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Great Lakes Ecological Protection and Restoration

Table of Contents

 

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8


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Great Lakes Report to Congress 1994

REPORT TO CONGRESS ON THE GREAT LAKES ECOSYSTEM

February 1994
EPA 905-R-94-004

Chapter 8
Toward the Future

The Great Lakes Program is guided by its five year Strategy. Within this context, some future endeavors are discussed in the following subsections.

Reducing Releases of Toxicants to the Environment

Pollution prevention will continue to be the preferred means to reduce emissions and discharges of environmental contaminants. States and EPA will continue to implement their pollution prevention action plan for the Lakes. This will supplement EPA's national initiative, the 33/50 Program, to encourage voluntary reductions of 17 priority contaminants through 1995.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), States, and EPA will continue nonpoint source pollution prevention programs. Many of these programs will focus on tributary watersheds in which nonpoint source problems are pronounced, such as Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie, and Green Bay. In addition to education and incentives for environmentally-kind agricultural practices, these agencies will invite the public via "clean sweep" campaigns to dispose of pesticide stocks.

Implementation of the Binational Lake Superior Program will aim to achieve "zero discharge" of bioaccumulative toxicants to this Lake.

Proposed Great Lakes Water Quality Guidance will be finalized, after consideration of public comments. USEPA anticipates publication of the final Guidance by March, 1995. The Agency will seek to achieve water quality criteria set forth in the Guidance through reductions in both point and nonpoint sources of contaminants.

States, in consultation with the Food and Drug Administration, will develop regional guidance regarding human health advisories for consumption of contaminated Great Lakes fish and wildlife. This will foster consistency among States in their advisories, which will help the public better understand the risks associated with consumption of contaminated sportfish and game.

Nationwide implementation of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act will significantly cut toxic emissions by U.S. firms by the end of this century. EPA and States will give priority to implementing its provisions for suspected sources of critical pollutants to the Great Lakes.

States and EPA will continue cleanup of priority abandoned hazardous waste sites and oversight of active ones, focusing cleanups and corrective actions on sites suspected of loading bioaccumulative contaminants to the Lakes.

States and EPA will continue to inspect oil facilities in order to review their spill prevention measures and readiness to respond to accidental spills.

EPA and its partners in the Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediments (ARCS) program will complete field demonstrations of contaminated sediment treatment technologies. EPA will complete an inventory of contaminated sediment sites in six Great Lakes States and start to assess and address priority sites.

EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and States will continue to phase-in a comprehensive monitoring system of ecosystem health. Elements that focus on toxic contaminants will be open-lake monitoring of critical pollutants in the water column, monitoring of tributaries to prioritize active sources of contaminants, monitoring of endpoint levels of contaminants in the tissues of birds and fish high in the food web, and monitoring of the atmospheric deposition of critical pollutants.

The Agency will report to Congress on the extent and effect of atmospheric deposition of contaminants to the Great Lakes.

The Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry will evaluate the adverse effects of water pollutants in the Great Lakes system on the health of persons in the Great Lakes States and on the health of fish, shellfish, and wildlife. Findings will be reported to Congress in 1994.

Protecting and Restoring Habitat Back to Top

USEPA will work with partners, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, States, Tribes, and the Nature Conservancy, to develop a strategic conservation plan to identify high quality habitats for protection and restoration. Habitats to be inventoried include wetlands, fish spawning and nursery areas, old growth forests, prairies, dunes, savannas, and areas needed by endangered and threatened plant and animal species.

EPA, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and States will work together on demonstration projects to restore important Great Lakes habitats.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will support States in planning the renewal of Areas of Concern by identifying the habitat requirements of various fish and wildlife species in these areas. The Service will similarly work with EPA and States to identify the habitat needs of species on a lakewide basis.

States and EPA will pursue Advance Identification projects that identify wetlands of high ecological value and inform landowners of this information.

The Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, and Michigan will continue their administration of the primary Federal program regulating the physical modification of wetlands and others waters. Pursuant to Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, they administer a permit program to regulate the discharge of dredge or fill materials into the waters of the United States, including most wetlands.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will work with its partners to the North American Waterfowl Management PlanExit disclaimerto protect, enhance, and create critical waterfowl habitat. The Service will add protected acreage through its Private Land program and increase surveillance for illegal dredge and fill activities.

The Soil Conservation Service will continue to promote the protection of wetlands that are privately owned through incentives to restore previously converted wetlands and correctly farmed wetlands; to establish vegetative filter-strips along streams; and to protect wetlands.

Protecting Human Health and Restoring Fish and Wildlife Populations Back to Top

States, EPA, and the Soil Conservation Service will implement programs to reduce human exposure to harmful bacteria in Great Lakes waters. One focus will be ending the discharge of untreated human wastes from combined sewer overflows by upgrading municipal sewer systems and treatment capacity. The Service will promote adoption of waste management systems to reduce runoff from livestock facilities.

The Fish and Wildlife Service, States, Coast Guard, NOAA, the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission, and EPA will work together to prevent further introductions of nonnative species and to mitigate the harmful effects of ones that have already entered the Great Lakes. They will monitor the ecosystem for new nonnative species and conduct research on environmentally-kind control techniques for disruptive nonnative species. The Coast Guard will establish requirements governing ship ballast water, a common pathway for the introduction of nonnative species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will lead a comprehensive study of fishery resources to identify the restoration needs of Great Lakes fish species, using the latest quantitative techniques to analyze the causes of past disruptions to fish populations and to identify the physical, chemical, and biological needs of important fish and wildlife species.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and States will continue to stock hatchery-reared fish, such as lake trout, to bolster the abundance of important species. The Service will also continue application of lampricides to tributaries where sea lamprey spawn in order to control the ravages of this nonnative species upon sport fish. In addition, the Service and States will continue law enforcement efforts to curtail illegal commercial fishing and waterfowl hunting.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and States will continue to take measures to protect and restore populations of endangered and threatened Great Lakes species such as bald eagle, peregrine falcon, Kirtland's warbler, eastern timber wolf, and lakeside daisy.

The Fish and Wildlife Service will implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan's habitat strategy aimed at restoring waterfowl populations to their levels in the 1970s.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and States will pursue Natural Resource Damage Assessments and Claims against Potentially Responsible Parties for past harm to Great Lakes species.

EPA and States will continue activities to reduce phosphorus loadings to areas of the Lakes that are vulnerable to nutrient over enrichment.

Working Together Back to Top

The partners to the Strategy will support its implementation by various steps, including:

  • States and EPA will focus prevention, inspection, enforcement, and cleanup efforts on critical pollutants and on geographic areas which have the highest ecological and human health risks. In so doing, they will be targeting the strongest opportunities to restore the ecosystem and protect human health.
  • They will use the Remedial Action and Lakewide Management planning processes to define ecological needs and appropriate responses to these needs.
  • EPA, in cooperation with the Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA, other Federal agencies, and States, will establish an environmental data storage and retrieval system relating to the Great Lakes, which will be accessible to all agencies.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Service, in cooperation with other agencies, will establish data repositories on habitat uses and on fisheries.
  • EPA, working with its partners, will establish and maintain a Great Lakes ecosystem monitoring plan to address program needs.
  • EPA and its partners will establish and maintain research priorities to support management programs.
  • EPA, in conjunction with its partners, will develop a joint report to Congress and to the people of the Great Lakes region on implementation of their joint Strategy and progress toward their environmental goals. EPA and its partners will adopt ecological objectives and measure progress with ecological indicators.
  • The partners to the U.S. Great Lakes Strategy will pursue opportunities to work with their Canadian counterparts. For instance, the two nations will sponsor biennial conferences on the health of the ecosystem.

In the years ahead, the Great Lakes Program will continue evolving to address ever-changing challenges. One constant emphasis, however, will be to inform the public about the state of the ecosystem. Individuals are vital to further environmental progress through their purchases of products, choices of lifestyles, and expectations of their civic institutions, including businesses, environmental organizations, universities, and governments. The Great Lakes Program will continue to promote public stewardship through education and public participation. Though the region's human inhabitants have often wrought harm to this extraordinary ecosystem during the last several centuries, they still hold its future within their collective stewardship.


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