Restoring Lake Superior, one Cook County stream at a time

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Cook County residents have seen local rivers send ribbons of mud into Lake Superior every spring and after every major rainstorm. The clay banks are eroding and the brook trout are disappearing. From the Flute Reed River to the Poplar River and Little Devil Track River, our community progress of developing roads, building resorts, and logging have filled the rivers with sediment and affected the natural aquatic life.

To reverse these effects and protect the clear waters of Lake Superior, we have to restore the streams that flow into the lake, which is precisely the aim of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

The GLRI began in 2010 and funds critical projects across the Great Lakes. Its continued success depends on strong support from citizens and elected officials of the Great Lakes watershed. Since it began, the GLRI has funded $3 million in restoration projects in Cook County alone. That includes restoring stream banks and rebuilding road crossings over the Flute Reed, funding engineering projects in the Poplar to reduce heavy sediment loads, and making fish-friendly structures available along the Little Devil Track.

The highly effective GLRI enjoys bipartisan support in Washington. But that support is slipping. While Congress provided $475 million for the first year, support has been $300 million or below for the last three years. President Obama’s 2015 budget proposal calls for just $275 million.

Minnesota’s delegation in Washington understands the importance of the GLRI. Representative Nolan, and Senators Franken and Klobuchar have all spoken up in favor of funding GLRI at $300 million. That extra $25 million above what Obama proposed will go a long way to help restore Lake Superior.

The Flute Reed, Poplar, and Devil Track rivers will be running more clearly this year thanks to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the partnerships it has aided all up and down the North Shore. Next time you see your Senator or Representative at the coffee shop, tell them thanks for their support. It really has made a difference.

Note: This originally appeared in the May 24, 2014 Cook County News-Herald

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