EPA seeks public guidance on next phase of Great Lakes restoration

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By Matt Doll, Minnesota Environmental Partnership

While the biggest recent news from the Environmental Protection Agency concerns a major change in its controversial leadership in Washington, the EPA’s activities closer to Minnesota will also bear critical effects on our state. The EPA is developing an action plan for its work on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) from 2020 to 2024, a plan which will set priorities for funding projects to clean up and protect the Great Lakes region.

This program is especially important to northeast Minnesota cities like Duluth, which is why the EPA will hold a public engagement session there on Thursday, July 12.

Funded by Congress since 2010, the GLRI has been a critical boost for the Great Lakes region’s ecosystems and economy. It has funded more than 2000 projects, from Duluth to Buffalo, contributing to work on rebuilding habitat, mitigating nutrient runoff, and cleaning aquatic Areas of Concern around the watershed. At a time when the Great Lakes are increasingly threatened by invasive species brought by oceangoing ships, the GLRI is especially critical in combating the spread of these organisms including sea lampreys and invasive carp.

The GLRI has enjoyed strong bipartisan support for its strong benefits to communities. The first five years of its funding provided Minnesota with $45 million in grants to various projects, including cleaning the St. Louis River estuary, restoring trout streams, and engaging with tribal communities. In 2017 the EPA granted the city of Duluth $220,000 for habitat protection on the coast of Lake Superior, providing a boost to the North Shore’s economy and environmental health.

The GLRI has brought many success stories to Minnesota, but much remains to be done to clean our lands and waters. That’s why it’s critical that Minnesotans help to steer the EPA’s GLRI program work to ensure that it makes Minnesota habitats and communities a top priority. We invite all interested Minnesotans to attend the public session in Duluth next Thursday to learn more and help plan how the GLRI will continue to strengthen Minnesota’s economy and protect our natural resources.

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