EPA hopes to spring life into Gary’s lakefront

October 7, 2011

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(WBEZ/Michael Puente)
Cameron Davis is EPA’s Senior Advisor on the Great Lakes.

The Marquette Park Lagoon is an oasis of tranquility in Gary, Indiana. Just off the shores of Lake Michigan, the lagoon attracts migratory birds and is home to a number of unique plants. But something is killing birds that visit the lagoon. One theory is that the birds are eating contaminated fish.

But this lagoon isn’t alone. Birds throughout the Great Lakes region are dying off in similar fashion. At a press conference Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it’s providing nearly $1 million in funding to find the cause of the die-offs. Scientists in Milwaukee, Ann Arbor, Michigan and Northwest Indiana will use the money to conduct the research, which will be led by the U.S. Geological Service.

“This funding will provide a great opportunity for us to keep Great Lakes beaches clean and healthy for the public, and increase our understanding of threats to fish and wildlife such as such as botulism and bacterial contamination,” said Dr. Leon Carl, Regional Executive for the USGS Midwest Area. “We are also pleased that we will create jobs for over 20 unemployed workers who will help accomplish this effort.”

The U.S. EPA on Friday also announced funding for a second project. This one will dredge the Marquette Park Lagoon to make it deeper and healthier. About $1 million is committed to the project.

“These investments will help fulfill our commitment for a new Great Lakes standard of care; our work is no longer about limiting damage and minimizing harm to the ecosystem. It is about proactively working to make the Great Lakes healthier for the next generation,” said Cameron Davis, EPA’s Senior Advisor on the Great Lakes. “Each project we’re announcing will produce immediate, direct ecological benefits and will help to put unemployed people back to work.”

U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Indiana) said the work is greatly needed.

These latest projects are part of a multi-million dollar effort called the Marquette Plan. The mission is to remake vacant industrial land into public uses along Northwest Indiana’s lakeshore.

“The work being done at Marquette Park and across the Great Lakes is putting people back to work while protecting a vital natural resource and building a better future for our region,” Visclosky said.