February 21, 2010 / 8:00 PM / 10 years ago

EPA announces plan to clean up Great Lakes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A year after President Barack Obama proposed a plan to clean up the Great Lakes, the government Sunday laid out its plan to improve the ecology of the major bodies of water that support much of U.S. agriculture and industry.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson met with governors of states that touch the inland waterways to describe an “action plan” that will focus on eliminating invasive species, cleaning up pollutants, and remediating more than a half million acres of the area’s wetlands, she told reporters.

“It’s about creating a new standard of care for the Great Lakes system,” Jackson said. “Instead of minimizing harm, our new standard of care is to leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them.”

At the end of last year, Congress authorized $475 million to be spent on improving the ecosystem that contains 21 percent of the world’s fresh water. Obama proposed in his budget earlier this month putting an additional $300 million into the program for the fiscal year that starts in October.

Some $60 million will go to fighting Asian carp, a non-native species threatening to disrupt the fishing industry in Lake Michigan.

Jackson said that in future years — the plan covers 2010 through 2014 — funding will return to the $475 million.

“I’m glad the plan is an action plan and not a study,” said Ohio Governor Ted Strickland at the news conference with Jackson during the National Governors Association meeting, adding that the lakes need immediate attention.

As a candidate, Obama pledged to improve the five lakes — Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario — most of which run along the border between the United States and Canada. Currently the countries are renegotiating their water quality agreement for the area.

“What the administration is doing here is making it clear we are well behind an effort ... to invest in the Great Lakes. That is one of the guiding tenets as we approach the negotiations with our neighbors in Canada,” Jackson said about the plan.

Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Eric Walsh

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