The EPA is holding public meetings all around the Great Lakes basin to solicit input and feedback about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GRLI). This is a bold plan to target five issues that need to be addressed to make the Great Lakes healthier. They are: addressing toxic substance, combating current invasive species and preventing further introduction of new species, nearshore health and nonpoint source pollution, habitat and wildlife protection and restoration, and, finally, accountability (including monitoring, evaluation, communication, partnerships).
President Obama pledged $5 billion over the course of ten years to restore the Great Lakes. The first installment, over $400 million, should be approved by Congress for the fiscal year 2010.
The meeting I attended yesterday was in Lansing and had over 250 attendees representing such diverse organizations as Ducks Unlimited, The Alliance for the Great Lakes, Kalamazoo Watershed Council, and the Saginaw Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau. There were also government officials including the Mayor of Grand Rapids (Mayor Hartwell), and representatives from some of Michigan's Congress members. There were also a handful of concerned citizens who love the lakes. That's why I was there.
The GRLI comes with a well-developed plan on how to turn the funding into action and results which target the areas that need the most improvement. It was encouraging to hear Cameron Davis from the EPA talking about swimming in Lake Michigan with his family this summer before he talked about policy and funding. And it was fantastic to know that this money comes with a plan so that actions can result in positive, measurable change for the lakes.
Learn more about the GRLI at: http://www.epa.gov/greatlakes/glri/index.html
The EPA will take feedback on the plan until August 19 through their site.