EPA Projects Work to Be Completed at 22 of 25 Remaining Great Lakes “Areas of Concern” by 2030
February 17, 2022
CHICAGO (Feb. 17, 2021) – Today, President Biden and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan will announce that as a direct result of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, EPA will make significant progress in the clean-up and restoration of the Great Lakes’ most environmentally degraded sites, securing clean water and a better environment for millions of Americans in the Great Lakes region. The agency will use the bulk of the $1 billion investment in the Great Lakes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to clean up and restore severely degraded sites, known as “Areas of Concern” or AOCs. This will allow for a major acceleration of progress that will deliver significant environmental, economic, health, and recreational benefits for communities in Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region.
“The Great Lakes are a vital economic engine and an irreplaceable environmental wonder, supplying drinking water for more than 40 million people, supporting more than 1.3 million jobs, and sustaining life for thousands of species. Through the investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will make unprecedented progress in our efforts to restore and protect the waters and the communities of the Great Lakes basin,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “Building a better America means investing in our natural resources and the communities they support.”
White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said, “With this investment, President Biden is delivering major environmental, public health, and economic wins for the Great Lakes region. Building a better America requires us to confront legacy pollution and clean up the environment – ensuring our kids drink clean water and creating good-paying jobs in the process. We know that cleaning up these waterways and improving the health of the Great Lakes will also create great economic opportunities for communities across the eight-state region and beyond.”
In 2018, an independent economic study from the Great Lakes Commission and the University of Michigan found that every Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dollar spent produces an additional $3.35 of economic activity. For older industrial cities, including AOCs such as Buffalo and Detroit, the study found that there may be more than $4 in additional economic activity for each federal dollar spent. A 2020 analysis of the Great Lakes determined that the region supports more than 1.3 million jobs, generating $82 billion in wages annually.
EPA projects that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding, combined with funds from annual Great Lakes Restoration Initiative appropriations and funding from other sources, will, between now and the end of 2030, enable the Agency and its partners to bring work to completion across 22 of the 25 remaining AOCs, with Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding directly supporting 11 of these sites. In sum this will leave only three of the original 31 U.S. AOCs with work remaining, with those sites also benefiting from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. In the coming months, EPA will release more detailed information on implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding for the Great Lakes.
Great Lakes AOCs in Michigan where work is expected to be completed by 2030 include: Clinton River, MI; Detroit River, MI; Manistique River, MI; Muskegon Lake, MI; River Raisin, MI; Rouge River, MI; St. Clair River, MI; St. Marys River, MI; Torch Lake, MI.
EPA will award this funding in accordance with the Biden Administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which promises to deliver at least 40 percent of the overall benefits from key federal investments to underserved communities. The effort also supports President Biden’s America the Beautiful initiative, which includes commitments to honor the nation’s conservation traditions, private property rights, the sovereignty of Tribal Nations, and the values and priorities of local communities.
In addition to support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law directed toward cleaning up the AOCs, EPA will continue the agency’s work to address other key issues such as addressing harmful algal blooms, nutrient reduction activities, protecting against invasive species, and monitoring the health of the Great Lakes. EPA anticipates additional resources could be available for these and other priorities because of the infusion of resources from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
“The EPA’s announcement shows that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is already delivering for Michigan,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Cleaning up our rivers and lakes will improve quality of life for Michiganders and accelerate economic opportunity for communities all across this state. Together, we will continue putting Michiganders first, fixing our infrastructure, and growing our economy.”
“This new infusion of federal funding is a game changer for our state. Over the next eight years we are expected to complete the cleanup of an additional nine high-priority areas in Michigan. At a time when our Great Lakes are facing increasing pressures from new contamination, invasive species and the climate crisis, completing the restoration of these areas is critically important to the health of our waters. These efforts will strengthen our tourism industry, protect our fisheries, keep our beaches open, and support outdoor recreation for generations to come,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
“As Michiganders, the Great Lakes are not only in our DNA but a critical resource for drinking water, economic growth and job creation,” said Sen. Gary Peters. “This funding I helped enact through the bipartisan infrastructure law is a game-changer for Michigan. With the largest ever investment in our Great Lakes, we now will greatly expand restoration efforts to preserve and strengthen the Great Lakes for future generations.”
“Cleaning up areas of concern in our Great Lakes region has been a long time coming – especially the Detroit River and Rouge River in my district,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell. “This strong investment will speed up the much-needed cleanup process to protect against invasive species and address harmful algae blooms and other contaminants in rivers across the Great Lakes region. As a co-chair of the Congressional Great Lakes Task Force, I’m proud to have secured important infrastructure investments like this and look forward to working with the EPA to conserve fish and wildlife, combat the threat of invasive species, and protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.”
“This is yet another example of the significant investments coming to our communities from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Not only will this funding help in the clean-up and restoration of the Great Lakes, but it will also benefit our local economies and outdoor recreation. The health of the Great Lakes has and will always be one of my top priorities,” said Rep. Brenda Lawrence.
“The Great Lakes are essential to Michigan’s economy and our way of life. That’s why I helped secure additional funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to protect Michigan’s precious water resources,” said Rep. Dan Kildee. “These funds will go to ensuring clean drinking water, combating invasive species like Asian carp and supporting Michigan’s economy. In Congress, I will keep working to bring federal resources home to mid-Michigan.”
“The Clinton River runs through the heart of many northern Metro Detroit communities and lets out into the belly of Lake Saint Clair. Its health is essential to my constituents and critical to the native Michigan wildlife that rely on the lake for its resources and its recreation. The Clinton River is important to me personally—I paddle its waters and bike along the pathway along its banks. That’s why I am so glad to see that the Clinton River will be receiving funding under the bipartisan infrastructure law that I helped pass in Congress as an effort to clean up and restore Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Watershed. I look forward to making sure the Clinton River is healthy for our future generations,” said Rep. Andy Levin.
“This is why I supported the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – to see real results in my own backyard and across southeast Michigan. For the majority of my life, the Rouge River and Clinton River in Michigan’s 11th District have been designated as Areas of Concern due to ongoing contamination and pollution problems,” said Rep. Haley Stevens. “Now, future generations of Michiganders will only know these rivers as a benefit to their communities. I am incredibly proud to announce that these federal dollars ensure the cleanup of these waterways by 2030 to return our rivers in Michigan to health again.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said, “We are thankful that Congress appropriated additional funds to GLRI last year that will positively impact the Detroit River watershed. We also recently learned the EPA has Detroit in the final selection process to receive a significant grant for managing rain runoff, reducing combined overflows that lead to our Great Lakes, by supporting a stormwater management project the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department is designing for the westside of the city.”
“Muskegon Lake is critically important to our city’s well-being and the vibrancy of the Greater Muskegon community, which has been working for decades on cleanup and habitat restoration to delist this marvelous body of water as an EPA Area of Concern,” said Muskegon Mayor Ken Johnson. “The Great Lake Restoration Initiative has been instrumental in our progress toward delisting, which will soon be realized. The extensive funding of this program by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is greatly appreciated in our city and across the region. Muskegon Lake is vital to our city’s future for recreation, tourism, commerce, transportation, and residential development.”
“The Kalamazoo River, designated as an AOC in 1987, has endured contamination issues, ongoing ecological damage related to clean up efforts, and a reputation for being polluted, for a very long time. As a result of historical PCB contamination our river currently has six related Beneficial Use Impairments,” said Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson. “The Kalamazoo River is a valued, major, regional water resource and we are encouraged that GLRI funding will provide for a major acceleration of progress towards delisting that will deliver significant environmental, economic, health, and recreational benefits for the City of Kalamazoo and all of the communities impacted by the Kalamazoo River AOC.”
“Without the EPA partnership and GLRI funding the remediation, restoration and revitalization of the River Raisin in the City of Monroe and its habitat to benefit our waterfront community and visitors would not have been achieved,” said Monroe Mayor Robert Clark. “Through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law this $1 billion investment to address AOC in the Great Lakes will provide many Michigan waterfront communities the same opportunity to address other environmentally degraded sites”.
“GLRI funding has had a significant positive impact on our community,” said Southfield Mayor Dr. Ken Siver. “We have been able to leverage considerable GLRI grant funds to improve water quality and habitat within the Rouge River Watershed by implementing multiple projects including green infrastructure, stream restoration, invasive species removal, and storm water management. These projects have greatly improved the quality of life and economic impact in our community – allowing the City of Southfield to complete projects that otherwise would not have been possible without GLRI funding.”
“These federal investments that address the clean-up and restoration of our lakes and rivers will have tremendous positive impacts on cities like Traverse City that attract residents and visitors because of the Great Lakes,” said Traverse City Mayor Richard Lewis. “Addressing these legacy problems, with the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, will make improvements to reduce toxic pollutions and invasive species, as well as create river restoration and dam removals which value our cherished natural resources of the Great Lakes. Projects such as these will improve the quality of life of our citizens as well as vibrancy of cities in the future.”
“Sault Ste. Marie, MI is a Great Lakes Community and we strongly support funded efforts to protect our precious natural resources,” said Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Don Gerrie. “Our community has long partnered with our State, Federal, Tribal, and Canadian partners to protect our waterways through combined-sewer outflow improvement projects, wastewater plant maintenance and upgrades, cleanup of contaminated sites, and more; but have very limited resources locally so we welcome and appreciate federal attention and resources to help maintain and restore our rivers, lakes, and streams that are critical for all of us.”
“The City of Mount Clemens believes that the health of the Clinton River directly impacts the vitality of our city,” said Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp. “We recognize that the river is an important asset to our residents, and welcome this project as an opportunity to improve the environment we live in.”
“Our Great Lakes and rivers are our greatest natural resources. Protecting them for the next generation has been a priority for our city,” said Port Huron Mayor Pauline Repp. “The restoration work is vitally important, but also costly, and this additional funding will help ensure we can continue to make progress in cleaning up the St. Clair River Area of Concern.”
“Protecting the waters of the Great Lakes must always remain as a top priority, critical not only to the citizens of Michigan, but to the future of our global environment. Cleaning up environmental Areas of Concern is critical to the effort of protecting our fresh water supply,” said Rogers City Mayor Scott McLennan.
“In our state, so many of our local economies and quality of life features are intertwined with our freshwater resources,” said Rochester Hills Mayor Barnett. “We look forward to this investment in the Clinton River, which flows through the heart of our community and for 80 miles throughout Southeast Michigan.”
“Putting resources behind clean up and restoration of our waterways is critical to the quality of life of all Michiganians in so many ways,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor. “There is the obvious need for clean drinking water, but water also provides many other health benefits for our residents including recreational opportunities. For example, back in 2015, Sterling Heights was granted $4.5 million from the US EPA that helped restore a nine-mile segment along the Clinton River. Sterling Heights is an active community, and due to this transformational project, thousands of our residents are now able to paddle the river each year, unobstructed for the first time in decades. I look forward to other Michigan municipalities having the chance to experience the same amazing results we’ve seen through access to this vital funding.”
“As a coastal community, Macomb County is widely recognized as a world class recreational boating and fishing destination,” said Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “Funds through the bi-partisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative have enabled us to continue our important restoration and conservation work along Lake St. Clair and the many freshwater assets we enjoy.”
To see the full list of Areas of Concerns and anticipated work completion and delisting dates please visit: https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-aocs/list-great-lakes-aocs