Jump to main content.


The Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

United States Great Lakes Program Report on the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

Navigational Links

View the Report
[PDF 2.7Mb, 69 pages]

exit EPA (About PDF)


Back to Index

PUBLIC ACCESS TO ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION

EPA and its partners are vigorously pursuing greater public access to relevant Great Lakes environmental information through the Internet. Active participation in the Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN) and various agency homepages contribute to a large set of information about the Great Lakes available to the public. The Great Lakes GIS Online project builds upon GLIN to provide Internet-based access to, and online mapping capability for a variety of consistent spatial data layers covering the Great Lakes Basin. Based on GLIN's formula for building online partnerships among U.S. and Canadian agencies and organizations, the Great Lakes GIS Online project will provide a solid foundation for interagency spatial data sharing and collaboration.


Increased public access to environmental information is a hallmark of the U.S. Great Lakes Program

EPA's "Surf Your Watershed" Internet Site, which houses the Agency's first comprehensive assessment of U.S. watersheds, allows the public to locate, use, and share environmental information on a particular watershed or community. The driving force behind Surf Your Watershed is to get environmental information into the hands of citizens and groups active in protecting and managing the environment. Providing the public with this information is an extremely important step in improving our nation's water quality and protecting the health of the American public. A particular watershed can be selected by using maps or searching by State, Indian Tribe, County, or zip code. A search can also be based on local stream names, water bodies, or even large-scale ecosystems. At the state or watershed level, there is information regarding protection efforts, environmental/public health conditions, fish advisories, drinking water, land use, population, Superfund sites, and effluent dischargers. The public also will be able retrieve the overall score for a watershed, reflecting condition and vulnerability, additional information provided by states, and links to public and volunteer organizations working to protect and restore water at the regional, State, and watershed level. A map of the watershed or area can also be requested.

The Great Lakes Computer Center provides a database to support regional information systems including Great Lakes Envirofacts, which consists of EPA facility information in an easily accessible format, RAPIDS, and the database of the Lake Michigan Mass Balance. The public is now able to easily search Great Lakes Envirofacts website.  

GLNPO, through a grant to the Great Lakes Commission, is developing a publicly-accessible homepage to provide information for those AoCs which are within the U.S. or are shared with Canada. This site will provide a uniform format for displaying information and will allow the Great Lakes States to easily provide updated information as it becomes available. The site should be up and running by the end of 1997.

EPA continues to distribute large numbers of the popular third edition of The Great Lakes: An Environmental Atlas and Resource Book, which was co-authored with Environment Canada. This excellent resource has been distributed to many of the Basin's schools and libraries as well as to a variety of other public and private institutions.

Cleveland's Great Lakes Science Center, a museum dedicated to educating the public on science and the Great Lakes in a hands-on, interactive manner, opened in July 1996 to throngs of school children and others, pushing first year attendance numbers well above the goal of 650,000. Aided by a $2 million grant from EPA, the museum will use the hands-on approach to serve one of its primary goals of being an engine for science education for school-aged children.

EPA has initiated the Sector Facility Indexing Project to make it easier for the public to evaluate the environmental records of facilities and compare their environmental performance. Data collected under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Toxic Release Inventory for five industry sectors (petroleum refining, iron and steel, pulp mills, primary nonferrous metals, and automobile assembly) relating to past compliance history, facility size, pollutant releases and toxicity, and surrounding population has been aggregated, and is being prepared for public release in late 1997. This initiative is the first time that cross-program EPA data has been compiled in one place in a manner that will allow examination of facility-level environmental records.

GLERL and the Ohio State University have successfully developed and implemented the Great Lakes Coastal Forecasting System which makes regularly scheduled forecasts of the physical and related variables, such as surface water temperature, vertical temperature structure, water surface elevation, and currents for Lake Erie; and wind fields and wave heights for all the Great Lakes.


GREAT LAKES GEOGRAPHIC INITIATIVES

One of the mainstays of the Great Lakes Program is its use of geographic initiative to address environmental impacts at varying scales around the Basin. Examples of these initiatives range from the basinwide level (the Binational Toxics Reduction Strategy and the Great Waters Study), to individual lake basin programs (the LaMPs and the Lake Michigan Mass Balance), to regional ecosystems (the Eastern Lake Ontario Megasite and the Southeast Michigan Initiative), to local watersheds (the RAP Program and other various watershed initiatives), and finally, to site-specific projects (a particular sediment removal or habitat restoration project). This "nested approach" ensures that environmental impacts are being reviewed by the program working at the proper scale to address the issues. The following discussion of the LaMP and RAP programs and other geographic initiatives highlights this approach.

PROGRESS UNDER THE LAKEWIDE MANAGEMENT PLANS

Annex 2 of the Agreement established the LaMP Program to restore and protect the beneficial uses of Great Lakes waters on an individual lake basin scale. The LaMP Program emphasizes and puts great value in local public stakeholder involvement. The Program seeks to empower stakeholders at the local levels to help define and address environmental problems which are impacting their particular lake basin. The LaMPs are also helping to increase local capacity so that the public groups have the ability to be full and active LaMP partners. The U.S. Great Lakes Program is looking to the LaMPs to be one of the primary vehicles for achieving environmental improvements at the individual lake basin level. Many of the achievements highlighted in this report have been implemented through the cooperation of the governmental and non-governmental agencies working on the LaMPs.

The direct and important involvement of public groups in the LaMPs (and in a variety of other programs including RAPs) is illustrative of one of the major cornerstones of the Great Lakes Program -- the promotion of public stewardship and direct involvement. Community stakeholders are strongly involved in a variety of planning processes from the public forums or other forms of public involvement on the LaMPs, to the Public Advisory Committees (PACs) which are participating in RAP development. These methods of public involvement are all examples of Community-Based Environmental Protection (CBEP), an approach which is results oriented, which has a geographic focus, and which has a practical advantage in that definable geographic areas have proven to be effective units of work, as measured in environmental results. Communities are manageable entities for defining collaborative goals and developing plans and implementation strategies tailored to specific ecological systems, economic circumstances, and socio-cultural situations. Stakeholder involvement brings in knowledge and expertise about local conditions and ensures that those who live with the environmental decisions being made are involved in the process. This also creates a sense of local ownership of the issues and solutions. The CBEP process fosters unique programs, can leverage funding, and helps reconnect government agencies and their employees with the people and places they serve. The CBEP approach, piloted in the Great Lakes, is now being implemented agency-wide by EPA.

Public and private agencies working on the LaMPs are developing strategic management plans to streamline and strengthen the integration and application of environmental programs and to create strategic monitoring plans to aide in the analysis and use of environmental data in making decisions regarding the lakes' ecosystems. The LaMPs are also developing ecosystem objectives and indicators as measures of progress. LaMPs have established productive working relationships with fish manager counterparts on the Lake Committees of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Efforts are underway to reconcile ecosystem, fish community, and environmental objectives, and to select indicators that are consistent with lakewide assessments conducted by Lake Committees. In addition to activities already highlighted under specific topics of this report, a variety of other significant LaMP accomplishments have occurred during the last two years.

Lake Superior

Lake-sup.pcx.gif (2586 bytes)
Lake Superior

For Lake Superior, the LaMP is part of an agreement, the Binational Program to Restore and Protect the Lake Superior Basin, between Canada and the U.S. This program has two major areas of activities: a Zero Discharge Demonstration Program which is devoted to the goal of zero discharge of nine persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances, and the broader program, which involves efforts to restore and protect the Lake Superior ecosystem.

The completed Stage 1 LaMP identified 22 critical pollutants that either impaired beneficial uses or exceeded certain environmental criteria, including the nine pollutants targeted by the Zero Discharge Demonstration Program. Nonpoint source pollution deposited from the atmosphere is a proportionately large source of pollution in Lake Superior, and it has been determined that nonpoint sources have a bigger influence over water quality in the lake than do point sources.

The draft Stage 2 LaMP which presents load reduction schedules and targets was released in October 1996. Public comments have been reviewed and summarized and a draft Responsiveness Summary is currently being reviewed by the governmental agencies. Chapter 3 of the LaMP, "Reduction Targets for Lake Superior Pollutants", contains consensus-based recommendations for load reduction targets and was the product of the Lake Superior Binational Forum, the citizen stakeholder group. Revisions to the Binational Forum's recommendations will be included. The Stage 2 LaMP should be completed by March 1998. Activities to be utilized in the development of the draft Stage 3 LaMP -- "Management Strategies for Implementation of the Pollutant Load Reduction" -- have already begun.

The draft Ecosystem Principles and Objectives, Targets and Indicators document was released in October 1996 for public review. This document includes environmental quality indicators covering six categories. It was developed in coordination with several binational partners as part of the Binational Program.

As part of the Lake Superior Binational Program, the Habitat Committee developed criteria for the identification of important habitat sites in the Lake Superior Basin. They have released a map of known sites of important habitats that meet these criteria along with a summary of the condition of habitats in the Lake Superior Basin. In addition, they have completed ongoing habitat restoration and protection projects that will, individually and cumulatively, improve the health of the Lake Superior ecosystem.

Through a grant from EPA, the Binational Forum hosted a workshop on sustainability within the Lake Superior Basin. The workshop focused on three areas within the Basin from which case studies were developed and conference participants discussed aspects of the areas and ways in which communities and the Binational Program partners might work together to promote sustainability community development.

Lake Michigan


Lake Michigan

The Lake Michigan LaMP has identified lakewide critical pollutants and the four Lake Michigan States have completed their assessments of beneficial use impairments due to all stressors. As of August 1997, a document which will serve as a preliminary Stage 1 LaMP was being drafted with a targeted release date of December 1997. In the interim, a number of fact sheets were produced which updated the status of a variety of environmental issues in the Lake Michigan Basin, such as RAP status, critical pollutants, and the Lake Michigan Mass Balance. The Lake Michigan Fellows compact disc and interactive software was produced to put LaMP issues and activities in context and to prepare audiences for understanding what the goals of the LaMP are.

The Lake Michigan Pubic Forum has secured private funding to support a pollution prevention project in the primary metals industry to address Lake Michigan LaMP pollutants. As source reduction in a primary metal industry is quite difficult, the project may result in the identification of practices to increase off-site transfers or recycling, and opportunities to decrease releases. The Forum is targeting facilities within the watershed and may work with trade associations and technical assistance programs within each State.
 

Lake Erie


Lake Erie

A Lake Erie LaMP Status Report is currently being produced with a targeted completion date of late 1997. This Status Report addresses a variety of issues, including historic trends of PCB and phosphorus loadings, beneficial use impairment assessments for each of the three sub-basins, sources and loadings for a limited set of "fast-track" pollutants, and ongoing programs. The Status Report will be produced in an "Executive Summary" format. Ecosystem objectives are under development using models to create possible outcomes which will be publicly reviewed and finalized in the fall of 1998.

Lake Ontario


Lake Ontario

The draft Stage I (problem definition) document for Lake Ontario was drafted and sent out for a two month public review period, which ended on June 30, 1997. During the public comment period, 10 public meetings were held around the US and Canadian sides of the Lake Ontario Basin. The document is in the process of being revised based upon public comment.

Lake Huron


Lake Huron

EPA, Environment Canada, the State of Michigan, the Province of Ontario, and other Federal agencies are looking to develop and implement a LaMP for Lake Huron, based on the lessons learned in developing LaMPs for the other Great Lakes.



 

PROGRESS ON REMEDIAL ACTION PLANS

Annex 2 of the Agreement called for the development of Remedial Action Plans (RAPs) to address the impairment of beneficial uses at forty-three localized "hot spots" throughout the Great Lakes. Highlights of current and planned activities to implement these RAPs have been incorporated throughout this report.

At the Deer Lake-Carp River/Creek, Michigan AoC, mercury levels in fish have declined substantially and are almost to the point where the fish are safe to eat. The mercury source has been cut off through the installation of a closed loop system. Recovery of fish populations from what was once a grossly contaminated site is a clear measure of success.

At the Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania AoC, nonpoint source pollution appears to be the largest contributor of contaminants. The City of Erie entered into a Consent Decree with PADEP to spend an estimated $90 million to upgrade and double the capacity of the POTW, construct an overflow retention basin, and eliminate the remaining 42 Combined Sewer Overflows in the City's system. These efforts, along with additional nonpoint source control measures, should allow for natural recovery of the system. This option for sediment management has been presented to the RAP Public Advisory Committee for their consideration. This decision appears to be the most viable, both environmentally and economically, in areas such as Presque Isle Bay which are characterized by widespread, low levels of contamination with no known hot spots.

The Black River RAP has concluded that the biggest sources of impact to the river are from nonpoint sources. Thus, the AoC includes the entire watershed. In an effort to better coordinate implementation of nonpoint source control efforts, the RAP developed a five year strategic plan based on improvements needed to ultimately improve the riparian corridor. One of the efforts underway is a partnership with the Conservation Fund to implement innovative methods to control nonpoint source runoff in developing and urban areas. Several grants have been received to support watershed plan development at a township level, further implement agricultural and construction Best Management Practices, restore riparian habitat using biotechniques for erosion control, and increased public awareness of the river and the need to connect with it. Ohio has also prepared an "Activities and Accomplishments Report" for all 1996 RAP activities and plans to produce this on an annual basis.

Figure 21: Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin

At the Milwaukee River, Wisconsin AoC, the removal of the North Avenue Dam restored the lower stretch of the river to a free flowing stream. By returning the river to its channel, the exposure of the waters to 700,000 square yards of contaminated sediments was reduced.

Spotlight on the Fox River/Green Bay, Wisconsin Area of Concern

Along a 39 mile portion of the Fox River from Lake Winnebago to Green Bay, and at the southern portion of Green Bay, industry and agriculture are highly concentrated, along with the greatest concentration of pulp and paper mills on the Great Lakes. The contaminants of greatest concern are PCBs, as paper companies have released 125 tons of this substance to the Fox River, of which about 40 tons remain, contaminating 11 million cubic yards of river sediments. Consumption advisories are in effect for a number of fish and wildlife species. A number of actions are being implemented to remediate the area:

The Fox-Wolf 2000, a locally based watershed association, is working in partnership with the State of Wisconsin to implement an accelerated management plan to reduce urban and rural nonpoint sources of pollution to the AoC.


Fox River/Green Bay, Wisconsin

The Fox River Coalition, a public-private partnership dedicated to contaminated sediment remediation planning and implementation, continues to work to implement a locally driven sediment cleanup effort.

The State of Wisconsin has negotiated an interim agreement with seven PRPs to fund the remediation of two contaminated sediment sites on the Fox River.

The FWS, acting on behalf of the Federal natural resource trustees, has undertaken one of the largest and most complex NRDAs in the U.S. This assessment now forms the nucleus of a joint trustee-EPA-State-Tribal effort to understand, remediate, and restore the lower Fox River, Green Bay, and Lake Michigan, particularly as related to Fox River PCBs. The assessment is based on the goals and information developed by, and on behalf of, the Green Bay RAP and the Lake Michigan LaMP, and will lead to real reductions of PCB loadings to the Great Lakes, as well as significant restoration of the Fox River and Green Bay environment.

The State of Wisconsin and the COE have initiated a feasibility study on the restoration of the Cat Island Chain in lower Green Bay. This project could restore upland terrestrial habitat and protect the soft shoreline of lower Green Bay from wave action.

The State completed Phase One of a northern pike habitat restoration project and initiated a Phase Two project. When implemented, this project will allow for a more balanced, diverse, sustainable fishery within lower Green Bay.


Spotlight on the Southeast Michigan Initiative (SEMI)


Southeast Michigan Initiative

EPA continues to focus on the eight county area in southeast Michigan which includes five designated AoCs, two of which are binational. In addition to added emphasis and coordination of the RAP processes for these AoCs, there are many other projects in the area that the Agency continues to support. One of the primary goals of SEMI is to build capacity at the local level and to empower local stakeholders to address environmental problems in order to be sustainable beyond Federal involvement. A major focus is on public and stakeholder involvement whereby local input drives priorities through the SEMI Environmental Forum. These priority issues include Brownfields redevelopment, urban sprawl, land use, environmental justice, people at risk, water quality, contaminated sediments, air quality, and toxic contaminant reduction.

SEMI has focused Agency resources on several community-based environmental projects in the area over the past year. These include a major soil sampling effort in the vicinity of a municipal waste combustor and the implementation of a "Good Neighbor" project with several General Motors facilities in Pontiac, Michigan. EPA is also developing a comprehensive strategy on lead outreach, education and abatement for the urban area.

The SEMI Environmental Indicators Profile will develop a baseline of environmental indicators against which to measure trends in environmental quality. The database will be maintained to provide a "State of the Environment" report for the public and decision-makers.

Lastly, in 1997, SEMI funded nine individual grant projects totaling $350,000 in the areas of water quality, land use, toxic contaminant reduction, air quality, indoor air, Brownfields redevelopment, habitat restoration, and pollution prevention.

Spotlight on the Southwestern Coast of Lake Michigan


Southwestern Lake Michigan efforts

Urban areas along the southwestern coast of Lake Michigan contain eight million people and are the historical home of heavy industrial activity. The ecosystem is recovering from industrial impacts and a new focus on sustainable development is taking form. To support locally based efforts, EPA is coordinating its efforts and is offering support through three area teams: the Greater Chicago Team is focusing on the southeast portion of Chicago including Lake Calumet; the Northwest Indiana Team includes the Indiana Harbor/Grand Calumet River AoC; and the Lake Michigan Team is coordinating the LaMP and related activities. All of these efforts relate to coordinating remaining clean up activities and the emerging sustainable development of the region. Specific activities range from innovative projects to address slag and contaminated sediment to habitat restoration demonstrations.
 

INNOVATIVE PARTNERSHIPS

Partners to the U.S. Great Lakes Program have long recognized the need to create new and innovative solutions to the impacts affecting the Basin and that new ideas are needed among all sectors of society to achieve the goals of the Program. The following activities present highlights of this approach.

In 1996, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP) celebrated ten years of habitat accomplishments to benefit waterfowl, other migratory bird populations, and wetlands and related habitats. Within the Great Lakes Basin, thousands of acres of coastal habitats have been acquired, restored and/or enhanced by Federal, State, Tribal and private natural resource organizations to benefit wetland wildlife and to improve water quality. Combined with beneficial climate patterns, these habitat gains have allowed most targeted species of waterfowl to meet or exceed their population level objectives under the NAWMP. Notable NAWMP project areas include the Lake Erie coastal marshes of Ohio, Lake Michigan coastal wetlands at Green Bay and southeastern Wisconsin, the Saginaw Bay watershed, and the St. Louis River watershed in Minnesota.

The Grand Calumet Area Partnership is a voluntary effort among a broad range of Northwest Indiana stakeholders who share the common goal of cleaning up and revitalizing the environment of the Grand Calumet River. The Partnership takes a comprehensive approach to cleanup, embracing sediment remediation, river corridor planning, Brownfields redevelopment, NRDAs, and restoration of impaired uses in the area. The Partnership includes people from local industry, environmental groups, State and Federal agencies, and municipalities. The Partnership will balance the goals and objectives of the participants, provide a forum for coordinated planning and implementation, and provide a communications network that links individual efforts.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund, created by the Governors of the Great Lakes States in 1989, is offering $2 million to fund proposals to demonstrate how non-regulatory, market-based solutions can work to improve the health of the Great Lakes. The new program, called the Great Lakes Power Challenge, seeks projects which will help implement business plans that provide consumers with scientifically sound and objective ways to use the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem as a criterion in their selection of electric power products and services. Deregulation of the electric utility industry will allow many consumers the choice to select `cleaner and greener' companies. Projects that aggregate consumer demand for environmentally benign sources of energy are ones that the Power Challenge will support to demonstrate that consumer demand can affect environmental protection.

EPA, the COE, the State of Ohio, and a large number of diverse public and private organizations at the Federal, State and local levels have formed the locally based Ashtabula River Partnership. The Partnership, an outgrowth of the Ashtabula River RAP process, is seeking to address and implement an ambitious, comprehensive 1995 and April 1996, respectively.

Through the Strategy and Implementation Plan, EPA illustrates its commitment to promoting and supporting equitable environmental protection and its intent to continue its pursuit of environmental justice. To this end, EPA has set a goal of virtually eliminating disproportionate environmental impacts on low-income and people of color communities. Efforts toward reaching this goal are exemplified in the number of cleanup, restoration, community outreach and education, and Brownfields projects the Agency has undertaken in the Great Lakes Basin urban environmental justice areas of Greater Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana, Northeast Ohio, and Southeast Michigan, among others.

Sustainable Development

EPA Region 5 made `Promoting Sustainable Urban Development and Reuse of Brownfields' one of its five Regional Environmental Priorities for FY 1998. Sustainable development seeks to meet the present needs of society without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Agency staff are in the forefront promoting planned development.


The Cleveland metro area's Regional Environmental Priorities Project (REPP) was an exercise in environmental priority setting and local consensus building to set environmental priorities for the region and to develop coalition approaches and action strategies for addressing environmental problems. The REPP concluded that many of their highly ranked problems were directly or indirectly driven by urban sprawl. It was thus decided that urban sprawl — which was not on the originally compiled working list of 16 problems — should take priority as the "umbrella issue" to be addressed during the implementation phase of the project. The REPP was recently recognized by EPA as one of ten "success story" examples of community-based environmental protection (CBEP) at work.

EPA's Northeast Ohio Initiative Team has taken the results of the REPP as a primary focal point for its CBEP work in that metropolitan area. Other EPA regional teams in the Great Lakes Basin have also begun to incorporate this issue into their work. The Southeast Michigan Team is funding a grant that is working to increase one community's involvement in local land use development and watershed protection decisions; the Northwest Indiana Team is participating in a local council on sustainable development; the Lake Michigan Team is assisting the Lake Michigan Public Forum in promoting better land use planning; the Lake Superior Team is sponsoring a land use conference promoting better nearshore development practices; and the Lake Erie Team is currently studying how to incorporate sprawl and sustainable development issues into its planning process.

The Menominee, Wisconsin Tribal People have long recognized the need for balance among environment, community, and economy, both in the short term and for future generations. Menominee culture and traditions teach never to take more resources than are produced within natural cycles so that all life can be sustained. Cultural and traditional beliefs are the foundation of the management practices and principles of today's Menominee Tribal Enterprise operations and their forest-based sustainable development project, parts of which were funded by EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office. The concept of sustainability in the management of the forest allows the Tribe to experience a traditional quality of life from an intact, diverse, productive and healthy forest ecosystem on the Reservation. In September 1996, Menominee Tribal Enterprises hosted a conference to showcase the Menominee tradition of sustainable forestry and to promote safe timber harvest practices.

The Great Lakes Protection Fund, created by the Governors of the Great Lakes States in 1989, is offering $2 million to fund proposals to demonstrate how non-regulatory, market-based solutions can work to improve the health of the Great Lakes. The new program, called the Great Lakes Power Challenge, seeks projects which will help implement business plans that provide consumers with scientifically sound and objective ways to use the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem as a criterion in their selection of electric power products and services. Deregulation of the electric utility industry will allow many consumers the choice to select `cleaner and greener' companies. Projects that aggregate consumer demand for environmentally benign sources of energy are ones that the Power Challenge will support to demonstrate that consumer demand can affect environmental protection.

EPA, the COE, the State of Ohio, and a large number of diverse public and private organizations at the Federal, State and local levels have formed the locally based Ashtabula River Partnership. The Partnership, an outgrowth of the Ashtabula River

RAP process, is seeking to address and implement an ambitious, comprehensive full-scale cleanup of the contaminated sediments in the Ashtabula River and Harbor. Signatories to the Partnership are strongly committed to investigating the extent of contaminated sediments, to developing a plan for the dredging and disposal of river sediments, to identifying resources necessary to carry out the cleanup, and to generate a timeline of milestones and activities. The sediments are contaminated with PCBs, other chlorinated organic compounds, and heavy metals which have limited the amount of dredging and which precludes open water disposal. The Partnership plans to remove and properly dispose of roughly 1.1 million cubic yards of contaminated sediments through the innovative use of multiple authorities. The Partnership is drafting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), with a draft due to be released to the public for review early in 1998. The EIS will discuss several possible remedial dredging alternatives of varying amounts and costs. Whichever alternative is chosen, the Partnership's goal remains the same -- the removal of the largest PCB mass as possible and the restoration of beneficial uses.

A 40-year landmark agreement signed in February 1997 involving eight of Wisconsin Electric Power Company's 13 hydroelectric projects and 160 river miles in the Menominee River Basin, a tributary to Lake Michigan, represents the first time that potentially conflicting issues have been resolved prior to the start of the hydro project relicensing process administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This agreement allows the projects to continue operating profitably on behalf of its thousands of customers while protecting and enhancing outstanding environmental and recreational natural resources on nearly 23,000 acres of public utility-owned land in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. As non-Federal hydroelectric projects are normally relicensed individually, this pioneering agreement has resulted in greatly increased efficiency and time savings for all signatories, which include the company, FWS, NPS, the States of Wisconsin and Michigan, the Michigan Hydro Relicensing Coalition, and the River Alliance of Wisconsin.

FWS continues to actively pursue efforts to restore and protect habitat for Federal trust species on private lands through its Partners for Wildlife program. The restoration and enhancement of wetlands and associated upland habitats on private lands continues to be an important activity as these habitats are valuable for migratory birds, endangered species, anadromous and native fish, and for the many functions they provide. In fiscal years 1996 and 1997, over 275 wetland sites encompassing more than 870 acres were restored or enhanced in upper Great Lakes counties; an additional 63 upland sites totaling almost 500 acres of upland habitats were restored or enhanced.

The State of Pennsylvania has put together a five year plan to address habitat needs of the Presque Isle Bay AoC as they relate to fish species habitat diversity and angler use. A local fishing group, the S.O.N.S (Save Our Native Species) of Lake Erie, has stepped forward with the resources and volunteers needed to complete the project. And while neither `Loss of Fish Habitat' or `Degradation of Fish Population' are considered impairments in the AoC, the habitat enhancement projects under this plan will improve existing fisheries and result in positive steps towards restoration of the Bay.

TRIBAL ACTIVITIES


Great Lakes Tribes have been using the resources of the Basin for many generations

EPA`s July 1994 Action Plan for the Agency's Indian Program made Tribal Environmental Agreements (or TEAs) the cornerstone of the Tribal/EPA partnership to improve public health and the environment in Indian country. The key elements of a TEA includes a description of environmental conditions, a description of Tribal environmental priorities, and a workplan for addressing these environmental problems. EPA and Federally recognized Tribes in the States of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York have initiated a formal process to develop TEAs for 1995-1997. For FY 1998, 27 TEAs had been completed, including those for seven Michigan Tribes and all the ones for the Wisconsin and Minnesota Tribes.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission completed a EPA-funded project entitled "Building Great Lakes Tribal Capacity". The purpose of this project was to assist the Tribes in the Great Lakes Basin to raise their levels of awareness regarding the variety of programmatic activities occurring in the Basin, and to help them determine the level of involvement they would like to have in these programs. These include, but are not limited to, LaMPs, RAPs, and the Binational Toxics Reduction Strategy.

Members of the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Nation have expressed concerns about their observations of an increasing rate of disease in their community, especially among younger age groups, which they attribute to environmental pollution. In response, EPA Region 2 and the NYSDEC embarked on a compliance and enforcement initiative in the Massena, New York area to ensure that the St. Regis Mohawk Indian Nation are given equal protection under Federal environmental statutes. This initiative involved a direct commitment to the community by the Regional Administrator, close collaboration between EPA Region 2 and NYSDEC, targeted compliance monitoring and enforcement actions, work with stakeholders to address problems presented by the regulated community, and a high priority assignment to site cleanups in the area.

Several Lake Superior Tribes have joined the partners of the Binational Program and are participating in the development of the LaMP and broader program for Lake Superior.

NEW APPROACHES TO OLD PROBLEMS

Brownfields Redevelopment


Brownfields redevelopment can improve local environments and economies

Brownfields are abandoned, idled, or underused industrial and commercial properties where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by real or perceived contamination. Redevelopment of these sites is a promising way to revitalize communities and can reduce suburban sprawl. Through the development of programs between Federal, State and local governments and public and private organizations, Brownfields benefits the environment and economies of communities by assessing the extent of contamination at a site, cleaning up a site protectively if necessary, and by addressing liability issues. A number of notable activities have taken place in support of reviving Brownfields:

President Clinton signed into law a Brownfields Tax Incentive in August 1997 of approximately $1.4 billion over three years which will aid in the cleanup of almost 14,000 sites nationwide.

In May 1997, Vice President Gore announce the Brownfields National Partnership Action Agenda with more than $300 million in commitments from more than fifteen different Federal agencies.

EPA has awarded 121 grants to State and local governments for site planning, inventorying, and assessment. In 1997, EPA provided 23 grants to capitalize revolving loan funds for cleanup. EPA Region 5 helped establish the Great Lakes Finance Center at Cleveland State University, the Agency's first Brownfields Finance Center for redevelopment research.

More than 30,000 sites were removed from the inventory of potential Superfund sites, making them available for Brownfields redevelopment activities

EPA awarded grants of up to $200,000 for Brownfields pilots in a number of Great Lakes communities, including the Region 5 areas of Cuyahoga County and Lima, Ohio; Chippewa County and Detroit, Michigan; Milwaukee County and the WDNR Land Recycling Pilot; Kalamazoo and the Downriver Community Conference in Michigan; and the Tri-City area (East Chicago, Gary, and Hammond) of Northwest Indiana. EPA Region 2 has initiated three Brownfields pilot projects in the New York State portion of the Great Lakes Basin, in the cities of Buffalo, Rochester, and Niagara Falls.

In 1995, EPA Region 5 and the IEPA signed an innovative agreement to help redevelop hundreds of Brownfields. It is the first such agreement in the nation to cover Federal and State requirements for hazardous wastes, toxic wastes, and underground storage tank cleanup. This reduces the uncertainties for lenders, property owners, developers, and the regulated community and provides an incentive for cleaning up and redeveloping these contaminated sites. Similar agreements have been signed with Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Environmental Justice


Environmental Justice concerns are
being addressed in minority and low-income communities

In February 1994, President Clinton issued an Executive Order entitled Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations and an accompanying Presidential memorandum to focus Federal attention on the environmental and human health conditions in minority communities and low-income communities. The Executive Order, as amended, directs Federal agencies to develop an Environmental Justice Strategy that identifies and addresses disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their programs, policies, and activities on minority populations and low-income populations. EPA has designated the pursuit of environmental justice as one of the Agency's top priorities and released its Environmental Justice Strategy and Implementation Plan in April 1995 and April 1996, respectively.

Through the Strategy and Implementation Plan, EPA illustrates its commitment to promoting and supporting equitable environmental protection and its intent to continue its pursuit of environmental justice. To this end, EPA has set a goal of virtually eliminating disproportionate environmental impacts on low-income and people of color communities. Efforts toward reaching this goal are exemplified in the number of cleanup, restoration, community outreach and education, and Brownfields projects the Agency has undertaken in the Great Lakes Basin urban environmental justice areas of Greater Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana, Northeast Ohio, and Southeast Michigan, among others.

Sustainable Development

EPA Region 5 made `Promoting Sustainable Urban Development and Reuse of Brownfields' one of its five Regional Environmental Priorities for FY 1998. Sustainable development seeks to meet the present needs of society without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Agency staff are in the forefront promoting planned development.

The Cleveland metro area's Regional Environmental Priorities Project (REPP) was an exercise in environmental priority setting and local consensus building to set environmental priorities for the region and to develop coalition approaches and action strategies for addressing environmental problems. The REPP concluded that many of their highly ranked problems were directly or indirectly driven by urban sprawl. It was thus decided that urban sprawl -- which was not on the originally compiled working list of 16 problems -- should take priority as the "umbrella issue" to be addressed during the implementation phase of the project. The REPP was recently recognized by EPA as one of ten "success story" examples of community-based environmental protection (CBEP) at work.

EPA's Northeast Ohio Initiative Team has taken the results of the REPP as a primary focal point for its CBEP work in that metropolitan area. Other EPA regional teams in the Great Lakes Basin have also begun to incorporate this issue into their work. The Southeast Michigan Team is funding a grant that is working to increase one community's involvement in local land use development and watershed protection decisions; the Northwest Indiana Team is participating in a local council on sustainable development; the Lake Michigan Team is assisting the Lake Michigan Public Forum in promoting better land use planning; the Lake Superior Team is sponsoring a land use conference promoting better nearshore development practices; and the Lake Erie Team is currently studying how to incorporate sprawl and sustainable development issues into its planning process.

The Menominee, Wisconsin Tribal People have long recognized the need for balance among environment, community, and economy, both in the short term and for future generations. Menominee culture and traditions teach never to take more resources than are produced within natural cycles so that all life can be sustained. Cultural and traditional beliefs are the foundation of the management practices and principles of today's Menominee Tribal Enterprise operations and their forest-based sustainable development project, parts of which were funded by EPA's Great Lakes National Program Office. The concept of sustainability in the management of the forest allows the Tribe to experience a traditional quality of life from an intact, diverse, productive and healthy forest ecosystem on the Reservation. In September 1996, Menominee Tribal Enterprises hosted a conference to showcase the Menominee tradition of sustainable forestry and to promote safe timber harvest practices.

CONCLUSION

In the years ahead, the U.S. Great Lakes Program will continue to evolve to address ever changing challenges in partnership with our Canadian counterparts, the International Joint Commission, and other stakeholders. 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 and private institutions, including businesses, environmental organizations, universities, and governments. The U.S. Great Lakes Program will continue to promote public awareness through education and public participation. Though the region's human inhabitants have often wrought harm to this extraordinary ecosystem during the last several centuries, we still hold the key to its future within our collective grasp.

REPORT GLOSSARY

 


Local Navigation


Jump to main content.