Action Plan

U.S. Government Gets Behind Great Lakes Restoration




The Obama administration has released a five-year blueprint for applying $2.2 billion to repair a century’s worth of damage to the Great Lakes. That resource is the backbone of several U.S. regional economies dependent on tourism, outdoor recreation, shipping and manufacturing and a source of drinking water for 30 million people. Last year, Congress approved the first installment of $475 million; Obama has requested $300 million more as of October. The giant ecosystem has been plagued by toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species, the latest threat being Asian carp.

The massive national and regional effort intends to improve water quality, clean up toxic hot spots and phosphorus runoff, eliminate invasive species and protect wetlands. Goals include saving key species like the lake sturgeon, now endangered due to overharvesting and habitat degradation.

Canadian activists have released a complementary plan calling for their government to get busy eliminating pollution and invasive species, and protecting water flows. Four of the five lakes border on both countries. “To see the Americans move on [this issue] will, we hope, force our federal and provincial governments to move in the same direction,” says Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen. “Substantial amounts of money are going to be required.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Great Lakes contain about 84 percent of the surface freshwater in North America and 21 percent of the world’s total supply.

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