Last year President Obama, who knows the Great Lakes well having started his political career in Chicago, proposed a clean-up plan for the Great Lakes. This week the EPA met with governors of Great Lakes border-states to outline an “action plan” for 2010 through 2014 that focuses on eliminating invasive species, cleaning up pollution and remediating wetlands. The action plan will provide $475 million per year in funding for improving the Great Lakes ecosystem, and Obama added another $300 million to the program for next fiscal year.
“I’m glad the plan is an action plan and not a study,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.
The Great Lakes contain 21% of the world’s fresh water and supports a significant amount of U.S. agriculture and industry. They are currently facing a host of ecological issues and the immediate threat of invasive Asian carp that jeopardize the ecosystem of Lake Michigan and the area’s robust fishing industry. $60 million of this year’s funding will go directly to dealing with issues around the Asian carp.
“It’s about creating a new standard of care for the Great Lakes system. Instead of minimizing harm, our new standard of care is to leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them,” said Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson.
The Great Lakes are a special case in the U.S., as they form much of the border between the United States and Canada. International agreements and negotiation on water management, usage and policy are becoming more and more important. The U.S. and Canada remain in negotiations around Great Lakes.
“What the administration is doing here is making it clear we are well behind an effort … to invest in the Great Lakes. That is one of the guiding tenets as we approach the negotiations with our neighbors in Canada,” said Jackson.