EPA releases action plan to clean up the Great Lakes

In a follow-up to last year’s approval of $475 million for the cleanup of the Great Lakes ecosystem by the Obama Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced an action plan to do just that.

Lake Michigan from Milwaukee, WI

Yesterday EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson met with governors of Great Lakes states to discuss the goals for cleaning up Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario from 2010 through 2014.  The plan focuses on five specific efforts: pollution prevention and cleanup, prevention of invasive species invasions, reduction of urban, suburban and agricultural runoff into the watershed, habitat and wildlife protection and restoration, and education, public outreach and strategic partnerships.

According to the plan, these efforts include “the first-ever comprehensive assessment of the entire 530,000 acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands for the purpose of strategically targeting restoration and protection efforts in a science-based manner.”

It also requires the collection or prevention of 45 million pounds of electronic waste, 45 million unwanted pills and 4.5 million pounds of household hazardous waste in the Great Lakes basin by 2014. In addition, it calls for the reduction of harmful algal blooms, which have polluted drinking water, and for the cleanup of 9.4 million cubic yards of toxic sediment.

The plan also calls for a “zero tolerance” policy regarding invasive species and requires a 40% decline in such species by 2014. This is particularly targeted at Asian carp, a non-native species known for its voracious appetite. According to a Reuters article, around $60 million of the funds will go directly to combating Asian carp populations.

An Asian carp was reportedly found in the ship canal connecting the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan late last year. As a result, several states asked the U.S. Supreme Court to force Chicago to shut down its shipping locks in an attempt to keep the Asian carp from infiltrating Lake Michigan. The Supreme Court sided with Illinois and declined to close the locks over concerns of endangering the $7-billion fishing industry.

Last month, however, DNA evidence suggested the presence of Asian carp in Lake Michigan. The Associated Press reports that wildlife officials are currently searching for carp in the Chicago area and will continue to for the next two to three weeks.

Read the full action plan at http://greatlakesrestoration.us.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/indykethdy/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Author: Katie Kline

Moderator of EcoTone and ESA's communications officer.

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