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EPA awards over $9 million in GLRI funding for projects to reduce excess nutrients in the Great Lakes

Contact Information: 
Allison Lippert (

WASHINGTON (April 14, 2020) – Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced fifteen Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grants totaling $9,056,711 to fund projects addressing excess nutrient runoff from nonpoint sources, including stormwater and agriculture, to the Great Lakes.  

“The key to restoring the health of the Great Lakes in the coming years is to lower the amount of fertilizer and stormwater runoff entering the region’s waterways,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These grants will help more farmers make the shift toward more no-till agricultural methods that, when properly practiced, result in less top-soil erosion and better water quality.”

“Today’s grants will help us combat excess nutrients and improve water quality in the Great Lakes basin,” said Region 5 Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “GLRI is funding projects that will reduce excess nutrient runoff using a variety of approaches, including stream restoration, green infrastructure design, managing manure application and engagement with farmers.”

"These grants will help reduce nutrient runoff and prevent harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes," said Congressman Dave Joyce (OH-14), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. "I applaud EPA for partnering with farmers to address nutrient runoff and look forward to seeing the success these efforts will have on improving the water quality of the Great Lakes and preserving the bottom line for our agricultural communities.”

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has played a critical role in revitalizing the Macatawa Watershed,” said Congressman Bill Huizenga (MI-02), Co-Chair of the House Great Lakes Task Force. “Congratulations to the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council on successfully being awarded another competitive grant to improve water quality for residents of the City of Holland and Ottawa County.”

“This is more great news for Michigan,” said Congressman Jack Bergman (MI-01). “I’m grateful Administrator Wheeler and the Trump Administration continue to prioritize meaningful projects in the First District, aimed at protecting our waterways and conserving our natural resources.”

“Storm water runoff poses a challenge for water quality on Lake Erie,” said Congressman Mike Kelly (PA-16). “This grant will help the city of Erie maintain its shorelines by capturing water and other pollutants that would otherwise flow into Presque Isle Bay and contribute directly to algal blooms. Thank you to the Trump Administration for working with me to preserve Lake Erie's natural beauty and to keep it clean, safe, and accessible for future generations.”

These grants are part of a larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes under GLRI Action Plan III, which was unveiled by EPA Administrator Wheeler in October 2019. The Action Plan provides an aggressive roadmap that will guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its many partners over the next 5 years.

The grants announced today include (by category):

Riparian Restoration to Reduce Runoff to the Maumee River:

$734,548 to Lucas County (Ohio)

Lucas County will plan, design and construct a “two-stage ditch” in Van Fleet Ditch, located within the Swan Creek subwatershed of the Maumee River watershed. The installation of the two-stage ditch will result in the creation of 3.9 acres of total riparian area and 3,050 linear feet of new floodplain. By slowing and capturing run-off, the project will ultimately reduce annual loads of phosphorus, sediment and nitrogen.

“This grant will allow Lucas County to transform a trapezoidal agricultural channel into a more natural configuration by providing floodplain benches along the stream,” said Mike Pniewski, engineer at Lucas County. “Through the increased stream profile and the planting of native vegetation on the benches and in buffer strips along the stream, we can both improve water quality while decreasing flood risk in the watershed. This is a win-win for our citizens and demonstrates the benefits of two-stage stream restoration to the public and our agricultural community.”

Green Infrastructure to Reduce Stormwater Runoff:

$600,000 to Milwaukee Board of School Directors (Wisconsin)

The Milwaukee Public School System will implement green infrastructure design methods at five Milwaukee schools, transforming impervious school yards into areas that can absorb and capture stormwater runoff. The project will result in a capture capacity of 3.1 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually.

$400,000 to The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay (Michigan)

The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay project will reduce the volume of stormwater and associated contaminants entering Grand Traverse Bay from the Village of Elk Rapids, a coastal community on Lake Michigan. The project will employ green infrastructure techniques by installing an underground infiltration trench and retrofitting existing street side bump-out areas with rain gardens to infiltrate approximately 2.8 million gallons of stormwater runoff annually.

“We are thrilled to use this investment from the EPA to continue developing a stormwater program in the Village of Elk Rapids. This project will strengthen a long-term partnership between The Watershed Center and the Village of Elk Rapids that will catalyze efforts leading to the adoption and installation of future green infrastructure practices throughout the village,” said Christine Crissman, executive director of The Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. “A significant amount of stormwater is generated by the roads, parking lots, and rooftops on the west side of the village, contributing excessive sediment, nutrients, pathogens, and toxins to Grand Traverse Bay. Our goal is to reduce the volume of stormwater and its associated pollution inputs using green infrastructure.”

$202,390 to Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (Michigan)

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) will oversee the installation of 30 new curb-cut rain gardens in the Plaster Creek subwatershed, of Lower Grand River watershed, which flows into Lake Michigan. The project will capture a minimum of 1,033,080 gallons annually of urban stormwater runoff.

“EGLE is proud to partner with Plaster Creek Stewards on such an innovative program that enlists private property owners in efforts to improve water quality,” said Liesl Clark, director of EGLE. “The rain gardens will provide beauty and greenery to neighborhoods so visibly that you might almost forget their most important job – protecting streams and rivers from contaminated runoff.”

$200,000 to Conservation Resource Alliance (Michigan)

The Conservation Resource Alliance will implement a 2-year project to reduce runoff, improve habitat and provide shade cover for cold water streams in northwest Michigan, which drain into Lake Michigan. The project will improve wildlife habitat, provide tree/shade cover

for world-class cold water streams, reduce runoff by 1.8 million gallons annually, and reduce sediment and nutrient inputs.

“We are excited to partner with EPA on CRA’s Wild Roots initiative, a project designed to reduce runoff in northern Michigan’s rural watersheds by planting native trees in the riparian corridors. CRA has spent five decades restoring rivers, removing dams and replacing transportation infrastructure, work that has been completed with significant investment of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding,” said Amy Beyer, director of Conservation Resource Alliance. “Adding native trees will not only relieve pressure on small community stormwater systems, but also will intercept runoff before it makes its way to the communities at the river mouths. Native trees help our watersheds be resilient to all kinds of stresses, from extreme weather events to invasive species. Happily, planting the right trees in the right places, and caring for them properly in the first couple of years results in widespread restoration that requires little or no maintenance – Mother Nature’s treatment!”

$400,145 to Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (Michigan)

The Macatawa Area Coordinating Council will partner with the City of Holland to reduce runoff and improve water quality in the Macatawa watershed (including Lake Macatawa, which is a drowned river mouth that empties in Lake Michigan).  The project will install bioswales and permeable pavement at two City properties (City Hall and Kollen Park) and curb-cut rain gardens in City parkways, capturing about 3 million gallons of stormwater annually.

“We are grateful that our project was selected for funding and we are looking forward to getting started,” said Kelly Goward, environmental program manager for the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council. “We already have some interest in curb-cut rain gardens and hope that momentum continues!”

$336,500 to City of Erie (Pennsylvania)

The City of Erie will install 25 soil cells, plant 25 new trees, and make improvements for 52 existing trees in the downtown area to improve water quality in Presque Isle Bay, along urban beaches and shorelines, and Lake Erie. The soil cells are designed to reduce surface stormwater runoff through catchment systems that allow water to be discharged into subsoils, which promotes infiltration and absorption by trees roots instead flowing directly into Presque Isle Bay.  The project will infiltrate about 100,000 gallons of stormwater per 0.5-inch rain event.

Manure Management to Reduce Excess Nutrient Runoff from Farms:

$413,362 to Van Buren Conservation District (Michigan)

The Van Buren Conservation District will reduce excess nutrient and pathogen runoff in the Paw Paw River Watershed. The project implements a comprehensive system of practices on areas with known high soil phosphorus due to manure application. The project will partner with producers, University of Notre Dame researchers, crop consultants and an agricultural drainage specialist from Michigan State University to implement a comprehensive system of practices on areas with known high soil phosphorus due to manure application. The project will prevent 3 million gallons of manure from being spread per year on 320 acres in the Paw Paw River watershed. 

“Van Buren Conservation District is excited to receive a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to enhance our work with the local agricultural community,” says Erin Fuller, watershed coordinator for the Van Buren Conservation District. “Practices like cover crops, drainage water management, filter strips and no-till improve water quality in our Great Lakes watershed and improve soil health. We are eager to show the success we can have with strong partnerships that benefit both the environment and the farm’s bottom line.”

$747,855 to Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance (Wisconsin)

The Fox Wolf Watershed Alliance will partner with Fond du Lac County to implement enhanced nutrient management on 450 acres in the Pipe Creek watershed. The project will work with farmers to overcome barriers to adoption of practices including cover crop and no-till. The project will result in a reduction of 1,314 lbs of phosphorus to the Lower Fox River and Green Bay. 

“We are excited to partner with EPA to advance agriculture conservation in a watershed that drains directly into Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin's largest inland lake,” said Jessica Schultz, executive director of the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance. “The Fond du Lac County Land and Water Conservation Department has been working with farmers in this area to implement a 9 Key Element plan. Low disturbance manure management will need to be incorporated into a cover crop no-till system to reduce runoff and meet water quality goals. This way of farming is a major change for the majority of the farmers in the watershed. Having this type of cost share support and available conservation staff to help farmers transition will help ensure water quality goals are achieved while maintaining a viable agricultural community.”

$500,000 to Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District (Michigan)

The Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District (CLMCD) will implement manure management practices at high priority sites in the Munuscong River and the Little Munuscong River watersheds, which are sub-basins within the St. Mary’s River watershed. The project will result in reductions of annual loadings of over 500 tons of sediment, 1,000 pounds of nitrogen, and 650 pounds of phosphorus.

The Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District is thrilled to be able to continue its resource management efforts with the Munuscong River Watershed, the central hub of the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Chippewa County's agriculture communities,” said Mike McCarthy, executive director of the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District. “Work completed with this funding will support a larger effort by CLMCD to implement the management practices identified in the Munuscong River Watershed Management Plan. CLMCD would like to thank the EPA and its partnership of organizations that worked to achieve this funding.”

Accelerating Adoption of Nutrient Management through Farmer-led Outreach and Education:

$999,670 to Michigan State University (Michigan)

Michigan State University (MSU) will develop and implement a program to increase adoption of nutrient management practices in the Saginaw River watershed through peer-to-peer farmer networks, engaging existing farmer leaders in the watershed.  The project will implement nutrient management practices on at least new 7,800 acres, preventing at least 900 lbs of phosphorus leaving agricultural fields during the project period. 

“Michigan State University's Institute of Water Research along with partnering organizations are excited to team up with producers in the Saginaw River Watershed to enhance water quality in the bay and surrounding areas. We believe farmer-led groups have the potential to reach more producers through peer-to-peer interactions and increase adoption of nutrient management practices in the watershed,” said Jeremiah Asher, assistant director, MSU Institute of Water Research. “We are gearing up now to assist farmer leaders in the comings months and anticipate that these activities will help improve water quality in the Great Lakes. Partners on the project include MSU Extension, The Nature Conservancy, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Association of Conservation Districts, River Raisin Watershed Council, and conservation districts in Gratiot, Genesee, Saginaw, and Shiawassee counties.”

$951,328 to American Farmland Trust (Washington D.C.; New York)

American Farmland Trust will work with a diverse set of partners to accelerate adoption of soil regenerative and nutrient management practices in the Genesee River Watershed through on-farm demonstrations and farmer-let trainings and outreach. The project will engage 1,300 farmers, landowners, and advisors and prevent loadings of approximately 45 lbs of phosphorus, 30 tons of sediment, and 7,500 lbs of nitrogen to the Genesee River during the project period. 

“There’s value in getting farmers together out in the field, sharing knowledge and lessons learned when trying new practices,” said Aaron Ristow, agricultural stewardship program manager for American Farmland Trust. “Additionally, the project targets non-farming landowners who, managing roughly 30% of the region’s farmland, can be instrumental in the adoption of conservation practices. We deeply appreciate the Environmental Protection Agency’s award to expand on the important work of the Genesee River Demonstration Farms Network launched in 2018. Scaling up the adoption of soil regenerative practices on owned and rented farmland offers a promising opportunity to build healthy soil and promote clean water and optimize the cascading positive effects of regenerative practices, including enhancing adaptation to floods and droughts while benefiting farm viability.”

$999,599 to The Nature Conservancy (Ohio)

The Nature Conservancy will work with multiple partners to train 60 farmers in the Maumee River Watershed to become technical experts and community leaders for sustainable agriculture and engage another 3,000 farmers in education and outreach activities. The project will train 60 farmers in the Maumee River Watershed to become technical experts and community leaders for sustainable agriculture.  These farmers will engage another 3,000 farmers in education and outreach activities, which may lead to adoption of new best management practices on 400,000 acres and 100,000 pounds of phosphorus reduced. 

“The Nature Conservancy is excited to facilitate the farmer-led program in order to further the advancement of soil health practices that improve water quality, increase farm sustainability, and create a more resilient landscape,” said Stephanie Singer, outreach education specialist at The Nature Conservancy’s Western Lake Erie Basin Agriculture Project Office. “The benefits of this project include increasing communication among farmers and creating meaningful peer-to-peer networks.  Many farmers are doing the work of improving their soil health and water management and this project will amplify their voices to create local mentors and support resources.”

$912,054 to Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance, Inc. (Wisconsin)

Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance will partner with Outagamie County Land Conservation Department to work with producers in the Plum Creek and Kankapot Creek Watersheds in the Lower Fox River Basin, Wisconsin through demonstration field days and producer meetings to overcome adoption barriers of enhanced nutrient management, including consistent use of cover crops and no-till practices.  The project will reduce loadings of 1,107 lbs of phosphorus and 167 tons of sediment annually.  

"The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance and Outagamie County have been working with producers in the Plum Creek and Kankapot Creek Watersheds in Northeast Wisconsin, for the past five years. This project will identify Conservation Champions among the farmers in the watershed and provide them technical support and practice cost share to overcome the hurdles of consistent implementation of cover crop, no-till and low disturbance manure injection,” said Jessica Schultz, executive director of the Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance. “The Fox-Wolf Watershed Alliance believes that utilizing these practices to improve soil health conditions is not only good for the water quality of the Fox River and Bay of Green Bay but also for the farm's bottom line.  Increased frequency and intensity of rain events have increased the challenges of farming in Northeast Wisconsin. Building resiliency on the landscape is important for our community. The Conservation Champions that we will be working with will open their farms for field days and be a part of producer meetings to talk with other farmers about the benefits of conservation farming, the challenges they experienced during the transition and the solutions they came up with to overcome the hurdles. We are grateful to EPA and the GLRI program for continuing to support agriculture in the Lower Fox River Watershed.”

$659,260 to University of Akron Research Foundation (Ohio)

The University of Akron Research Foundation (UARF) will develop and implement a farmer-led outreach and education program in the Maumee River watershed of the Western Lake Erie basin, resulting in implementation of drainage ditch improvements on 665 acres. The project will demonstrate how deep-rooted prairie vegetation in combination with other management practices can significantly increase soil organic matter and reduce excess nutrient runoff.  

“The UARF team, at seven farm demo sites, along 9,000 ft. of drainage waterways, will combine the practices of no-till with cover crops, and plant and assess field-edge deep-rooted native tallgrass prairie runoff interception strips,” said Jim Hoorman, soil scientist fellow at UARF. “These vegetation-based outcomes will quantify markedly reduced sediment and related nutrient loadings into ditches. Widespread implementation in the Maumee watershed could reduce the severity of harmful algal blooms while at the same time improve soil health and sustained farm production.”

For more information on the GLRI, please visit: