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EPA announces funding to restore Lake Erie and put people back to work

Release Date: 10/03/2011
Contact Information: Anne Rowan, 312-353-9391, rowan.anne@epa.gov Christine Patrick, 301-427-8003 (NOAA) Katie Steiger-Meister, 612-713-5317, katie_steiger-meister@fws.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
No. 11-OPA 092

EPA provides nearly $2.4 million for Ohio projects

(Chicago - October 3, 2011) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced funding for three Toledo-area Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects totaling nearly $2.4 million. The projects will help to restore Lake Erie and put people back to work, using a conservation corps model to hire unemployed workers to improve habitat and clean up shoreline.

The three Toledo-area projects were selected from 44 proposals totaling almost $25 million, which were submitted in response to a $6 million challenge that EPA issued in August to encourage federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to implement restoration projects in federally-protected areas, on tribal lands and in Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin. To qualify for funding, each project is required to provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people.

"The tremendous response to EPA’s challenge underscores the large backlog of Great Lakes restoration projects that are ready to be implemented and the strong support that exists for using a conservation corps model to get the job done," said Susan Hedman, EPA Great Lakes National Program Manager, today at Toledo’s Wildwood Preserve Metropark. "Over the next week, EPA will be announcing a total of eight restoration projects worth $6.6 million as part of this challenge. Each project will produce immediate, direct ecological benefits and will help to put unemployed people back to work."

Today’s announcement includes $1 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to control invasive plants in the Lower Black River and another $811,252 to restore habitat in the Maumee River Area of Concern. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will receive $480,000 for conservation, restoration and outreach at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge on the southwest shore of Lake Erie.

"These habitat restoration projects are a win-win for the public and NOAA is extremely pleased to be part of this effort," said Eric Schwaab, assistant NOAA administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "Citizens will be able to see fish and other wildlife coming back to a healthier environment; at the same time this work will provide good jobs and new skills for friends and neighbors."

"FDR had a vision to help move the country forward in difficult economic times with a template of sound conservation practices," said Jason Lewis, Refuge Manager at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge. "That model is as applicable today as back in the 1930's. With the support of strong partners and an attentive community, the project at the refuge has the potential to improve water quality and provide sound conservation outcomes, while offering viable employment opportunities to the local community."

Selected projects will advance the goals and objectives of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan, developed by EPA with 15 other federal agencies in 2010. The action plan, which covers FY 2010 through 2014, ensures accountability by including measures of progress and benchmarks for success over the next three years. It calls for aggressive efforts to address five urgent priority "Focus Areas":

Cleaning up toxics and toxic hot spot areas of concern.
Combating invasive species.
Promoting near-shore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off.
Restoring wetlands and other habitats.
Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.

More information on selected projects is available at http://www.glri.us