Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant brings jobs

Greener and cleaner for all generations

by Rebecca Yaeger-Bischoff

On October 19, three Duluth area agencies were named to receive $1.2 million in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants. The GLRI is a $475 million fund announced by President Obama in early 2010 to target the most serious threats to the Great Lakes, including invasive species, non-point source pollution, and contaminated sediment.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) was awarded $411,680 for cleanup and restoration of toxic hot spots in the St. Louis River Area of Concern. The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) received $193,432 for restoring 200 acres of moose foraging habitat near wetlands in the Lake Superior Uplands. Community Action Duluth was awarded $636,365 to restore urban riparian zones and implement critical habitat restoration projects in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

I attended the ceremony beside the lake at the DECC where Cameron Davis of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the recipients. At first I thought he was from our local office, but later realized that the national head of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, had appointed him Senior Advisor on Great Lakes issues in 2009. I was impressed that someone that high up in the agency would stop in Duluth to make the announcement.

Davis said there are many ecological and economic threats to the great lakes. “The GLRI is an investment back into the Great Lakes,” he said. “It is a new standard of care to proactively leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation.”

Congressman James Oberstar, who also attended the announcement, said, “Duluth is the personification of the Great Lakes.” He added, “Minnesota has a unique responsibility to protect the water. We owe it to the next generation.” It is good to hear politicians connect the health of the environment to the health of current and future generations.

While I think all of the organizations receiving the grants are doing important work in restoring and protecting Lake Superior, for me the organization with the most intriguing use of the grant is Community Action Duluth. Angie Miller, executive director, said the grant will be used to create green jobs for six unemployed or underemployed people. Community Action Duluth will be partnering with the St. Louis River Alliance to combine work on anti-poverty and environmental issues in Duluth.

In part, I may be intrigued by this use of the grant because I am a recent graduate and know how difficult it can be to find a job. But I also believe that in order for our world to be environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable, we need to kick-start the shift from large numbers of unemployed people to people employed in green jobs.