Great Lakes Region

Read on to learn about news and noteworthy happenings related to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  For comprehensive information on NOAA’s GLRI-supported projects, please visit our GLRI homepage.



May 3, 2021 – Recent NOAA highlights on GLRI.US

March 12, 2021 –
Responders’ Need for Accurate ESI Maps: Are We Prepared for Oil Spills at Niagara Falls and Mackinac Island?

Responders’ Need for Accurate ESI Maps: Are We Prepared for Oil Spills at Niagara Falls and Mackinac Island?: So what would happen if there was an oil spill at Niagara Falls or Mackinac Island? This possibility is why NOAA develops Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps to prepare for potential oil spill disasters.

March 1, 2021 – Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes: By the Numbers

Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes: By the Numbers: Check out these key numbers that help illustrate the scope of NOAA’s habitat restoration work in the region through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Oct. 5, 2020 – Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Story Map
GLRI story map

GLRI story map

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative story map highlights a decade of NOAA and partners’ work in the Great Lakes. Since 2010, NOAA has worked through the GLRI to restore habitat across the Great Lakes region. Our efforts have helped strengthen valuable Great Lakes fisheries and restore coastal wetlands that improve water quality, and provide recreational opportunities for the public’s use and enjoyment. NOAA projects have improved fish passage, cleaned up contaminated debris, restored coastal wetlands, and removed invasive species. Take a virtual tour of some of our major restoration projects from across the region, from the Buffalo River in New York to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Sept. 25, 2020 – NOAA Restoration Atlas
The Restoration Atlas, a product of the NOAA Restoration Center, is an interactive way to explore NOAA habitat restoration projects around the country, including those in the Great Lakes. Use the map filter and query tool to search approximately 3,000 projects by habitat type, location, congressional district, and more.

July 31, 2020 – Videos highlight Wisconsin Point Dune restoration, wild rice, Piping Plover and more 
Wisconsin DNR has released three videos about the St. Louis River Area of Concern, including project restoration highlights for manoomin (wild rice), Wisconsin Point Dunes, Piping Plover habitat, and Barkers Island Swimming Beach. All are outstanding efforts to improve water quality, wildlife habitats, and accessibility.

Jan. 22, 2020 – NOAA GLRI Webinar, project overviews 
NOAA held a webinar on Jan. 22, 2020, on its work under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). Since 2010, Congress has appropriated approximately $300 million per year to the GLRI, for a total of $3.4 billion in GLRI funding. Of that amount, NOAA has received over $240 million, with an additional $20 million anticipated in FY20. Principle investigators gave high-level overviews of NOAA’s 28 current GLRI projects. Please feel free to follow up with the individual PI(s) or NOAA’s GLRI Program Coordinator, Rebecca Held Knoche (, for additional information.

March 26, 2019 – River Raisin Legacy Project Mini Documentary 
This mini documentary film, produced by the City of Monroe, Michigan, Commission on the Environment and Water Quality (COTE), details the extensive remediation cleanup work, habitat restoration and recreational enhancements that have taken place in the River Raisin over the past two decades. Filmed over the course of 2018, the video documents the recent work on the River Raisin to delist it as an Area of Concern (AOC), which includes removal of dams, installation of fish passages, and reinvigoration of the natural environment. The work was made possible by funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative administered by the Michigan Areas of Concern Program, Office of the Great Lakes, Department of Environmental Quality, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the Environmental Protection Agency. The documentary showcases the relentless efforts of volunteers, staff and key stakeholders to restore the ecology and natural beauty, as well as the cultural and recreational value of this regional asset including fishing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and more.

March 12, 2019 – GLRI projects in Ohio winning awards 
Dave Zenk accepting award on Feb. 6, 2019

Presentation on Feb. 6, 2019

Howard Marsh Metropark in Curtice, Ohio, has received the 2018 Ohio Parks and Recreation Association Governor’s Award for the recently completed Phase I habitat restoration. The Governor’s Award was established in 2010 to recognize the one park and recreation program or project that has had the most significant impact on quality of life in the preceding year. Funded in part by NOAA in 2013 and completed in spring 2018, Howard Marsh is the single largest wetland restoration project completed under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. In addition to habitat restoration achieved through conversion of the large agricultural field back to its historic wetland condition, project goals included enhanced water quality and improved recreation opportunities. Overall, achieved metrics include:

  • 571 acres of new restored coastal wetlands
  • 116 acres of new upland habitat (including 7,500 new trees)
  • 6 miles of deep water channels for boating and fish habitat
  • 6.6 miles of new hiking trails and boardwalks

July 25, 2017 – NOAA and Partners Launch Underwater Robotic Laboratory to Monitor Lake Erie Algal Bloom  
In 2014, the City of Toledo, Ohio issued a “do not drink” advisory when treated drinking water drawn from Lake Erie contained unsafe levels of a toxin called microcystin, produced by a bloom of harmful blue-green algae. With more than 400,000 people without drinking water for three days, the incident was reported worldwide and placed a spotlight on Lake Erie summertime algal blooms as a threat to drinking water quality.
Researchers lower the robotic underwater laboratory into Lake Erie, where it will monitor algal toxins.

NOAA GLERL and CIGLR researchers prepare to launch the ESPniagara in western Lake Erie, where it will monitor algal toxins. Image credit: NOAA GLERL.

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) and Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR) Harmful Algal Blooms research team launched an Environmental Sample Processor (ESP)  in Lake Erie’s western basin earlier this month.  The ESP, named the ESPniagara and also fondly called the “lab in a can” due to its cylindrical shape, is able to analyze dangerous algal toxin levels much faster than they could be processed in a traditional laboratory setting.  The information gathered can then be used to warn municipal water intake and drinking water managers of potential public health threats earlier than before.

There are 17 ESPs in use worldwide, but GLERL-CIGLR’s has been the first to be deployed in any freshwater system.

Researchers received funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to purchase the $375,000 ESP, as a direct response to the Toledo event.  The lab will test water samples near the City of Toledo daily beginning on August 1, and will send results to researchers in near real-time  — critical to protecting public health.

To learn more, read the full article from The Monroe News here.

May 1, 2017 –  NOAA and Partners’ Research on Mercury Emissions A Featured Cover Story    

Research on anthropogenic mercury emissions in the U.S., supported in part through funding from the GLRI, recently made the cover of the March 2017 issue of Environmental Science & Technology Letters.  Authors Zhou et al found that such emissions have declined from the mid-1990’s through present day, largely due to numerous efforts to curtail and regulate mercury in waste streams and reductions in mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Research on long-term trends in mercury emission declines in the northeastern U.S. made the cover of Environmental Science and Technology Letters in March. Image credit: Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

The authors examined trends in long-term atmospheric mercury measurements in Underhill, VT and Huntington Forest, NY.  These areas are generally downwind of large mercury sources in the midwestern U.S.  The study indicated that decreased mercury concentrations measured during the past decade are consistent with decreased mercury emissions from regional point sources, and showed that increasing global emissions have not overwhelmed those decreases. These data provide the longest record of mercury concentrations available in the United States.

To read the full article, please visit the American Chemical Society’s website.


March 31, 2017 – Filling a Critical Data Gap for Northern Lake Michigan

Map showing elevation levels of Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, using newly available topobathy lidar data.

Digital Elevation Model created from the newly available topobathy lidar data. Image credit: NOAA

Using funds from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management (OCM) collected more than 7.4 billion topobathymetric LIDAR points.  As a result, more than 250 square miles of northern Lake Michigan around Beaver Island archipelago and South Manitou Island have high-accuracy LIDAR-based topography and bathymetry data for the first time.

The data, which is critical in effectively managing coastlines in a changing climate, will help the National Park Service map benthic habitats in the area, and will be used to fill significant gaps in OCM’s Lake Level Viewer.  The data can be downloaded from the Digital Coast Data Access Viewer.

March 16, 2017 – New videos showcase the Economic and Environmental Impacts of GLRI Restoration Projects in Michigan  

Image depicting construction at Bear Creek restoration site.

The West Pond of the Bear Creek Habitat Restoration and Hydrologic Reconnection project is under construction to restore flood plain and wetlands adjacent to the Muskegon River. The phosphorus rich sediments of this former celery pond have been removed, native wetland is being restored, and fish habitat structures are being placed along this tributary of Muskegon Lake. Photo credit: Terry Heatlie.

Videos were released this month by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Great Lakes Commission (GLC) highlighting the economic and environmental impact of restoration work in Muskegon, Michigan, and at the Little Rapids portion of the St. Marys River.  The GLC and NOAA are working together to restore the Muskegon Lake and St. Marys River Areas of Concern (AOCs) — two Great Lakes “toxic hotspots.”

The videos, produced by Michigan’s Issue Media Group, reveal how restoration work is enhancing quality of life for local and regional residents and businesses. When completed, the Muskegon projects are expected to increase property values by nearly $12 million, attract 65,000 new visitors annually, and enhance the Muskegon Lake Fishery, which each year contributes more than $1 million to the local economy. A 2011 study determined that over 15 years, dollars invested in Muskegon Lake restoration would result in a 6-to-1 return to the local economy. The Little Rapids Restoration Project has recently completed construction of a new bridge on Sugar Island in the St. Marys River, reestablishing the flow to the Little Rapids for the first time in more than 50 years. This work is expected to lead to improved habitat for native fish populations, revitalized tourism and sport fishing opportunities on the river, and better community access via a new pedestrian walkway.

For more information about this project, please visit the NOAA Habitat Restoration website here.

July 1, 2016 – Buffalo River Habitat Restoration Work in Full Swing  

Photo credit: T.J. Pignataro, The Buffalo News

The Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, in partnership with NOAA and the Great Lakes Commission, recently gave an update on its large-scale collaborative effort to restore portions of degraded habitat along the Buffalo River.  Since 2013, NOAA has received $6.3 million in funding to complete a suite of six habitat restoration projects at the river.  Construction is ongoing, and plans include the removal of invasive species, enhancement of the shoreline with native plantings, protection of fish and other aquatic life, and the creation of a pollinator meadow.

More than two acres of habitat has been restored through the partnership to date, spanning across six miles and eight locations along the river.

This is a major accomplishment for an area once rife with industrial pollutants and contaminated sediments.  In 1987, the International Joint Commission (IJC) designated the Buffalo River as an Area of Concern (AOC), or one of the 43 most toxic hot spots in the Great Lakes.  An AOC is an area that has experienced significant environmental damage or degradation.  Over the last few years, tremendous progress has been made toward restoring the Buffalo River AOC and ultimately “delisting” it, which will occur once all cleanup actions are complete.

According to The Buffalo News, native plants are successfully taking root and wildlife is returning to the area – a great step toward delisting.

To read more about habitat restoration along the Buffalo River, read The Buffalo News article here, which was featured on the front page.  For more information on the Buffalo River Area of Concern, visit this page from the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper.

November 9, 2015 – New GLRI funding for Projects in the Clinton River Spillway

NOAA is one of several federal agencies receiving GLRI funding for restoration projects in the Clinton River Area of Concern.  On November 9, EPA announced nearly $20 million in new funding for projects at an event that included U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, Clinton River Public Advisory Council Chair Lynne Seymour and representatives of the grantees.

As part of this effort, NOAA will partner with Macomb County on a $2.5 million Clinton River Spillway Project, which includes invasive species removal and other restoration efforts near the area where the spillway meets Lake St. Clair.

Learn more about the planned projects in the Clinton River Spillway here.

August 18, 2015 – Economics of Green Infrastructure Guide Released

NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management released a Guide to Assessing Green Infrastructure Costs and Benefits for Flood Reduction.

Communities need to understand options for addressing flood-related issues and the costs of those options. This guide lays out a six-step watershed-based approach to documenting the costs of flooding, projecting increased flooding and associated costs under future land use and climate conditions, and calculating benefits and costs of reducing flooding with green infrastructure over the long term.

Using experiences from four communities (Duluth, Minnesota; Toledo, Ohio; Green Bay, Wisconsin; and He‘eia, Hawaii), the guide offers key considerations, recommended expertise, case studies, practical implementation tips, and lessons learned.

The following resources can help you work through specific steps from the guide.

August 12, 2015 – New NOAA Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Website

The NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL) announces its updated Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia website. The new website features real-time monitoring data, algal toxin concentrations, and updated forecasts of bloom size and extent as well as a perspective of vertical mixing algal blooms in the water.

The newest feature is the regularly updated experimental HAB Tracker, which provides 5-day predictions of algal bloom intensity and movement. HAB Tracker is a timely experimental decision-making tool forwater intake managers, anglers, recreational boaters, and beach users.

The Great Lakes HABs (Harmful Algal Blooms) and Hypoxia program is a collaborative effort between scientists at GLERL and the Cooperative Institute for Limnology and Ecosystems Research (CILER). Our team is focused on understanding ecosystem health effects in the Great Lakes related to human-influenced water quality degradation.

We use an integrated approach to understand the environmental drivers of and predict HABs and hypoxia. This approach consists of using satellite images, remote sensing buoys, a comprehensive monitoring program in western Lake Erie and in Saginaw Bay on Lake Huron that includes advanced genetic techniques to understand the long and short-term seasonal dynamics of HAB events.

For more information please visit:


Eric Anderson, Ph.D., Physical Oceanographer, NOAA GLERL:
Tim Davis, Ph.D., Research Scientist, NOAA GLERL:
Joeseph Smith, Webmaster,

October 17, 2014 – NOAA Fisheries Announces $16.7 Million in Funding for Habitat Restoration in the Great Lakes

NOAA Fisheries is making available roughly $16.7 million, through President Obama’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, for habitat restoration projects in severely degraded areas of the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes are one of our most important natural resources—they are the largest freshwater system on earth, and support numerous industries including commercial and recreational fishing, shipping, transportation, and coastal tourism.  However, the Great Lakes face many threats including invasive species, oil spills and other pollution, overfishing, and habitat degradation.

“Great Lakes communities deserve a clean and healthy environment,” said Buck Sutter, Director of NOAA’s Office of Habitat Conservation. “We’re excited to support local projects that will help reverse decades of pollution and clear a path for sustainable fishing and other treasured pastimes.”

Funded projects are spread throughout Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York.  They will benefit a variety of important recreational fish species such as lake whitefish, northern pike, and walleye in eight Great Lakes Areas of Concern. This funding builds on years of investment in the Great Lakes to restore waterways threatened by poor water quality, contaminated fish, and other environmental concerns.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and 15 other federal agencies to build on existing and current work to restore the Great Lakes.

NOAA Fisheries’ investment in the effort to restore aquatic habitat is part of a long-term effort to rebuild fisheries, many of which have declined from habitat loss, over-fishing and climate change. Recent successes show that restoring habitat is a way not only to stop the decline of fish populations, but also to regrow them to historic high numbers. 

October 9, 2014 – Atmospheric Mercury Modeling Report Released

A final report on the 3rd year of a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) project has been completed: “Modeling Atmospheric Mercury Deposition to the Great Lakes: Projected Consequences of Alternative Future Emissions Scenarios”. In this work, the HYSPLIT-Hg model was used to simulate the fate and transport of mercury emitted from anthropogenic and natural sources worldwide, and the amount and source attribution of atmospheric deposition to the Great Lakes was estimated. A baseline emissions inventory and three future-scenario inventories were adapted from Lei et al. (Atmos Chem Phys 14: 783-795, 2014) for use in the project. Results from the baseline inventory were evaluated by comparison against ambient concentration and wet deposition measurements in the United States and Canada. Very encouraging agreement was found between the modeling results and measurements. To develop source-attribution estimates, separate simulations for the following emissions inventory subsets were carried out: biomass burning, land surfaces, ocean surfaces, volcanoes, direct anthropogenic emissions, and re-emissions of previously deposited mercury. Additional country-specific simulations were carried out for direct anthropogenic emissions from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, Russia, and India, countries estimated to have the highest individual contributions in earlier phases of this work. For Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and Lake Michigan, it was estimated that direct anthropogenic emissions from the U.S. contributed ~20% of the total deposition for the baseline emissions. For two future scenario inventories with increased emissions, direct U.S. emissions contributed ~40% of the total deposition. For Lake Superior and Lake Huron, the contribution from direct U.S. emissions were estimated to be 10-15% in the baseline and ~30% in two higher-emissions future scenarios.

You can access the report here:

September 24, 2014 – GLRI Action Plan II released

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Action Plan II has been released by the U.S. EPA.

The Action Plan II will guide work through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from Fiscal Year 2015 through 2019. This will build on restoration and protection work carried out under the first Action Plan, with a major focus on:

– Cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern;
– Preventing and controlling invasive species;
– Reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful and nuisance algal blooms;
– Restoring habitat to protect native species.

For more information about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative visit EPA’s GLRI website.

June 12, 2014 – NOAA funding supports efforts to reduce flooding in Duluth, MD

Residents in Duluth, Minnesota participated in an open house to learn how green infrastructure can help reduce impacts from extreme flooding events. Residents interacting with Minnesota Sea Grant and NOAA staff members learned how development and precipitation impact flooding, what green infrastructure is and how it can help, and the types of green infrastructure residents and the community can implement. The open house was part of a technical assistance effort, funded by the GLRI, to support the use of a study of Duluth that assessed the economic benefits and costs of using green infrastructure to reduce current and future extreme precipitation events.

December 19, 2012 – Climate Partnership reports, video, and online tools are available!

A storm surge engulfs Lake Michigan’s 57-foot-tall Ludington Lighthouse. Photo by Jeff Kiessel, Ludington Daily News.

As 2012 draws to a close, we are very pleased to announce the release of climate change adaptation resources developed through a partnership between NOAA’s Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Team and The Nature Conservancy.  Results of this year-long climate partnership include a video, guide, outreach and engagement case study, and online climate tools—designed to empower coastal communities to engage in planning and decision making that reflect adaptation to a changing climate.

These products complement a multi-year climate services initiative, designed to provide coastal community planners, conservation practitioners, and decision-makers with the resources to plan for the effects of climate change in their communities. We have heard through regional climate needs assessments that many members of these target audiences are not aware of, or do not have access to, the information, tools, and resources being developed. Toward this end, NOAA and regional partners have been working diligently to help fill these critical gaps.  For additional information and climate resources, please visit NOAA’s Climate Ready Great Lakes modules and The Nature Conservancy’s Great Lakes Climate website.

Bete Grise, MI

December 19, 2012 – NOAA Supports Bete Grise Coastal Wetland Protection

On December 19, 2012 the Houghton Keweenaw Conservation District acquired 1495 acres, including high quality wetlands and shoreline frontage on Lac LaBelle (Lake Superior estuary), adjacent to the Bete Grise Preserve on the southeastern coast of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula.  This land conservation project was supported through Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds administered by NOAA’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).  Project partners include the Michigan Coastal Management Program (MI DEQ) and the Nature Conservancy.

This property is part of an 8000+ acre Lake Superior wetland complex that has been identified by the Nature Conservancy and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory as one of the highest quality dune swale wetland systems remaining in the Upper Great Lakes.  The Partners have a long-term goal to preserve and manage all 8,000+ acres of this outstanding coastal wetland habitat.

December 11, 2012 – The Environment Report features

Dikerogammarus villosus (“Killer Shrimp”). Photo by S. Giesen, GLERL.


Today’s Michigan Environment Report featured Rochelle Sturtevant, Great Lakes Regional Sea Grant Extension Educator at NOAA’s Great Lakes Environment Research Laboratory (GLERL).  She discussed the Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Information System (GLANSIS), a project funded by the GLRI.   GLANSIS is a searchable online database with photos and fact sheets about potential new invaders of the Great Lakes, all drawn from available peer-reviewed research.  Click here to listen to Dr. Sturtevant discuss GLANSIS and hear how you can help combat invasive species in the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Climate Dashboard (beta version)

November 6, 2012 – NOAA-GLERL’s Climate Dashboard (beta version) makes it to National Science Foundation competition finals

We’re very pleased to announce that GLERL’s Joeseph Smith is a finalist in the National Science Foundation (NSF) International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge for his work on the draft Great Lakes Climate Dashboard (GLCD)!  In addition to receiving the honor of being an NSF competition finalist, the tool has received over 12,000 web hits during its first six months online, plus mention in regional and national publications that include the New York Times Green Blog.

Click here to check out the GLCD.

October 24, 2012 – NOAA receives conservation award for efforts to restore

Sarah Opfer, left, and Julie Sims accept Ducks Unlimited conservation award on behalf of NOAA’s Restoration Center.

coastal habitats in Ohio

NOAA is honored to have received a conservation award from Ducks Unlimited and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Division.  The award recognizes NOAA’s efforts to restore coastal habitats in Ohio.Over the past three years, NOAA has awarded over $8 million in funds provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to restore Ohio coastal areas.  This has included nine projects spearheaded by Ducks Unlimited and regional partners.  These projects have contributed to Great Lakes restoration through restoring and enhancing Ohio’s coastal wetlands,  restoring lakeplain prairie, restoring fish habitat, and controlling non-native and invasive plant species.