Coalition Targets 5 Great Lakes Restoration Priority Areas

New Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition program to help local groups participate in federal $475 million restoration initiative

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (April, 6 2010)—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition today launched a new program to help local conservation partners participate in the federal $475 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The coalition will be providing $200,000 to help groups jump-start restoration projects in five priority areas—one on each of the Great Lakes.

Read a fact sheet on the new program here.

“Our top priority is to ensure that Great Lakes restoration succeeds,” said Jeff Skelding, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “After decades of abuse, there is an enormous backlog of work that needs to be done. We’re focusing our work on five priority areas where we believe we can make a difference for the Lakes and the economy.”

Coalition grants to local conservation groups will help provide the tools, capacity and expertise to apply for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds. The federal initiative—enacted by President Obama and the U.S. Congress last year—funds projects to clean up toxic pollution that threatens the health of people and wildlife; prevent and control invasive species that cost the region $200 million per year in damages and control costs; and restore wetlands that help improve water quality and provide the foundation for the region’s outdoor recreation industry.

The coalition will focus its efforts on 5 priority areas:
• Lake Superior: St Louis Bay and St. Louis River
• Lake Michigan: Chicagoland
• Lake Huron: Saginaw Bay
• Lake Erie: Western Lake Erie
• Lake Ontario: Eastern Lake Ontario

“Based on our resources, the coalition cannot be everywhere, but we want to do our part,” said Jill Ryan, executive director of Freshwater Future and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Our goal is to make sure that restoration projects succeed, so that public officials continue to support solutions to serious problems facing the Lakes, people, businesses and communities. It’s going to take a sustained, multi-year effort to restore the largest freshwater resource in the world. ”

A panel of Great Lakes scientists advised the coalition in its selection of priority areas, recommending sites that were highly degraded, while at the same time holding great promise for being successfully restored.

“These sites represent some of the many areas across the region that suffer from multiple assaults, including invasive species, toxic chemical pollution, habitat loss and polluted run-off,” said Michael Murray, Ph.D., staff scientist for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes office, who convened the panel of science advisors.  “The bottom line is that in the end, we are going to have to restore many areas to successfully nurse the Great Lakes back to health. Our list is a staring point, not an end point.”

Many of the science advisors to the coalition helped craft a 2005 paper asserting that the cumulative impact of threats to the Great Lakes were causing the Lakes to lose their natural resiliency. Without a comprehensive effort to confront these threats, the paper concluded, the Great Lakes were in danger of collapse and could face irreversible changes.

The release of that paper, “Prescription for Great Lakes Ecosystem Protection and Restoration: Avoiding the Tipping Point of Irreversible Changes,” helped underscore the urgency behind restoring the Great Lakes—yet in subsequent years, the federal investment in the Lakes’ restoration lagged behind the mounting threats of invasive species, sewage contamination, toxic pollution and habitat destruction.

Even with significant new federal support from President Obama and the U.S. Congress, the need for funding far outweighs what is currently available. Federal agencies recently requested proposals for $144 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds. Nearly 1,400 proposals were submitted, totaling more than $1.1 billion dollars—a demand 7 times more than the supply of existing funds. Many projects will go unfunded.

The coalition is urging the U.S. Congress to maintain funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $475 million, the level of funding approved last year by federal lawmakers.

“Now more than ever, we need to fully fund solutions to these serious threats,” said Skelding. “Reducing funding will hamper our progress. We have a big job ahead of us. Let’s not hold back from what needs to be done. The health of our lakes and our economy depend on swift action by Congress now.”

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.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 100 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: healthylakes.org

For Immediate Release:
April 6, 2010

Contact:
Jordan Lubetkin, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 734-887-7109
Jeff Skelding, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, 410-242-2704
Jill Ryan, Freshwater Future, 231-348-8200
Michael Murray, National Wildlife Federation, 734-887-7110

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