Written and designed by: Tessa Harvey
It’s no secret that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a hot topic these past few months. Here in West Michigan, talk of cutting the program gets personal as the Lakes are a crucial part of the region– economically and environmentally.
Since 2010, the initiative – or GLRI, as it’s called – has provided funding and strategic planning to the various problems the Great Lakes areas face. It funded the development of WMEAC’s Rainwater Rewards Stormwater Calculator, and the Lower Grand River Organization of Watersheds’ Regional Rainscaping Initiative, in which WMEAC is a partner.
“For years, we lived with degraded conditions throughout the Great Lakes with areas that have little resources to address various problems; invasive species, degrading habitats. For years we’ve had a lack of a systematic, coordinated approach to these problems. The GLRI was the solution, and it was the result of a 1500-person collaboration in the right place at the right time,” Great Lakes Commission executive director Tim Eder says.
As the program is relatively new, at 7-years-old, the potential funding cut would take place during only the second Action Plan, which has focuses on cleaning up the Great Lakes areas of concern, preventing and controlling invasive species, reducing nutrient runoff, and restoring habitats to protect native species.
“The program is coming at a time when communities, cities around the Great Lakes region are ready to turn their face to the Great Lakes instead of turning their backs to the Great Lakes. We’ve grown up for decades with industrial and manufacturing facilities on the Great Lakes and limited access and we’ve kind of used and abused the lakes… and now, we’re able to move forward in a way that retains a lot of that economic activity, but also allows people and business to embrace their place as communities that have a connection to the great lakes,” Eder says.
Want a run-down of the GLRI’s history? Look no further.
Curious about a way to get involved? “Look for a local project. Contact your federal representatives in Congress to make sure that they support continued funding of the GLRI,” said Elaine Sterrett Isely, WMEAC’s Director of Water Programs.