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Nine Michigan Areas of Concern among Biden administration's billion dollar cleanup plan

NOAA's America's Coastlines Collection Location: Michigan, Detroit River
The Detroit River is one of the areas slated for cleanup and restoration.

President Joe Biden announced on Thursday a one billion dollar investment in cleaning up some of the most polluted shoreline areas of the Great Lakes.

"It's going to allow the most significant restoration in the Great Lakes in the history of the Great Lakes," he said at a press conference in Lorain, Ohio.

The president said the funding, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act passed late last year, will clean up and restore 22 areas of concern in the Great Lakes region by the year 2030.

Areas of concern is the designation for environmentally degraded places in the region.

"For decades there was a lot of talk, a lot of plans, but very little progress," Biden said. "It was slow. That changes today."

Biden said the cleanup of the areas will have economic benefits, as well as environmental benefits.

In 2018, an independent economic study from the Great Lakes Commission and the University of Michigan found that every Great Lakes Restoration Initiative dollar spent produces an additional $3.35 of economic activity.

For older industrial cities, including Areas of Concern such as Buffalo and Detroit, the study found that there may be more than $4 in additional economic activity for each federal dollar spent.

The Michigan AOCs slated for cleanup and restoration are:

  • Clinton River
  • Detroit River
  • Manistique River
  • Muskegon Lake
  • River Raisin
  • Rouge River
  • St. Clair River
  • St. Marys River
  • Torch Lake

Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow called the new infusion of federal funding a "game changer for our state."
In a statement, Stabenow said, "At a time when our Great Lakes are facing increasing pressures from new contamination, invasive species and the climate crisis, completing the restoration of these areas is critically important to the health of our waters."

Local elected leaders also praised the plan, including Port Huron Mayor Pauline Repp.

“The restoration work is vitally important, but also costly," she said. "This additional funding will help ensure we can continue to make progress in cleaning up the St. Clair River Area of Concern.”

The U.S. EPA said in the coming months, it will release more detailed information on implementation of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act funding for the Great Lakes.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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