GARY | Public and private interests gathered Monday at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for an announcement of nearly $1 million in federal grants aimed at protecting the Great Lakes.
Cameron Davis, senior adviser on the Great Lakes for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the restoration initiative for urban waterways shows a new approach.
During a news conference at West Beach in Gary's Miller neighborhood, Davis said the previous standard for the Great Lakes was to try to minimize harm.
"Now, it's to make the Great Lakes better proactively for the next generation," he said.
Just more than $275,000 will go to the University of Notre Dame for research in the live bait trade aimed at DNA testing for evidence of invasive carp and other unwelcome intruders.
David Lodge, a freshwater ecologist at Notre Dame who is leading the research, said the grant builds on a pilot project conducted at all bait shops and two wholesalers in Chicago.
The research there, in partnership with the Shedd Aquarium, showed no invasive species in the DNA of the bait.
"We know the tools will work, now we want to evaluate with the DNR partners in all of the Great Lakes states to determine if there is a problem in other Great Lakes states," Lodge said.
He estimates 400 bait shops will be involved in the study.
Another $607,000 grant was awarded to the Save the Dunes Conservation Fund Inc. in cooperation with the city of Valparaiso to retrofit the Thorgren detention basin in the Salt Creek watershed. The project will focus on preventing phosphorus and sediment from reaching Lake Michigan.
Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, said the project is "not the sexiest, but in terms of packing a punch for water quality, this is it."
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, spoke of the partnerships between the federal government, local government and nonprofit agency that made the grant funding a reality.
"It is the best of our country," Visclosky said. "It is the best of Northwest Indiana."
Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas said the partnerships are needed now more than ever.
"When you partner, it leverages your money and it gives you the insight of the local groups who are the experts on the issues," he said.