The federal government issued a new blueprint Wednesday for its efforts to restore the Great Lakes, including plans to clean up 10 contaminated rivers and harbors and step up its attack on poisonous algae blooms that coat parts of three lakes each summer.
The program will include a new attempt to buffer the lakes against the effects of climate change. It will require, for example, that new wetlands include plants that can thrive in warmer temperatures.
The new blueprint, called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan II, was disclosed by Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, at a Chicago meeting of Great Lakes mayors. It builds on a four-year initiative, begun in President Obama’s first term, that has already spent $1.6 billion on more than 2,100 restoration projects on the lakes’ American side. The added initiative, which extends through 2019, is expected to cost roughly the same.
The government says the project is the largest conservation program in the nation’s history, involving 15 federal agencies and the eight Great Lakes states.
Among the other goals, the initiative seeks an eightfold increase in the amount of urban runoff that its projects capture or treat, and a doubling of wetlands and wildlife habitat that is restored. It would more than double the acreage covered by efforts to control invasive species, from plants to insects to the bighead carp. And it would try to reduce phosphorus fertilizer runoff by more than 1,400 tons by 2019.
The five lakes — the largest group of freshwater lakes in the world — have grown markedly healthier since the 1970s, when a budding environmental movement led to limits on pollution that rescued dying fisheries and made once-fouled shores safe for swimming.
But growing cities have crowded out marshes that hosted wildlife and filtered runoff, and intensive farming has filled rivers with fertilizer that spawns vast algae blooms. The lakes’ ecological balance is also threatened by mussels, lampreys and other invasive species that crowd out or kill native fish and other creatures.
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SOURCE: NY Times