EPA releases 5-year plan to improve Great Lakes

Lake Superior
Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since 2009 toward efforts to restore the Great Lakes. In this file photo, storm clouds linger over a ship on Lake Superior near Duluth.
Derek Montgomery / For MPR News 2012

The Obama administration announced a new 5-year plan for the Great Lakes on Wednesday that will accelerate efforts to address toxic pollution, invasive species and farm runoff and restore plant and wildlife habitat.

Related: Duluth gets EPA grant to protect Lake Superior basin

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy released the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's action plan at a meeting of Great Lakes mayors in Chicago, saying it is a roadmap for federal agencies to target the "biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem." Congress has appropriated $1.6 billion since 2009 for the restoration effort.

The updated plan continues work in core areas while addressing concerns about how well the program is meeting its objectives. The EPA coordinates the program with support from 10 other federal departments.

Efforts across the eight-state region have included removal of toxic sediments, rebuilding wetlands and uprooting invasive plants. The program also has supported the fight to prevent aggressive Asian carp from reaching the lakes.

The updated plan also says that new projects should consider climate change. For example, wetland plants and trees would be selected for suitability to warmer temperatures. Watershed restorations would be designed to handle more frequent and intense storms, which could cause heavier erosion and runoff.

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