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EPA Administrator Wheeler Promotes Trump Administration Commitment to Clean Up Great Lakes, Support Ag Community in Northwest Ohio

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Toledo, Ohio (July 20, 2020) — Today, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler visited northwest Ohio where he announced more than $12 million in grants and projects that will benefit Great Lakes cleanup efforts in the Toledo area. He also toured two local farms to observe conservation efforts made by the local agriculture community.

“EPA is working closely with the City of Toledo and Ohio authorities to clean up sites and return the Maumee River system to full health,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Now is the time to clean up past pollution and marine litter on the Maumee River, which in turn will help reinvigorate Toledo and northwest Ohio’s future.”

“EPA is proud to support so much Great Lakes activity in the Toledo area with GLRI funding,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “We look forward to working with our state and local partners on projects that will help restore the Maumee Area of Concern and protect Lake Erie from further impacts of trash.”

“This grant funding is great news for Toledo, the Maumee River watershed, and our Great Lakes. Ohioans rely on our waterways not only for drinking water, but they also support fishing and tourism industries that employ thousands. I applaud EPA for awarding these grants and making Northwest Ohio a priority. I will continue my work as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force to support programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in order to protect the economic and environmental well-being of our region,” said U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). 

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has done tremendous work to improve water quality, restore native habitats, and combat invasive species. In Northwest Ohio, the health of Lake Erie is both a quality-of-life and economic issue, and it's essential that the GLRI program has the resources needed to continue their efforts. Thank you to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler for his commitment to cleaning up and improving our nation’s water so that Americans can be assured their water is safe, and wildlife can live and thrive with clean water,” said U.S. Congressman Bob Latta (OH-05). “With the announcement of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Trash Free Waters grant to the city of Toledo, there is a specific focus to rid the rivers that drain to Lake Erie of pollutants, which will both boost our economy and improve the health of Ohioans and wildlife.” 

Following his press conference with local and state officials, Administrator Wheeler toured Kurt Farms and Kellogg Farms, both of whom are part of the Blanchard River Demonstrations Farms Network (BRDFN), where he heard first-hand about nutrient management practices to promote local soil and water conservation efforts. The BRDFN is a 5-year joint partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Ohio Farm Bureau, with $1 million in GLRI funding.

Administrator Wheeler began his visit holding a press conference at Walbridge Park where he announced more than $12 million in Great Lakes grants and projects, including a $414,000 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (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.

In July 2019, Administrator Wheeler launched the Trash-Free Great Lakes program in Cleveland, Ohio 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.

He was also joined by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Mary Mertz, State Senator Larry Obhof, State Senator Theresa Gavarone, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz, and EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede.

“Ohio EPA is pleased to continue this important work with our federal, state, and local partners, restoring Maumee River tributaries and other streams that feed our Great Lake Erie,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson. “This funding accelerates these projects that are particularly focused on addressing contaminants in sediment. Hopefully this will be a catalyst for more projects in the coming months and years.” 

“The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is incredibly grateful for the support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative as we work to rebuild and enhance wetlands and forested areas, protect critical wildlife habitat, and improve water quality throughout the Maumee Area of Concern,” said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz. “We value the US EPA as our partner to invest in long-term conservation work that will have a positive impact on this area for generations.”

“We look forward to working with the US EPA on the Trash Removal project, Functional Litter-acy: Trash Trappers for a Cleaner Toledo,” said Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz. “We anticipate that the proven technology of the trash traps will help us to remove large amounts of litter and debris from our waterways before they get to Lake Erie, thereby improving water quality and the aquatic habitat. Debris is not only unsightly, it acts as a medium by which toxins travel and we need to do more to prevent plastic from entering our waterways so microplastic is not created.”

Administrator Wheeler also highlighted $10 million in partnership with industry for a sediment cleanup in Otter Creek and $200,000 partnership with Ohio EPA to evaluate cleanup options at Swan Creek.

An additional $1.8 million in GLRI grants to the Ohio DNR were announced for habitat restoration projects in the AOC. At Maumee State Forest, DNR will use GLRI funding to convert farmland to wetland and forestland, resulting in 157 acres of restored state forest. DNR will also enhance 1,000 acres of the Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area through improved fish passage, managing water levels and controlling invasive species.