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EPA rolls out plan for Great Lakes restoration

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy today released a new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan that lays out steps federal agencies will take during the next five years to protect water quality, control invasive species and restore habitat in the largest surface freshwater system in the world.

McCarthy, chairwoman of the federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, released the plan at a meeting of Great Lakes mayors in Chicago.

“The new Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan lays out the steps we need to take to get us closer to the day when all Great Lakes fish will be safe to eat, all beaches will be safe for swimmers and harmful algal blooms will not threaten our drinking water supplies,” she said in a statement.

“During the next five years federal agencies will continue to use Great Lakes Restoration Initiative resources to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long-term goals.”

The action plan summarizes the actions that federal agencies plan to implement during fiscal years 2015 through 2019 using task force funding. They will build on restoration and protection work carried out under the first action plan, with a major focus on:

• Cleaning up Great Lakes areas of concern

• Preventing and controlling invasive species

• Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful and nuisance algal blooms

• Restoring habitat to protect native species.

“The Army Corps is proud to be an integral part of this collaboration, ensuring positive actions produce positive benefits. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative continues to highlight the diversity of the Corps of Engineers’ capabilities for the planning, design and construction of environmental restoration projects,” said Jo-Ellen Darcy, assistant secretary of the Army for civil works.

“The Department of the Interior is a proud partner in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Science Anne Castle said. “Our Great Lakes plans and projects involve pollution prevention and cleanup of the most adversely affected areas, increasing understanding and management of invasive species, and a first-ever comprehensive assessment of the entire 530,000 acres of Great Lakes coastal wetlands habitat for the purpose of strategically targeting wildlife restoration and protection efforts. The Great Lakes are a key economic driver and Interior is committed to help restore healthy watersheds in the region.”