The Obama administration has developed a five-year blueprint for rescuing the Great Lakes, a sprawling ecosystem plagued by toxic contamination, shrinking wildlife habitat and invasive species.
The plan envisions spending more than $2.2 billion (U.S.) for long-awaited repairs after a century of damage to the lakes, which hold 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the document, which Lisa Jackson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was releasing at a news conference Sunday in Washington.
“We’re committed to creating a new standard of care that will leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation,” Jackson said in a statement.
Among the goals is a “zero tolerance policy” toward future invasions by foreign species, including the Asian carp, a huge, ravenous fish that has overrun portions of the Mississippi River system and is threatening to enter Lake Michigan.
Others include cleanup of the region’s most heavily polluted sites, restoring wetlands and other crucial habitat, and improving water quality in shallow areas, where runoff from cities and farms has led to unsightly algae blooms and beach closings.
Also promised is a strategy for monitoring the ecosystem's health and holding federal agencies accountable for carrying out the plan.
During his 2008 campaign, U.S. President Barack Obama pledged $5 billion over a decade toward fulfilling a Great Lakes cleanup wish list developed by a coalition of agencies, scientists and activists.
Congress last year approved his request for a first installment of $475 million.
The newly released plan assumes yearly appropriations of the same amount through 2014, except for the $300 million Obama requested this month in his 2011 budget.
The 41-page plan sets out ecological targets and specific actions to be taken by 16 federal agencies working with state, local and tribal governments and private groups.