GLRI funding a welcome sight for local project

Again and again we’ve used the allotted space on our editorial pages to underscore the importance of our Great Lakes and the critical role they play in our regional coastal communities, and that position is yet again brought to the forefront due to a recent grant award to the Superior Watershed Partnership.

The partnership received a $288,500 grant through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, some of the very funding President Donald Trump sought to cut in his early budget proposals.

With the funding, the Superior Watershed Partnership — in cooperation with the city of Marquette — plans to implement a large-scale green infrastructure project that will relocate an open-channel stormwater drain adjacent to Hawley Street.

Currently, the drain discharges directly across a public beach into Lake Superior. But after the project is completed, it will redirect that discharge into 12 acres of wetlands to the north of Hawley Street.

These types of projects, and others involving green infrastructure approaches, are an obvious benefit to our community as well as the environment of our Great Lakes.

The wetlands will help filter pollutants in the water, and organizers tell us redirecting the stormwater drain will reduce documented human health risks and water quality impacts to the nearshore waters of Lake Superior and adjacent public beaches.

Moreover, the project provides opportunities for Northern Michigan University and local K-12 students to participate in research, while offering others the chance to help rehabilitate and restore native plant habitats.

As Curt Goodman, Marquette’s director of public works and utilities, said in a recent Journal article, “It’s a win-win.” We’d have to agree.

Not only does this project provide educational opportunities, but it also has obvious environmental benefits that will have lasting effects, and at the same time saves city funding, Goodman said.

We must continue to support efforts like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, because if the funding is ever cut or dries up, our freshwater lakes may not be fresh for much longer.