President Biden visits Lorain, promises $1 billion for Great Lakes river cleanup
President Joe Biden visited Northeast Ohio Thursday to announce $1 billion in funding for Great Lakes cleanup and restoration.
Near the mouth of the Black River in Lorain, Biden talked about the 1987 International Joint Commission, formed by the United States and Canada, that identified 43 places in the Great Lakes region where pollution threatened the area's health.
“And for decades there was a lot of talk, a lot of plans, but very little progress. It was slow,” Biden said. “That changes today.”
Cleanup of the Black, Cuyahoga and Maumee rivers will receive the bulk of local Great Lakes cleanup spending.
The three rivers are designated by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “areas of concern.”
A fourth area of concern in Ohio, the Ashtabula River, was taken off the list last year. The Black River has completed the first stage and work there is scheduled for completion by 2026. The Cuyahoga and Maumee Rivers are expected to remain on the list until at least 2027.
Overall, 22 of the 25 remaining areas of concern will receive cleanup funding.
“It’s going to allow the most significant restoration of the Great Lakes in the history of the Great Lakes,” Biden said “We’re going to accelerate cleanup at sites across six states.
The Great Lakes funding comes from the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill the president signed in November.
Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman was one of the bill’s negotiators and joined the president on the White House’s South Lawn for the bill signing.
According to a statement by the White House, money from the bill will also address toxic algae blooms and protection against invasive species.
Each year, the federal government spends money on Great Lakes environmental and infrastructure projects through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Between 2010 and 2021, the GLRI has spent almost $3 billion throughout the Great Lakes region, about $310 million of that has gone to projects in Ohio.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan noted how far the Black River has come already.
“The dawn of industrialization left in its wake a disastrous legacy of pollution,” Regan said. “The Black River right behind us was no exception. It was once nicknamed the ‘River of Fish Tumors.’”
Thanks to clean up and the restoration of habitat along the river, kayakers, fish and bald eagles can now be seen using the river.