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Public Input Sought on Great Lakes Restoration

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018   

DULUTH, Minn. – The future of the Great Lakes is up for public comment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is crafting the next phase of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The Trump administration has recommended dramatic funding cuts for the initiative, so far without success.

Andrew Slade, a consultant with the Minnesota Environmental Partnership, said the next phase – known as "Action Plan Three" – covers the period from 2020 to 2024. He noted that the federal program to restore environmental health to the Great Lakes came only after decades of deterioration and neglect.

"'There's a river, we've got some stuff we don't know what to deal with – a paper factory or mill, or whatever – let's just dump it in the river, essentially,'" he said. "Over the course of 100 years now, people have woken up and done the hard work to stop doing that."

Since the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative began a decade ago, nearly $3 billion has been invested in more than 4,000 projects. The EPA held its only Minnesota hearing in Duluth last week, but people still can comment online at glri.us.

Slade said the initiative addresses threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem, such as toxic substances and invasive species. It also aims to accelerate progress in making sure fish from the lakes are safe to eat and that the water is safe for recreation and drinking.

"Remediating contaminated sediments to restoring habitat, to even education programs have gone on," he said. "Duluth, like a lot of Great Lakes cities, we get our drinking water right from Lake Superior so, you know, obviously we're trying to make sure that we protect that."

The EPA will hold other meetings on Action Plan Three in Milwaukee, Wis., tonight, Saginaw, Mich., next week and Chicago in August. A final plan should be available for formal public comment this fall.

The comment page is online at glri.us.


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