WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Tina Smith (D-MN) announced that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) a $1,750,000 supplemental Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant to continue restoration efforts in the Saint Louis River Estuary Area of Concern (AOC) in Lake Superior. This supplemental grant brings the total GLRI investment in the project to $7,770,000 and represents a larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the GLRI.
"The Great Lakes are a national treasure and vital to the economy and environment in Minnesota and our entire country," Klobuchar said. “The restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem is estimated to provide $50 billion in long-term economic benefits for the region and this grant will ensure that the restoration of the important Saint Louis River area habitat continues. As one of the vice-chairs of the Great Lakes Task Force, I look forward to continuing this important work to protect the Great Lakes for generations to come."
“For thousands of years people have treasured Lake Superior and the rest of the Great Lakes chain. They are important to many—including the Native American communities that have long lived near them and utilized nearby resources, tourists who visit them for outdoor recreation and businesses rely on them for shipping,” Smith said. “This important funding will help improve 257 acres of aquatic habitat in Lake Superior. Restoring the Great Lakes should be a top priority because it is good for our economy, tourism and natural resources.”
The grant supplements funding for work the Minnesota DNR has begun to implement two projects to restore the St. Louis River Estuary AOC. The projects, Grassy Point and Kingsbury Bay, will collectively contribute toward restoration of 257 acres of aquatic habitat and the removal of the associated beneficial use impairment in the AOC.
In August, Klobuchar joined colleagues on the Senate Great Lakes Task Force to introduce bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and expand funding for the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 will reauthorize the GLRI, which is set to expire at the end of Fiscal Year 2021, for another five years. The bill increases the current authorization level from $300 million to $375 million in Fiscal Year 2022 and increases funding by $25 million per year until it reaches $475 million in Fiscal Year 2026.
In June, Klobuchar was joined in Duluth by Mayor Emily Larson and representatives from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection Agency, and Visit Duluth to review clean-up efforts of the Duluth Harbor as part of the GLRI. Klobuchar discussed how GLRI funds have been instrumental in restoring freshwater ecosystems, spurring economic opportunity, and redeveloping waterfront communities like Duluth.
As one of the vice-chairs of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, Klobuchar is a leading advocate for the protection of the Great Lakes. She has worked to bolster pollution clean-up efforts in the Great Lakes, prevent diversions of Great Lakes water out of the region, and establish new water conservation and environmental protection standards in the Great Lakes area. Earlier this year, Klobuchar fought President Trump’s proposed 90 percent budget cut from the GLRI, as she has in prior years. She has also fought to keep aquatic invasive species out of Minnesota’s river and lakes, including authoring legislation to help fight the spread of invasive carp that was signed into law in 2014.
Since its inception, the GLRI has tripled the successful cleanup and delisting of AOCs throughout the country, reduced phosphorus runoff and the threat of harmful algal blooms, controlled and stopped the advancement of invasive species, and restored wildlife habitat over thousands of miles of rivers and waterways. Since 2010, the GLRI has provided more than $2.5 billion to fund 4,706 projects throughout the Great Lakes region.
The St. Louis AOC is the second largest U.S.-based AOC, draining 3,634 square miles of watershed and encompassing a 1,020 square-mile area. The AOC boundary includes the lower 39 miles of the St. Louis River, from upstream of Cloquet, Minnesota to its mouth at the Duluth/Superior Harbor, and that portion of the watershed; the Nemadji River watershed; and the western portion of Lake Superior defined on its eastern edge by a line drawn from the eastern HUC 12 Dutchman Creek watershed boundary in Wisconsin where it intersects the Lake Superior shoreline north to where the eastern HUC 12 Talmadge Creek watershed boundary in Minnesota intersects with the Lake Superior shoreline north to the intersection of the Cloquet River HUC 8. Historical industrial use of the river, before modern environmental laws, has resulted in pollutants found in sediments, the water column, and wildlife.