Biden, EPA announce $1B to clean up 9 degraded Great Lakes sites by 2030

By: - February 21, 2022 3:23 pm

General Motors headquarters, Detroit | Susan J. Demas

Updated, 4:23 p.m., 2/21/22

A $1 billion federal investment announced Thursday will flow into the restoration and cleanup of nine high-priority areas in the Great Lakes basin, making the action the single largest-ever investment in the Great Lakes.

President Joe Biden and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan announced the investment Thursday. The bulk of the funds, which come from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will be used to directly restore nine “areas of concern” (AOCs) in the Great Lakes region.

“The Great Lakes are a vital economic engine and an irreplaceable environmental wonder, supplying drinking water for more than 40 million people, supporting more than 1.3 million jobs, and sustaining life for thousands of species,” Regan said. “Through the investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will make unprecedented progress in our efforts to restore and protect the waters and the communities of the Great Lakes basin.”

The AOCs in the Great Lakes region were first identified in 1987 under the federal Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. What started out as 14 areas in Michigan has shrunk over the last three decades, as three of those areas have since been cleaned up and delisted.

Those delisted areas are Deer Lake, White Lake and Lower Menominee River.

Still left to be cleaned and restored are the Clinton River, Detroit River, Manistique River, Muskegon Lake, River Raisin, Rouge River, St. Clair River, St. Marys River and the Upper Peninsula’s Torch Lake.

All nine AOCs flow into the Great Lakes and directly impact the health of Lakes Michigan, Huron, Superior, Erie and Lake St. Clair, in addition to their watersheds.

“The EPA’s announcement shows that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already delivering for Michigan,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in response to the announcement “Cleaning up our rivers and lakes will improve quality of life for Michiganders and accelerate economic opportunity for communities all across this state. Together, we will continue putting Michiganders first, fixing our infrastructure, and growing our economy.”

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) also praised the investment, as did U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn), Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield), Dan Kildee (D-Flint), Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.) and Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills).

The mayors of Detroit, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Monroe, Southfield, Traverse City, Sault Ste. Marie, Mount Clemens, Port Huron, Rogers City, Rochester Hills and Sterling Heights also chimed in with words of support for the initiative.

Combined with other annual funding approved by Congress, the EPA expects that the appropriations will allow the agency and its partners to complete 22 of the 25 remaining AOCs across the country by 2030, including the nine areas located in Michigan.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) | Ken Coleman photo

“This new infusion of federal funding is a game changer for our state,” Stabenow said Thursday.

“Over the next eight years we are expected to complete the cleanup of an additional nine high-priority areas in Michigan. At a time when our Great Lakes are facing increasing pressures from new contamination, invasive species and the climate crisis, completing the restoration of these areas is critically important to the health of our waters.”

The EPA said it will also continue to address Great Lakes issues including algal blooms, nutrient reduction activities and invasive species.

“Today’s commitment has been a long time coming, but the Alliance is thankful that Congress has recognized the need for this investment,” said Don Jodrey, director of federal relations at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

“We’re eager to get to work alongside our partners in Michigan to make progress so that these beautiful cities and rivers can once again be places where current and future Great Lakes residents can enjoy time outdoors without worrying about the effect on their health.”

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

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