It also will help save species such as the lake sturgeon, a prehistoric fish that can reach 8 feet long and 200 pounds but is endangered because of overharvesting and habitat degradation. The plan promises to provide 25,000 young sturgeon for stocking programs.
Combined with enforcement of environmental rules and new ones where needed, officials said the plan would help make Great Lakes fish safe to eat, and ensure their waters are suitable for drinking and swimming, and their native plants and animals are thriving.
The lakes provide drinking water to more than 30 million people and are the backbone of a regional economy dependent on tourism, outdoor recreation, shipping and manufacturing.
"We now have a golden opportunity, even a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to make huge progress," Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, co-chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors, said in a telephone interview Saturday. "We've been talking about this for a long time. Now the federal government is putting some real resources behind it."
Jeff Skelding, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which represents environmental groups across the region, praised the plan's commitment to long-range funding for the restoration but said Congress should boost Obama's 2011 spending request to $475 million.
The coalition also says too much restoration money is being diverted to fighting Asian carp, which could endanger the region's $7 billion sport fishing industry by gobbling plankton and unraveling the food chain.
An "all-out effort" is needed to keep the carp out of the lakes, but funding should come from elsewhere in the federal budget, the coalition said.
Cameron Davis, EPA's senior adviser on the Great Lakes, said about $58 million in restoration funds would go to the carp battle this year. But invasive species programs are getting less restoration money than other needs.
such as toxic cleanups and habitat improvements, he said.