Great Lakes restoration project milestone reached ahead of schedule

By KBJR News 1

August 29, 2014 Updated Aug 30, 2014 at 8:38 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Friday's announcement by the EPA comes one year ahead of schedule.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner John Linc Stine calls the milestone a celebration of restoring beauty to the St. Louis River.

"And beauty is in the eye of the beholder," said Linc Stine, "but one thing we all know if you look at the old pictures, and you look at the river today, that the beauty of this river and this estuary has dramatically improved."

The river is one of 43 contaminated sites designated as a Great Lakes Area of Concern.

U.S. Representatives Rick Nolan, of Minnesota, and Sean Duffy, of Wisconsin, say it took support from both sides of the aisle to secure $24 million in federal investments for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

"You had the administration that wanted to cut money out of GLRI," said Rep. Duffy, with Rep. Nolan standing by his side after addressing the audience first, "you had the House Committee that wanted to cut even more. But you had Democrats and Republicans who care about the Great lakes."

In the past 25 years, officials say about $450 million have been spent on improvements to the Saint Louis River estuary.

MPCA Supervisor Nelson French says of those dollars, $33 million in local, state, and federal dollars in the past four years alone has helped pay for some of the more expensive work.

"A large part of that—$3 million, 10% of it—was getting the understanding of what the chemical contaminants were, and their reach across the estuary," said French, "very expensive work."

Future improvements to the corridor from now until 2025 are estimated at anywhere from $150 million to over $200 million.

MPCA officials say part of that funding will come from private investments.

On the local level, funding for Saint Louis River restoration efforts has come, in part, from acts like the Minnesota Land Water Legacy Amendment.

Billy Wagness
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