CHICAGO (CBS) — The state has awarded $730,000 to a dozen groups in the Chicago area to further environmental education.

The ceremony, which took place overlooking the lake, at Shedd Aquarium, was the first since Illinois’ Coastal Management Program rejoined the federal effort to manage coastal resources and protect natural resources on the Great Lakes.

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Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller said the program actually began in Illinois 35 years ago, but said the state’s commitment to the program waned under previous governors.

Miller said there was plenty of competition for the grants, which are between $30,000 and $100,000 a group. Some are going to public agencies such as the Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Park District and the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, while others are being awarded to private groups, including the Friends of the Chicago River and Prologue, Inc.

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Prologue Chief Executive Officer Nancy Jackson said her group will use its $57,000 grant to provide job training and in-service education for low-income, at-risk young people ages 16 to 24 in maritime technology, waterway safety and conservation stewardship.

The Park District of Highland Park will use its $48,393 grant to help students develop interpretive signage, outreach materials and specialized science equipment at its new Lakefront Interpretive Center, which will open next year.

The League of Women Voters’ education fund even received a $31,771 grant — to teach people how storm sewers work.

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The grant money is administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Miller said that grants are expected to be made on a yearly basis, assuming federal budget difficulties in Washington can be ironed out.