The Environmental Protection Agency announced on Sunday a five-year, $2.2 billion initiative to start healing the Great Lakes. The effort has three main goals: improve the lakes’ wildlife habitat, improve water quality and fight the invasion of non-native species such as Asian carp, which threaten not only the lakes’ ecosystem but also their fishery industry.
“We are not simply trying to maintain the status quo, that is not acceptable. Our goal is to have these bodies of water improved and protected,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland at a press event announcing the plan. Strickland and other members of the Council of Great Lakes Governors are welcoming the financial aid and the support of the Obama administration in restoring the Great Lakes. During his campaign, Obama said he would form a task force to address the environmental needs of the Great Lakes region, and pledged to spend $5 billion over a decade in the effort.
The plan includes a “zero tolerance” policy on invasive species such as Asian carp and sets a goal of reducing the introduction of invasive species into the lakes by 40 percent by the year 2014. Of course, the most immediate and biggest fight against invasive species is blocking Asian carp, which have been moving north up the Mississippi, toward the lakes, for a number of years.
Unfortunately, there are many other pressing environmental concerns in the Great Lakes region, as well, including toxic contamination sites, restoring fragile wetland areas and measurably decreasing phosphorus runoff the lakes, which hold 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
In his 2011 budget, Obama requested $300 million be put toward the cleanup efforts, on which 16 federal agencies will work, along with state, local groups. The plan calls for $475 million to be spent every other year, until 2014.
The AP reports that an environmental group, called Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, thinks too much of the EPA spending is going toward fighting invasive species, and that more money for that effort should come from other parts of the government, so that more of the EPA resources can be spent on other improvement. It also said that, according to Cameron Davis, EPA’s senior adviser on the Great Lakes, “about $58 million in restoration funds would go to the carp battle this year.” But that’s less than what is going toward toxic cleanups and habitat improvements, he said.