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Sea Grant Contributes to Great Lakes Collaboration Effort

Recognizing that management of the Great Lakes will only be effective if done jointly, a unique effort known as the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) began last year. Unlike past attempts at collaborative planning for the Great Lakes, this effort worked within a very short timeframe to engage a wide range of people.

Who is the GLRC?

President Bush charged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to head the collaboration. Members are:

  • Great Lakes Interagency Task Force
  • Council of Great Lakes Governors
  • Great Lakes Cities Initiative
  • Great Lakes Native American Tribes
  • Great Lakes Congressional Task Force

Representatives of Congress and of the Canadian government serve as observers.

The GLRC was formed after President Bush signed an executive order in 2004 and is modeled after efforts taken to restore the Florida Everglades and Chesapeake Bay. It approaches the lakes holistically, addressing actions needed to restore, protect, and sustain their use. Strategy teams developed a draft action plan that covers issues such as aquatic invasive species, habitat conservation, coastal areas, areas of concern, non-point pollution sources, toxic pollutants, and appropriate indicators.

The draft plan was unveiled by GLRC member agencies on the shores of Lake Superior in Duluth during a press conference in July.

“The key is really going to be looking at the priorities to figure out what steps to take in restoring this regional and national treasure,” said Ben Grumbles, assistant administrator for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Duluth press conference kicked-off a public comment period that ended in September. A local comment meeting was held last August in Superior, Wisc., and drew 60 people.

Directors for the seven Sea Grant programs in the Great Lakes also weighed-in on the plan. While the directors applaud the plan, they urge that controversial issues such as mercury contamination get attention. They also:

  • Discourage creation of new indicator and information organizations. Such recommendations should either be redirected to use existing institutions or be clarified as to why they are needed.
  • Strongly support the proposal to double federal Great Lakes restoration research funding over the next five years. They also strongly support the proposal that ten percent of all new restoration research funds be dedicated to independent researchers (those affiliated with academic institutions).
  • Note the lack of a clear and compelling science plan.
  • Note that the Great Lakes Sea Grant Network can help with outreach needs and with involvement of stakeholders.
  • Hope the plan will be fully funded so that meaningful progress can be made towards restoring the Great Lakes ecosystem.
  • Forwarded comments derived from 700 Great Lakes residents who attended a series of public workshops on Great Lakes restoration hosted in 2003 and 2004 (for more information on the workshops, see “Citizens Identify Priorities for Lake Superior Restoration” in the September 2004 Seiche).

According to news reports, if fully funded, the actions in the plan could cost up to $20 billion in federal, state, and local money over the next five years.

Doug Jensen, Minnesota Sea Grant’s aquatic invasive species program coordinator, helped lead team efforts to write the recreational activities part of the aquatic invasive species theme area. The team developed 26 actions that organizations can take to protect the Great Lakes from aquatic invaders.

The GLRC is now considering the public comments they received as they develop a final strategy for approval by the collaboration membership. The final strategy is due to be released in Chicago in December 2005. It will ultimately be up to Congress to decide how much to spend on the projects.

To learn more about the plan, go to www.epa.gov/grtlakes/collaboration.

By Marie Zhuikov
October 2005

Return to October 2005 Seiche

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