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EPA Administrator Wheeler Announces Trash-Free Waters Grants, Touts Trump Administration Commitment to Northeast Ohio

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CLEVELAND (July 21, 2020) — Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler concluded a visit to northeast Ohio where he announced awardees for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Trash Free Waters grants. He also announced a $1 million GRLI grant to the City of Akron for the Gorge Dam removal project and toured sites in the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

“I was in Cleveland a year ago announcing the creation of the Trash Free Waters program with the aim of removing large amounts of marine litter from waterways adjacent to the Great Lakes,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Today EPA is proud to announce nearly $1.2 million in grants to remove hundreds of tons of trash from the Great Lakes. Trash Free Waters has the chance of becoming one of the most successful new programs launched by EPA in recent years, given how quickly it’s travelled from idea to execution.”

“One of EPA’s highest priorities is keeping our waters trash-free and we’re making an impact in the Great Lakes thanks to the GLRI,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “These projects will mobilize cleanup volunteers to remove trash and debris from beaches and shorelines, making a visible difference across the Great Lakes.”

“I’m pleased that EPA has allocated grant funding to support these important water projects that benefit Northeast Ohio. These projects will help with trash removal in our Great Lakes and secure the next step for the removal of the Gorge Dam in Cuyahoga Falls. I am also pleased that Administrator Wheeler announced new funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which I have consistently supported, to support the more than $7 billion fishing industry in the Great Lakes by funding projects for fish monitoring and surveillance. I will continue to work at the federal level to ensure that Northeast Ohio has the resources necessary to protect and preserve our Great Lakes for the thousands of Ohioans who enjoy and work around Lake Erie every year,” said U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). 

“Last year, I was honored to join Administrator Wheeler in Cleveland to discuss the importance of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and announce the Trash-Free Great Lakes grant program,” said U.S. Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “The funding announced today through this important program will help keep pollution out of the waterways that drain into the Great Lakes and further our efforts to protect and preserve this national treasure for both current and future generations.”

“As a champion in Congress for the GLRI, it is promising to see its progress for one of our nation’s most important environmental and economic resources. The Trash Free Waters grant and the Gorge Dam project will continue our efforts to improve the water quality in Lake Erie. Additionally, I have previously touted the Brownfields program as a great success for Ohio. So it is no surprise that the Cleveland Sewer District could utilize the program to rehabilitate affected wetlands. I appreciate Administrator Wheeler spending time in Northeast Ohio to highlight the great work the Trump Administration has done on improving the Great Lakes region and will continue to be an advocate in the House for commonsense bipartisan efforts like these,” said U.S. Congressman Bob Gibbs (OH-07). 

“The Great Lakes are an essential part of what makes Northeast Ohio such a great place to live, work, and raise a family, and I am encouraged to see Administrator Wheeler taking action to help protect this vital American resource,” said U.S. Congressman Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16). “These grants are a step forward, but much work remains to be done. I look forward to continuing to work alongside Administrator Wheeler to protect our lake and bring important resources here to Northeast Ohio.”

“Erosion and high water levels have created challenges and a new source of debris for communities along the shores of the Great Lakes,” said U.S. Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “These grants will help clear these new hazards as well as create a healthier Great Lakes ecosystem by cleaning up waste, litter, and trash from beaches.”

“Once again, this administration is making the Great Lakes region a priority. The EPA is using this funding wisely by engaging volunteers to do what they do best. Under this program 100,000 pounds of garbage is expected to be removed by 40,000 individuals willing to donate their time to their communities.  These projects that combine local volunteerism with government resources are some of our best tools for keeping the Great Lakes great for generations to come,” said U.S. Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-16). 

Administrator Wheeler began his day touring the Gorge Dam in Akron, Ohio where he announced a GLRI grant of $1,045,000 to the city of Akron for the development of a design plan for the eventual removal of the Gorge Dam, located on the Cuyahoga River. The design is a step toward the eventual removal of the dam which will restore the dam pool area behind it - a major source of water quality impairments to the upper section of the Cuyahoga River. This is a significant step towards restoring the Cuyahoga River Area of Concern.

“Today’s announcement represents another significant step in our larger goal of restoring the Cuyahoga River,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson. “A free flowing river, unimpeded by dams, is a healthier river. This is great news for the region and the entire State of Ohio.”

“The removal of the Gorge Dam will restore the natural flow of the Cuyahoga River, improve the environment, expand recreational opportunities, and can be enjoyed every day of the year. This approach is far superior to spending $66 million to treat 2-3 possible overflows that only happen during an extremely heavy rainfall. We appreciate the EPA’s vision and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant that will bring us one step closer to making this a reality,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan

Following his Akron stop, Administrator Wheeler visited the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District where he toured the Fleet Avenue Green Infrastructure Site and Superior Avenue Pump Station. The green infrastructure site collects stormwater runoff from the surrounding neighborhood to reduce the volume of water reaching the combined sewer system. The pump station plays a critical role in keeping untreated wastewater out of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.

Administrator Wheeler concluded his visit by announcing the selection of five GLRI grants totaling $1,177,590 at a press conference in Lakewood, Ohio to support efforts to remove trash from the Great Lakes. The grant awardees include $299,918 to the Alliance for the Great Lakes in Chicago, Ill.; $300,000 to the Belle Isle Conservancy in Detroit, Mich.; $106,000 to the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps in Milwaukee, Wisc.; $299,977 to the Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper in Buffalo, N.Y.; and $171,695 to the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council in Holland, Mich.

“Regional collaboration is of the utmost importance to protecting our precious water resources,” said Belle Isle Conservancy President Michele Hodges. “We are honored to be selected for this grant, and look forward to working with dedicated volunteers and partner organizations in advancing this meaningful work.”

“The Great Lakes CCC is grateful to the U.S. EPA and the Great Lakes National Program Office for the opportunity to extend its efforts across the spectrum of school children, adolescents and young adults in southeastern Wisconsin to grow the next generation of Great Lakes stewards,” said Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps President Chris Litzau. 

“Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper is excited to lead a united effort to protect Great Lakes drinking water and habitat by expanding our annual Spring Sweep to include Milwaukee, Grand Traverse, Detroit, Buffalo/Niagara, and Rochester,” said Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper Community Engagement Manager Wendy Paterson. “This program will connect communities across the Great Lakes basin to protect water resources through single-week trash removal events over the next two years, with the goal of removing 68 tons of trash from 17,120 acres by the end of 2022.”

"The MACC and our West Michigan coalition of partners are honored to be among the first recipients of this new EPA grant program,” said Macatawa Area Coordinating Council Environmental Program Manager Kelly Goward. “In spite of recent and continuing challenges, we know that volunteers are eager to get out and help cleanup and protect our Lake Michigan shoreline. The grant will help broaden our outreach to new audiences and support much needed cleanup efforts on beaches impacted by high water.”

Yesterday, Administrator Wheeler held a press conference in Toledo where he announced more than $12 million in Great Lakes grants and projects, including a $414,000 GLRI Trash Free Waters grant to the city of Toledo. The city will install trash collection devices along the shorelines of rivers that drain to Lake Erie. Launched in Cleveland, Ohio in July 2019, the Trash-Free Great Lakes program aims to remove trash, litter and garbage – including plastics – from marine and freshwater environments. EPA requested competitive applications for $2 million in GLRI funding for community-based projects to clean up beaches and waterways to ensure the Great Lakes watershed continues to provide habitat for wildlife and drinking water and recreation for all Americans. Administrator Wheeler announced the first-ever Trash Free Waters grant for the Great Lakes in Milwaukee last month.