The majesty of the Great Lakes compels wise stewardship by all citizens and all levels of government. The Obama Administration committed the powers and resources of the federal government to protection of this resource.
- The Obama Administration invested approximately $2 billion in new federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), making measurable progress in cleaning up contaminated areas of concern, restoring habitat, and reducing pollutants entering Great Lakes waters.
- The Obama Administration worked with the Canadian government in successful renegotiation of the Great Lakes Water Quality, giving new life to binational commitments.
- The Obama Administration appointed a special Great Lakes advisor, Cam Davis, to champion Great Lakes commitments in and outside of government.
- The Obama Administration, through the IJC, put in place a water levels regulation plan that will restore 64,000 acres of Lake Ontario wetlands.
- The Obama Administration reactivated the national marine sanctuary nomination process, spurring interest in four different potential designations in Great Lakes waters.
Appointments are policy, too, and I know from firsthand observation that the President appointed three engaged, knowledgeable and creative members of the International Joint Commission.
Actions that address nationwide issues also benefited the Great Lakes:
- The Obama Administration promulgated Mercury Air Toxic Standards, helping the Great Lakes and the people who depend on them by reducing toxic pollution from power plants contaminating fish.
- The Obama Administration’s efforts to foster energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will help slow climate change, which is already causing detrimental impacts to the Great Lakes.
The largest immediate threat to the Great Lakes is the risk of Asian carp colonization, which the Administration was unsuccessful in addressing in a permanent way. But it is worth observing that no evidence of a self-sustaining population in any portion of the Lakes.
The national mercury and greenhouse gas policies are now at risk, and so are the Great Lakes. But President Obama did well by the Lakes, and he has my thanks.