GARY | Nearly $2 million in competitive grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help extend the restoration of Marquette Park and help put people back to work, local and federal officials said Friday at the park.
U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., was on hand for the announcement along with Gary Mayor Rudy Clay and officials from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority including Executive Director Bill Hanna, President Leigh Morris and Vice President Harley Snyder.
To qualify for funding, each project is required to provide jobs for at least 20 unemployed people. There are no guarantees that local residents will be hired, said Jim Vanderkloot, of the EPA.
"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.
Northwest Indiana's portion of that grant was awarded to the RDA, which is providing funding for the $28 million Marquette Park restoration.
The additional money will allow Marquette Park's East Lagoon to be dredged. Patterson Island, which is in the lagoon, will be rebuilt from the dredged material, said Cameron Davis, EPA senior adviser on the Great Lakes. The island was created by the Work Projects Administration during the Great Depression but has eroded in recent years.
Davis said these projects were selected from 44 proposals totaling almost $25 million, which were submitted in response to a $6 million challenge that the EPA issued in August. The challenge encouraged federal agencies to sign up unemployed workers to carry out restoration projects in federally protected areas, on tribal lands and in areas of concern in the Great Lakes Basin.
Ohio-based Los Alamos Technical Association Inc. will serve as the dredging project contractor. It is a rapid-response company that can start the project immediately, Vanderkloot said. The work needs to begin before ice covers the lagoon.
The actual dredging will begin in the spring and will take two months. The entire lagoon and island restoration will last a year, he said.
The 20 jobs created by that project will involve dredging and excavating. The prevailing wage in the area will be paid because the jobs are covered by the federal Davis-Bacon Act.
Funding of nearly $1 million for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects will allow the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor Marquette Park beach and other Lake Michigan beaches. The studies will help determine the environmental cause for an increase in bird botulism that has killed more than 150,000 birds over the last 10 years, said Rich Whitman, of the USGS.
The 20 positions available for this project will include monitoring the beaches, collecting dead birds and fish from the beaches, and doing chemical testing, Whitman said.