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EPA Administrator Wheeler Announces $5 Million in GLRI Funding for Great Lakes Trash-free Water Projects

For the second time, applicants will be able to compete for GLRI grants to keep trash out of the Great Lakes

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Traverse City, Mich. (September 30, 2020) — At a press conference today in Traverse City, Mich., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced that applicants will be able to compete for $5 million in funding for Trash Free Water grants under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). By the end of the year, EPA will release a Request for Applications (RFA) that will provide applicants an opportunity to compete for a total of $5 million for Great Lakes trash-free water projects that use mechanical devices, vessels, and other technology for cleaning up and protecting our Great Lakes harbors and waterfronts from trash.

“Restoring the health and vibrancy of the Great Lakes and the communities that are woven into their brilliance, has been one of my biggest ambitions since becoming head of EPA,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “We continue to expand The Great Lakes Trash Free Waters program, and our goal is to install a variety of trash collection devices across Great Lakes harbors and waterfronts in the coming years.”

“This innovative grant program will once again rely upon the collaboration and strong partnerships which have fueled progress and so many successes under the GLRI,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. "This funding will help communities across Michigan and the Great Lakes basin ensure their harbors and waterfronts are trash-free.”

“Ensuring our Great Lakes are clean so future generations can use and enjoy these treasured natural resources is at the very heart of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and is another example of why I continue to fight for this program,” said U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). “I’m thankful Administrator Wheeler has helped make the Great Lakes Trash Free Waters program a priority. Working together with local partners these projects will remain an important step to keeping our waters clean.”

“Preserving and protecting the beauty of the Great Lakes remains a priority for me and so many Michiganders who are proud to call the Great Lakes State home. Bottom line – don’t mess with the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06). “This federal grant program will be critical to keeping our lakes clean for generations to come.”

The trash-free water projects EPA selects will support the larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the GLRI. Eligible projects will include:

  • Great Lakes harbor and waterfront trash prevention and clean-up projects with an emphasis on projects that use mechanical devices, vessels, or other technology to remove trash already in the water.

The first RFA for Trash Free Great Lakes grants was issued in December 2019 and a total of $2,083,860 was ultimately awarded to seven grantees in the summer and fall of 2020. In April, EPA announced that $2 million in GLRI funds would be used for additional TFW grants. Because of EPA’s focus on addressing trash in the Great Lakes ecosystem, EPA is supplementing that $2 million commitment with an additional $3 million, totaling the $5 million being announced today. EPA anticipates announcing its second RFA by the end of the year, and that grantees will be selected and awards made by the summer of 2021. 

State agencies, federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia, any agency or instrumentality of local governments, nonprofit organizations, interstate agencies, and colleges and universities are eligible to apply for the grants.


The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Federal agencies have funded more than 5400 projects totaling over $2.7 billion to address the most important Great Lakes priorities such as addressing agricultural nutrients and stormwater runoff, cleaning up highly-contaminated “Areas of Concern,” combating invasive species and restoring habitat. Making GLRI funding available through a competitive application process is just one way that the GLRI achieves results.

In October of 2019, EPA Administrator Wheeler announced the GLRI Action Plan III, an aggressive plan that will guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its many partners over the next four years.

EPA works directly with states, municipalities, and businesses through its Trash Free Waters program to reduce litter, prevent trash from entering waterways, and capture trash that is already in our waters.

For more information on the GLRI, visit