2024: An Important Year for Great Lakes Restoration

May 9, 2024

In 2010, Congress established the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to allow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), working in collaboration with other federal agencies, states, and tribes, to fund projects to restore and protect the Great Lakes. To date, the GLRI has funded more than 7,563 individual projects totaling $3.7 billion and has greatly improved the quality of life in the region. GLRI projects restore habitat, reduce non-point source pollution, prevent the establishment or spread of invasive species, and clean up toxic legacy pollution. In recognition of the importance of this program, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 invested an additional $1 billion to accelerate the cleanup of toxic legacy pollution at “Areas of Concern” throughout the region.

Will Congress extend the GLRI for 5 more years?

This year is another important year for the GLRI. Congress is considering bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and extend the program for an additional five years at $500 million per year from 2027-2031. A bipartisan group of lawmakers, including Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) in the Senate, and Representatives David Joyce (R-OH), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) in the House, have introduced legislation to reauthorize the GLRI.

On May 1, 2024, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved the legislation thereby clearing the way for full Senate passage later this year. On the House side, the bill has 31 Republican and Democratic cosponsors, and we continue to advocate that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approve the bill and send it to the full House for approval.

How will projects be prioritized?

In addition to GLRI’s reauthorization, the Alliance for the Great Lakes worked in partnership with the Healing Our Waters–Great Lakes Coalition to suggest ways the EPA could improve its next GLRI Action Plan. The Action Plan is important because it identifies five-year priorities for GLRI funding. We encouraged EPA to address climate change resilience and to focus on the needs of underserved communities. We also made specific suggestions for each part of the Action Plan.

EPA adopted many of our recommendations in its recently released draft “Action Plan IV.” When complete, it will guide GLRI funding to projects from 2025 to 2029.  Climate change is now better incorporated into the draft action plan with projected climate change impacts being emphasized during the design and implementation of GLRI projects. There is increased focus on meaningfully involving underserved communities in decisions about addressing issues in their communities and accruing benefits from GLRI projects. We would still like to see additional emphasis in both areas consistent with our earlier comments.

How you can help

EPA would like your feedback on the draft Action Plan IV. You can read the action plan and provide comments to EPA until May 24, and we hope you will.

Give Your Feedback by May 24

EPA would like your feedback on the draft GLRI Action Plan IV. You can read the plan and provide comments to EPA until May 24, 2024.

Read the Plan & Give Your Feedback