Coalition Awards $115,000 in Grants to Help Groups Participate In Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

For Immediate Release:
August 2, 2011

Contact:
Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 734-887-7109
Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 410-245-8021
Cheryl Kallio, Freshwater Future, 231-571-5001

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (August 2, 2011) — The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today announced $115,000 in grants that will be awarded to nine organizations poised to jump-start restoration projects on four of the five Great Lakes.

The coalition grants will help conservation organizations participate in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to clean up toxic pollution, confront aquatic invasive species and restore habitat and wetlands.

One organization funded by the coalition last year—the Alliance for the Great Lakes—leveraged a $15,000 grant into a recently announced $150,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative award to improve 28 acres of habitat along Lake Michigan in northeastern Illinois.

”We’re excited to be working with local groups to continue progress on Great Lakes restoration,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Restoration projects produce results—but there is more work to do. These grants will address a variety of issues that are important to the health of the Great Lakes and economy.”

The coalition awards grants of up to $15,000 to groups in five geographic priority areas: The St. Louis River and St. Louis Bay in Lake Superior; the waters of Lake Michigan in the Chicagoland area; Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay; western Lake Erie and eastern Lake Ontario.

This year, the coalition awarded grants to three Michigan groups; two Minnesota organizations; two New York groups; and two Ohio organizations.

The 2011 implementation grants will support efforts to:

  • Reduce phosphorus pollution and Control the invasive reed Phragmites in western Lake Erie;
    Reduce noxious algae and improve water quality in Lake Ontario’s Sodus Bay;
  • Restore the lower Salmon Creek watershed in New York;
  • Restore the Rifle River in Michigan and remove a dam in the Shiawassee River that limits upstream fish passage from Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay;
  • Replace invasive Phragmites in Saginaw Bay with native wild rice; and
  • Restore streams that flow into Lake Superior’s Duluth Harbor and increase public awareness of restoration projects underway in the St. Louis River.

A complete list of grants is included below.

“There were many outstanding grant proposals—a testament to the tremendous need for restoration assistance in communities across the region,” said Cheryl Mendoza, Freshwater Future associate director and Healing Our Waters implementation coordinator. “Although we couldn’t fund all of the projects, we are thrilled that the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition will be able to support many great restoration efforts.”

A panel of Great Lakes scientists advised the coalition in its selection of priority areas, recommending sites suffering from some of the biggest, most acute problems, while also exhibiting the potential to be successfully restored.

The coalition’s announcement comes as the U.S. EPA prepares to unveil the majority of its 2011 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant awards. Nearly $300 million in grants will go towards restoration activities in the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The bi-national Sustain Our Great Lakes program announced $8.5 million of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grants last week. The EPA is awarding $40 million in a competitive grants process.

Funded at $475 million in its inaugural year, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative received $300 million in federal funds in 2011.  The U.S. House of Representative has proposed funding the program at $300 million in fiscal 2012. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is urging Congress to restore Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to $475 million.

“The nation cannot afford not to restore the Great Lakes,” said Skelding. “Problems like sewage contamination and invasive species will only get worse and more costly the longer we wait. We urge Congress to robustly fund Great Lakes programs to protect our drinking water, jobs, public health and way of life.”

Every day, the lakes face serious threats, including:

  • Sewage contamination, which closes beaches and threatens public health.
  • Aquatic invasive species, which cost people, communities and businesses at least $200 million annually in damage and control costs.
  • Toxic pollution, which leads to drinking water restrictions, beach closings and fish consumption advisories.
  • Habitat destruction, which threatens water quality and harms the region’s outdoor recreation economy.

Restoring the lakes will be good for fish and wildlife, tourism, human health and the economy.

A study by the Brookings Institution found that every $1 investment in Great Lakes restoration leads to $2 in economic benefit for the eight-state region of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A recent study by Grand Valley State University economists found that a $10 million restoration project at Muskegon Lake in Michigan will produce more than $66 million in economic benefit from higher property values, increased tourism and higher tax revenues.

“Great Lakes restoration and economic recovery go hand-in-hand,” said Skelding. “We have solutions to restore the environment and jump-start the economy. It is time to use them. Every day we wait, the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 120 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

For more information visit: http://healthylakes.org/

Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition 2011 Grant Recipients

Project Title: Phragmites control in Western Lake Erie Coastal Wetlands.
Applicant: Winous Point Marsh Conservancy. Port Clinton, Ohio
Priority Area: Western Lake Erie.
Award: $10,000.
Project Summary: Members of the Lake Erie Cooperative Weed Management Area have been working collaboratively over the last three years to control invasive Phragmites australis in western Lake Erie. Accomplishments will include over 2,000 acres of treatment by the end of 2011, fire/mechanized treatments in dead stands, follow-up herbicide treatments, and reseeding with native plant species. This project will further strengthen the planning of Phragmites treatments by developing a GIS-based decision support tool from existing and yet-to-be collected data. This tool will aid by effectively directing future management efforts, tracking previous treatments and their efficacy, and demonstrating the need for additional funding and management.

Project Title: Phosphorus/Nitrate Removal by Tile Bioreactors; A Demonstration Project/Field Day.
Applicant: Western Lake Erie Waterkeeper Association. Toledo, Ohio
Priority Area: Western Lake Erie.
Award: $15,000.
Project Summary: Soluble reactive phosphorous (SRP) and nitrate runoff from farms with subsurface drains (tiles), has helped fuel explosive cyanobacteria growth in western Lake Erie. Drain tile bioreactors in Illinois have reduced nitrate concentrations before drainage water enters streams.  Pretreatment techniques also allow removal of SRP from drain water. One to two drain tile bioreactors with pretreatment will be installed in Lucas County, Ohio this year. Water samples will be collected pre- and post-treatment after rainfall events to demonstrate nutrient removal and concentration reductions. A field day and workshop in the summer of 2012 will announce the success of this new technology.

Project Title: Prioritization of Best Management Practices for Improving Water Quality in Sodus Bay.
Applicant: Save our Sodus, Inc. Alton, N.Y.
Priority Area: Eastern Lake Ontario.
Award: $14,500.
Project Summary: Sodus Bay, N.Y. (eastern Lake Ontario) suffers from aquatic weeds and toxic blue-green algae blooms.  These inhibit the recreational use of the bay and have a negative economic impact on the surrounding communities.  An EPA-sponsored management plan identified phosphorus from the surrounding watershed as the key contributor to these problems and suggested several possible remediation actions. This project will hire two interns to work with various partners to update the nutrient loading information, and to prioritize these best management practices so as to identify the most cost effective approach to preventing phosphorus from entering Sodus Bay.

Project Title: Salmon Creek Watershed Restoration.
Applicant: Center for Environmental Information. Rochester, N.Y.
Priority Area: Eastern Lake Ontario.
Award: $14,820.
Project Summary: Residents, visitors, fisherman and boaters who use Salmon Creek and the Pultneyville Harbor cannot access that resource to the extent they want due in part to eutrophication and E-coli contamination. This project will allow the Center for Environmental Information to complete the nutrient/pathogen source quantification partially developed in 2010.  This source quantification will enable the Salmon Creek Watershed Coordinating Committee to prioritize their watershed restoration strategy.

Project Title: Community Supported Engineering/Feasibility Study for Removal of Owosso Dam.
Applicant: Friends of the Shiawassee River. Owosso, Mich.
Priority Area: Saginaw Bay.
Award: $14,180.
Project Summary: The Shiawassee River provides habitat for 59 fish species, many of which migrate to and from Saginaw Bay. Since modification of the Chesaning Dam, fish can now migrate through Chesaning and upstream to the Owosso Dam. No provisions have been made for fish passage at Owosso, effectively isolating upstream aquatic populations and eliminating more than five miles of river to migratory fish. This project will determine feasibility of removing Owosso Dam and develop a conceptual design to restore free-flowing conditions and historic fish migration routes. A critical component of the project is community outreach and engagement.

Project Title: Rifle River Watershed Restoration Project.
Applicant: Huron Pines. Grayling, Mich.
Priority Area: Saginaw Bay.
Award: $10,000.
Project Summary: Huron Pines has received $382,000 of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding to complete a 3-year project in the Rifle River watershed. The overall goal is to reduce sediment and nutrient pollution entering the river. Water quality and wildlife habitat threats will be identified and high impact best management practices will be implemented at priority sites. The project’s holistic approach will identify tangible threats  — such as failing road/stream crossings, small dams and invasive species — and gaps in environmental stewardship and outreach programming. Various partners will collaborate to prioritize on-the-ground projects and develop conservation capacity building programs, generating long-term support for watershed protection.

Project Title: Wild Rice Restoration Feasibility Study in Saginaw Bay.
Applicant: Great Lakes Lifeways Institute. Hopkins, Mich.
Priority Area: Saginaw Bay.
Award: $10,000.
Project Summary: The communities in Bay, Arenac, Tuscola, and Huron (BATH) Counties have teamed together to conduct an invasive species control project on public lands in Saginaw Bay. Replacing invasive Phragmites beds with wild rice beds would be extremely beneficial to both the Saginaw Bay ecosystem and the general public. The first step in restoring wild rice in Saginaw Bay and associated coastal marshes is to conduct a feasibility study so that a sound restoration plan can be developed.

Project Title: Initiative to Protect GLRI Investments in Stream Restoration.
Applicant: Community Action Duluth. Duluth, Minn.
Priority Area: St. Louis Bay and St. Louis River.
Award: $15,000.
Project Summary: The Duluth Stream Corps is a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative-funded program that works with private riparian landowners to complete coldwater stream restoration projects in and around Duluth, Minn., which advances the delisting of the St. Louis River Area of Concern. Included in this work will be the planting of 20,000 native trees, many of which cannot be established without fencing due to high white-tailed deer and rabbit populations. Coalition funding will be used to help purchase tree protection materials and subsidize this cost for landowners involved. This will result in significantly increased survival rates of vulnerable tree species and increased numbers of landowners involved in the project.

Project Title: St. Louis River Area of Concern GLRI Projects Support.
Applicant: St. Louis River Alliance. Duluth, Minn.
Priority Area: St. Louis Bay and St. Louis River.
Award:  $11,500.
Project Summary: The St. Louis River Alliance will receive support for administrative staff and outreach activities associated with its work involving several Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funded projects.  These restoration projects, located within the St Louis River Area of Concern, have been funded or have received preliminary funding approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The projects include restoring fish and wildlife habitat and increasing fish and wildlife populations within the St. Louis River Estuary. The Alliance’s work will include providing public outreach, engaging stewardship efforts and promoting the benefits of these restoration projects to community leaders as well as key decision-makers.

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