up, officials said.

Cleaning up these areas is expected to help neighboring communities by providing greater access to clean water but also to add green spaces and possibly increased recreation and tourism from fishing, swimming and hiking, the officials said.

Three areas of concern in Michigan were already cleaned up over the last 30 years and "delisted," including the Deer Lake, White Lake and Lower Menominee River areas.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D- Lansing, and Gary Peters, D- Bloomfield Township, called the new funding a "game changer" for Michigan.

"At a time when our Great Lakes are facing increasing pressures from new contamination, invasive species and the climate crisis, completing the restoration of these areas is critically important to the health of our waters," said Stabenow, who helped create the GLRI program in 2010.

The funding from the infrastructure bill is expected to free up spending that would have originally been devoted to cleaning up areas of concern, allowing the EPA to redirect it to priorities like nutrient reduction and climate change.

(c)2022 The Detroit News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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