We hope a recent announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency bodes well for groups working to protect the region's greatest natural resource - Lake Superior.
The EPA recently announced it has $9.5 million available to give to Great Lakes projects. It's looking for proposals from organizations who can put that money to good use.
The EPA's Chicago regional office wants ideas - from states, cities, Native American tribes, universities and nonprofits - about how to clean up and protect the Great Lakes.
The money is a portion of the cash available from the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Obama administration program to address a wide variety of ecological threats to the lakes.
EPA regional program manager Susan Hedman said these funds will be used for projects designed to reduce exposure to toxic substances from fish consumption, control invasive species and improve water quality. All of these issues have been concerns in the central Upper Peninsula in the recent past.
Congress has already appropriated more than $1 billion for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Obama is asking for more.
It sounds like a lot of money, until you consider the magnitude of the problem. Consider just two invasive species - the zebra mussel and sea lamprey. Both are alien to the Midwest and both have already raised havoc in the lakes. Mussels clogging pipes at water and power plants cause an estimated $100 million of damage each year; lampreys are decimating fish stocks in some areas and Canada alone spends $15 million a year to control them.
These grants are a small step toward tackling these problems in the future.
Local organizations interested in finding out more about the grants and how to tap into them will have the opportunity. A webinar explaining the application process will be July 30. For more information, look online at www.epa.gov/grtlakes/fund/2013rfa01/
We believe groups in our area have excellent ideas to promote the health of the Great Lakes. Now they have some new resources to put the ideas into action.