...is the gist of this group message from Great Lakes coordinator Cam Davis on comments received regarding the spending plan for $475 million in proposed new spending for Great Lakes restoration.
Given that there was a short time frame for putting the plan together and for Cam to get on board and process tons of information, it's still disappointing.
A first draft by a bunch of federal agencies is not a plan; and many intelligent comments from the public were received and filed.
The message is below.
Having completed three weeks of non-stop public outreach, we want to
thank you for making the effort to turn out – often during dinnertime,
away from family and friends, let alone on priceless summer evenings –
to tell us what’s on your mind when it comes to the Great Lakes. I was
heartened that you participated in a way that was enthusiastic and
constructive, often providing ideas and examples of efforts that work to
restore the Great Lakes. After all, saving the Great Lakes will take all
of us working together to leave this magnificent ecosystem better for
the next generation.
Thanks also to our federal agency partners who made the time to help
support these outreach efforts. U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has
made restoring the Great Lakes a national priority; federal coordination
going into the recent stakeholder meetings helped deliver on our
collective commitment to transparency.
It also gave us a chance to explain the federal commitment to the Great
Lakes through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. We need action…to
pour the bulk of our efforts into the physical work it takes to
rehabilitate habitat, reduce toxics, and cut runoff pollution through
better land-use practices. The need for that action is urgent. Most of
the problems in the Great Lakes are well-known and their solutions ready
to use. And, we …meaning all of us…need to be accountable for ensuring
our investment in time and resources is achieving results.
In thanking you for turning out, I’d also like to share with you some of
the common themes and issues we heard during the public meetings and
some of my initial thinking about them.
· We heard you that tackling runoff pollution, especially from
agricultural lands, must be a high priority. While enhancing support
for existing, successful runoff prevention programs like strong
land-use planning, we’re also interested in hearing about new,
innovative ways to combat this threat.
· “The Action Plan Outline seems like more of a list of actions than a
framework,” and “where’s the debate about the Outline?” were things
we heard. It’s important to remember that this year’s Initiative
builds from years of debate and frame-working under the Great Lakes
Regional Collaboration Strategy finalized in 2005. The Initiative
intends to move toward the action (hence the name Action Plan) phase
of this ongoing effort. In other words, while our work to envision
and strategize for a healthy Great Lakes will never be done, now more
than ever is the time to act. To support actual on-the-ground and
in-the-water work to take care of the ecosystem so it can take care
of us, economically, ecologically and socially.
· Some of you suggested there’s too much money dedicated to
accountability, monitoring, partnerships and other systems-based
work, more than is suggested for aquatic nuisance species (ANS).
First, measuring success under the new Initiative is second in
importance only to success itself. Especially in the early stages of
the Initiative, we need solid systems to track progress; otherwise,
we won’t be able to learn how to do things even better going forward.
Second, money itself won’t solve our ANS problems. Rulemakings,
permits, state plans and other regulatory efforts that aren’t part of
the Initiative are among the most powerful tools that we need to
leverage to deal with pest invaders.
· Another common thought was that there needs to be more oversight of
spending under the Initiative. We agree that the tools need to be in
place to ensure you can see that your funding is showing results.
That’s part of why, as mentioned above, we’re make a major investment
in accounting systems, as resource-intensive as that may be.
· Some asked the question, “shouldn’t there be, for example, 3 or 4 big
grants rather than lots of smaller ones?” It’s a fair question, but
there is no formula for funding Great Lakes restoration, nor should
there be. First, the beauty of the Initiative is that it’s a broad
assault on Great Lakes threats, not one that nibbles at a few
threats. Second, to ensure we see results, some work might be funded
through big grants. Some critical efforts, however, can achieve
success through smaller, laser-precise work. Generally, we want to
move as much of the funding in the most efficient way to where it’s
most needed rather than by artificially setting a limit on the number
· We also heard that education and helping the ecosystem cope with
climate change need to be given higher priority. These are helpful
thoughts and we’re interested in doing these things.
With the help of the Great Lakes Commission, we hope to soon post a
summary of more of your concerns online.
I wish we could tell you that even with the most urgent, accountable
actions taken today, we’ll be able to deliver a perfectly healthy
ecosystem a year or two from now, but we can’t. It’s taken 150 years for
the Great Lakes to decline in health and it will take time to get
momentum to the point where we see major results moving in the other
direction. But we have to start now. There isn’t a minute to waste. We
feel this urgency every second at the U.S. EPA.
We’re working hard to finish the Action Plan that will serve as the
blueprint for Great Lakes restoration in the coming years and to release
an “anticipatory” request for proposals in advance of Congress approving
funding for the Initiative. Please keep an eye out for both in the
Thank you for caring about the Great Lakes by showing up and continuing
to pour your energy into your Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Senior Advisor to the Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency