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News Releases from Region 05

EPA Announces Over $12 Million in Grants to Improve Great Lakes Fisheries and Michigan Water Quality

Contact Information: 
Allison Lippert (

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (July 27, 2020) — Today U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede visited Traverse City, where he announced $12.1 million in grants for projects to restore and manage Great Lakes fish species and protect the health of Michigan watersheds.

“EPA recognizes the hard work of our federal, state, tribal, local and non-governmental partners and proudly invests in these collaborative projects to address invasive species and enhance Great Lakes fisheries,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “Effective partnerships have been key to expanding the economic and ecological benefits of the Great Lakes for Michiganders and the entire region.” 

Regional Administrator Thiede began the day by touring the FishPass project site on the Boardman River, where he announced a $7.3 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant to The Great Lakes Fishery Commission. Funding will support several projects to control sea lamprey and restore native fish populations in the Great Lakes, including work to remove the Union Street Dam and hydraulically reconnect the Boardman River with Lake Michigan through FishPass. Today’s grant supplements recently announced funding, bringing the total to $16.5 million over the past four years.

“The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has been a proud partner in the implementation of the GLRI and we appreciate the opportunity to highlight one of our flagship projects, FishPass,” said Robert Lambe, executive secretary of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. “While dams undermine healthy fisheries by impeding fish passage, they also protect valuable fish stocks by blocking harmful species like sea lamprey. We want to identify technologies and practices that will give fishery managers tools to sort fish, to pass the good, and to block the bad. FishPass will be a first-class research site; it will be the only place in the world where such work will be conducted. The GLRI is helping to solve not only a Great Lakes challenge but also a global one.” 

“Projects like these show just how important the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is to Michigan’s First District, and why I continue to advocate for full GLRI funding in Congress, said U.S. Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). “I thank the EPA and the Trump Administration for investing in our communities and protecting our freshwater resources.”

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission all share a common vision in regard to Great Lakes fishery and ecosystem restoration, and the GLRI Initiative has provided our agencies continued opportunities to implement sustainable projects throughout the Great Lakes Region,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Great Lakes Program Manager Carl A. Platz. “Here in Michigan, the Corps is pleased to provide our technical and construction capabilities to support several joint priorities, especially the innovative FishPass endeavor which will not only serve as the capstone of the overall Boardman River Restoration initiative, but will also address one of the most challenging fishery-related issues we face today.  The knowledge we gain from FishPass will not only be utilized throughout the Great Lakes, but it will likely be applied across the nation as well, and will serve as a case study in partnerships done right.”

“The City of Traverse City would like to thank EPA Region 5 for providing GLRI funding to complete the final phase of the Boardman River Restoration Project,” said Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers. “This project, over 15 years in the making, exemplifies the spirit of collaboration between community and governments towards a common goal as Federal, Tribal, State, and local community partners have worked diligently on behalf of the resource. The FishPass project is the capstone of the Boardman River Restoration Project and will help reconnect over 160 miles of river and tributaries to the Great Lakes.  It will bring scientists from around the world to our City to perform work that will have regional, national and global implications.”

“Reconnecting our highly fragmented watersheds to allow free fish and wildlife movement is a key priority of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Division Chief James Dexter. “The FishPass Project is focused on addressing the key issue of preventing the unintended movement of aquatic invasive species and other undesirable species when watersheds are reconnected by developing and implementing selective fish passage technologies. This state-of-the-art project could unlock entire watersheds both here in Michigan and globally. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is grateful to the EPA and the GLRI for funding this vital work and is excited to be a partner in the project.” 

“To the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and all Aanishinaabe people the spirit of the Boardman-Ottaway River reaches back eons before logging, dams and other conquests of settlement,” said Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians Tribal Council Chairman Elect David Arroyo. “In that respect GTB is honored to have helped contribute to the return of the Ottaway in its purist form: a living breathing River. Without the provisions of the GLRI this River and many others like her might never experience the gift of freedom from life smothering dams. And now an even greater opportunity sits before us. For the first time in over a century a web of Great Lakes life will be allowed back into the capillaries of the watershed through the artery of FishPass. We are humbled to be part of that web.”

Regional Administrator Thiede also highlighted $4.79 million to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) to protect watersheds from stormwater and runoff pollution. 

“This grant funding will leverage local dollars, assist local watershed groups, and help further our efforts to keep contaminated runoff from roads, fields and surfaces ending up in our storm sewers and ultimately, our waterways,” said Michigan EGLE Chief Deputy Director Aaron Keatley. “As the only state entirely within the basin of the world’s greatest freshwater resource, it is vital that we continue to protect our Great Lakes ecosystem.”

“The EPA’s announcement represents a huge win for southwest Michigan and all of us who call it home,” said U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06). “The funding that will be used to clean up the Paw Paw River Watershed will help reduce pollutants and improve water quality while also protecting the economic well-being of our region. I look forward to working with our federal, state, and local partners to always ensure the health and safety of our environment remain a priority.”

“It is welcome news that the EPA continues to make targeted investments to improve the long-term health of Michigan’s waterways and natural resources,” said U.S. Congressman Tim Walberg (MI-07). “In Hillsdale County, these grants will help reduce agricultural runoff, expand conservation best practices, and protect the St. Joseph River Watershed for generations to come.”

Michigan EGLE will implement environmental programs that address nonpoint source pollution in surface and groundwater to meet and maintain water quality standards. In the Traverse City area, EGLE will support local projects to protect water quality in the Grand Traverse Bay and Platte River watersheds. 

“We are excited to use this investment to focus on two impaired waters in the Grand Traverse Bay watershed – Kids Creek and Mitchell Creek,” said The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay Executive Director Christine Crissman. “The goals of this project are to reduce the quantity and improve the quality of stormwater runoff into Kids Creek and to protect the long-term health of Mitchell Creek by investigating sources of bacterial contamination.”

"Clean water is the foundation or our quality of life, the health of our communities, and of our economy,” said Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy Executive Director Glen Chown. “With this grant, the Conservancy will be able to protect a significant property with 6,000 feet of water frontage within the ecologically significant Platte River watershed. Many cold, clean groundwater streams emerge, disappear and re-emerge throughout that property. We are deeply grateful to the EPA and EGLE for crucial funding that will permanently protect something so important."