Midwest gets $29 million for ‘recovery’ projects

Minneapolis – National wildlife refuges and national fish
hatcheries across the Midwest will receive an infusion of nearly
$29 million as part of Congress’ and President Barack Obama’s
“economic recovery plan,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
announced late last month.

Local beneficiaries include the Cedar Point National Wildlife
Refuge and the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, both in northern
Ohio.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release, the
agency will undertake 78 projects in the eight-state Midwest Region
including “construction, energy efficiency, habitat restoration,
and other improvement projects at national wildlife refuges, fish
hatcheries, and other public and private lands to create jobs and
ensure our nation’s fish and wildlife resources, treasured
landscapes, and rich heritage are conserved for future
generations.”

All told, the USFWS will receive $280 million of the Interior
Department’s $3 billion outlay via the American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act, which totalled nearly $800 billion to stimulate
the U.S. economy.

Of that $280 million, 830 projects are slated, and the costs are
broken down this way:

€ $227 million for infrastructure improvements; the construction
or repair of more than 650 “constructed assets across the country,”
providing for an array of employment opportunities.

€ About $50 million for 173 habitat restoration projects
nationwide. The projects range from demolition of structures
preventing fish from accessing spawning and feeding areas, to
removal of invasive plants. The vast majority of the projects will
occur on private lands.

€ Forty-three projects valued at nearly $8.4 million to make
national wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries more
energy-efficient and less reliant on non-renewable energy
sources.

€ About $5 million to be used to enable the USFWS to create
about 550 seasonal and temporary jobs for young people at national
wildlife refuges and national fish hatcheries.

In Ohio, project funding totals $1.75 million, and is directed
to the Cedar Point NWR ($825,000), Ottawa NWR ($700,000), projects
in the Carterville area ($72,000), and Ohio Partners for Fish and
Wildlife ($150,000).

A USFWS press release says the $700,000 in funding for the
Ottawa NWR is for “installation of a photovoltaic array (a solar
energy source) for the visitor center.”

“All the projects announced … represent long-standing priority
needs identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through its
capital planning process,” the press release said. “The Service
worked through a rigorous merit-based process to identify and
prioritize investments meeting the criteria put forth in the
Recovery Act – namely, that a project addresses the department’s
highest priority mission needs; generates the largest number of
jobs in the shortest period of time; and creates lasting value for
the American public.”

According to the Service, the projects “will immediately create
local jobs in the communities where they are located, while
stimulating long-term employment and economic opportunities for the
American public.”

USFWS spokesman Jason Holm, of the Region 3 office in
Minneapolis, said one of the benefits of ARRA projects is that
“shovel-ready” projects are promoted.

“Companies that may have had to shutter their business because
of the economic times will be able to bid and participate in this
process,” he said. “For some companies, a project may be the
difference between staying open and closing. Essentially, this
allows them to get over the hump and keep people working in the
long-term.”

According to the USFWS press release, the agency also will
benefit from an additional $10 million, administered by the
Department of Transportation and not included in the Service’s $280
million. That money will be used to rebuild and improve roads on
several national wildlife refuges.

The USFWS’s annual operating budget for FY2009 is $2.4 billion,
of which $1.44 billion is appropriated dollars, and $989,000 is
permanent appropriations to fund fish and wildlife conservation
programs.

To apply for a grant to receive federal funding under the ARRA,
go online to www.FedBizOpps. gov and www.grants.gov.

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