CHICAGO (CBS) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plans to spend $6 million to hire the unemployed for Great Lakes cleanup projects.

As WBBM Newsrasdio’s Dave Marsett reports, an EPA official says the initiative is similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, a Great Depression-era program that put the unemployed to work.

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Congress has appropriated $775 million over the past two years for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a wide-ranging plan to improve the environmental health of the region.

Among the priorities are cleaning up toxic pollution, fighting invasive species, improving wildlife habitat and protecting watersheds from contaminated runoff.

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In recent weeks, EPA has been announcing grants for projects around the region from the $300 million allocated for the 2011 fiscal year. The final $6 million from that pot of money will go to the unemployment initiative, said Susan Hedman, EPA’s regional administrator in Chicago.

Supporters of the Great Lakes initiative have said repeatedly it would stimulate the region’s economy and create jobs. The newly announced program is unique because it specifically targets jobless workers, said Phillippa Cannon, spokeswoman for the agency’s Chicago office.

EPA will choose projects by the end of September.

To qualify, they must provide immediate, direct ecological benefits and be located in areas identified as federal priorities, such as national lakeshores or areas of concern. They also must include a detailed budget and produce measurable results.

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