The EPA’s Great Lakes Action Plan: What’s changed since December?

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action PlanThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Sunday released its final version of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan. The plan spells out the agency’s goals and benchmarks for fixing up the world’s largest freshwater system through 2014.

The document updates a draft of the plan that was released in December and was open to public comment until Jan. 8. The EPA pulled the old version from its Web site, but since I had a copy sitting on my hard drive, I though I’d take a look at what’s changed.

The final draft adds a lot of Asian carp talk, along with one significant change buried as a footnote that suggests that the EPA expects GLRI funding to bounce back to $475 million in 2012 after the White House knocked its 2011 request down to $300 million:

“Objectives and targets in this plan are premised on an assumption that $300 million will be appropriated in FY 2011, and $475 million in subsequent years.”

It’s been widely reported that the plan calls for $2.2 billion in restoration spending, though that number never appears in the plan or in the EPA’s press release. But that’s the number you get by adding up this year’s $475 million, next year’s possible $300 million, plus another $475 million each in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Since the $2.2 billion includes the $475 million that has already been appropriated, don’t fall for reports that this is all future funding. Sustainability blog Treehugger in particular gets it wrong:

“The funding comes on top of $475 million that Congress appropriated last year.”

The plan sets out a number of long term goals, objectives and measures of progress. At least a dozen of these goals have been rolled back since the December draft. In the earlier version, the EPA aimed to collect or prevent the release of 50 million pounds of electronic waste and 5 million pounds of household hazardous waste by 2014. The final plan lowers those targets to 45 million pounds of electronic waste and 4.5 million pounds of household hazardous waste.

Likewise, the draft plan’s targets of opening 5,000 miles of rivers for fish habitat and removing 500 fish passage barriers by 2014 have shrunk to 4,500 miles and 450 barriers.

The December version of the plan was clearly marked as a draft that was subject to change, so this hardly catches the EPA reneging on more ambitious goals. But I doubt many public commentors told EPA, “There’s no way you’re contacting 10 million people on preventing the spread invasive species. Try 9.75 million, tops.”