December 20, 2014

Multi-county group forms to address Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

By Lauren Begley
Staff Writer | reporter@arenacindependent.com
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — Three grants for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) could potentially impact the residents of Arenac County.

The GLRI is a special project within the Environmental Protection Agency that provides $475 million in grant money for the Great Lakes Region. Its purpose is to help eliminate the major problems in the area, which include invasive species, pollutants, and contaminated sediment.

Huron County Commissioner Kurt E. Damrow has been working to bring together groups of people from Bay, Arenac, Tuscola, and Huron counties (collectively called the BATH Group) to identify the area’s needs and apply for grants.

The first round of GLRI grant applications was due Jan. 29, and the group put together three grants that seek aid for phragmites removal, septic tank replacement, and farm runoff.

Although the septic tank replacement is geared more toward leaking systems in Bay County, the phragmites removal and farm runoff will more directly affect Arenac County.

Damrow said the EPA recently sent out a letter that it was going to remove the word “big” from “big farms” in the farm runoff regulations. This change means that smaller farms will eventually be impacted by the EPA regulations, and one of the three grants will assist farmers in modifying their tile outlets to meet the increased regulations.

Damrow said that partnering with Arenac County is especially important when dealing with invasive species like phragmites.

“We really need their participation,” Damrow said.

The Arenac County Board of Commissioners sent a letter of support to the EPA on Jan. 26 in support of the GLRI, and at least one resident of the county has attended previous BATH meetings, Damrow said.

Receiving funding is voluntary, but Damrow said he thinks the EPA will start to more strictly regulate the Great Lakes region once all the grant money is given out.

“The EPA wants the Great Lakes cleaned out,” Damrow said.

The first round of applications requested nearly $3 million in funding, and Damrow said he thinks the second round could be double that amount.

The BATH Group’s next meeting is Feb. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) office on Ketchum Street in Bay City. The group will be discussing the three grants as well as gathering ideas for the second round of applications, which are due April 1.

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