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Environmental group worries EPA action plan for the Great Lakes “undermines” conservation efforts

Dave Garvin

Some environmental groups say the Environmental Protection Agency’s action plan for the Great Lakes is a good start… but it’s not enough.

Earlier this week the EPA released its five year action plan for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The GLRI is federally funded through an annual allocation of $300 million for restoration and conservation efforts in the Great Lakes.

The EPA also announced an additional $11 million for hotspot cleanup projects specifically in Michigan.

In previous years the Trump Administration proposed cutting funding to the Initiative but in a written statement EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said “The Trump Administration is taking action to improve water quality while boosting local economies across the country.”

Jim Olsen is with For the Love of Water, an environmental group based out of Traverse City. He said he’s glad the action plan addresses algal blooms and Asian Carp, but...

“It denies and is devoid of climate change,” he said. “It is devoid of the spiraling effects which are uncertain but massive. Which in fact are billions more than this restoration and in fact undermines the restoration of the Great Lakes.”

Olsen highlighted issues including increased water levels and said the EPA has yet to connect these problems to changing climate.

He added that $300 million just isn’t enough money to fund everything that the Great Lakes basin requires.

A spokesperson for the EPA said Congress is responsible for setting budgets, not the EPA.

Darren Nichols is with the Great Lakes Commission, an interstate compact agency representing eight states and two Canadian provinces.

“I think at this point we’re just happy to see the commitment, the sustained commitment,” he said. “And really pleased to see members of congress talking about increasing the investment up to $475 million.”

Jim Olsen, with FLOW, said he agrees it’s a positive that support is being put behind Great Lakes conservation, but it is not enough.