The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new blueprint for its plans to restore the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater source on the planet. EPA’s plan also includes stepping up its attack on toxic algal blooms and cleaning up 10 contaminated rivers and harbors. The Obama Administration said Wednesday that more needs to be done in the next five years to protect the Great Lakes.
Government expected to spend $300 million a year
The new program is called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan II. It builds on a four-year program that President Obama launched in 2010. Under that program, the federal government has spent well over $1.6 billion on over 2,100 restoration projects. EPA Great Lakes Regional Director Susan Hedman said the administration is expected to spend $300 million a year on the new program. It will extend through 2019.
EPA said it is the largest conservation program in the history of the United States, involving the eight Great Lakes states and 15 federal agencies. The initiative seeks to reduce phosphorous fertilizer runoff by over 1,400 tons by 2019. It will also double the wildlife habitat and wetlands that are restored. The initiative will also try to double the acreage covered by plans to control invasive species such as insects and bighead carp.
New initiative to buffer the Great Lakes from climate change
The new initiative will not only make the Great Lakes more attractive to humans and animals but also buffer them from the effects of climate change. Toxins are created by phosphorous and nitrogen coming from runoff of overfertilized lawns and fields, livestock pens, malfunctioning septic systems, and other sources. The Great Lakes’ ecological balance is also threatened by invasive species such as lampreys and mussels that crowd out or kill native creatures.
Recently, farmers and other activists have made voluntary efforts to reduce the amount of toxic runoff flowing from crop fields into the lakes. The latest five-year plan acknowledges that it would take decades to fully restore the Great Lakes.