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Obama administration wants more money for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Sailing on White Lake, north of Muskegon.
Creative Commons
Sailing on White Lake, north of Muskegon.

A popular program to improve the environment around the Great Lakes could be extended. A task force including 11 federal agencies and led by the Environmental Protection Agency released a draft of the updated plan Friday for public review.

Congress has already approved $1.6 billion on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. An updated blueprint calls for another $275 million annually over the next five years. 

A big chunk of that money helped jump start efforts to clean up industrial pollution that happened decades ago. There are 14 of these so-called "toxic hot spots" in Michigan on a list of Areas of Concern. Cleanup efforts have been underway since the 1980s.

“They’ve been on the list for far too long. We need to give these harbor side and riverside communities some relief and get them cleaned up,” Cameron Davis said. He’s a senior advisor to the administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The initiative also aims to control or prevent the spread of invasive species and runoff that causes massive algae blooms and it works to restore habitat for wildlife.

Davis says the updated version of the initiative puts more emphasis on how climate change could affect efforts to restore the Great Lakes.

“We don’t want to make a big investment and then find that climate change is undermining those projects,” he said.

Davis says the EPA collected input before putting together the draft plan. He says people can provide feedback on the draft plan before June 30th. He hopes to have a final version adopted by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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