Habitat Restoration in Great Lakes Areas of ConcernNOAA-GLC AOC Habitat Restoration Partnership
Areas of Concern (AOCs) are watersheds, or portions of watersheds, along the Great Lakes suffering from degraded environmental conditions stemming from historic and ongoing pollution. They were designated under the U.S.-Canada Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement based on criteria that include drinking water restrictions, loss of fish and wildlife habitat and beach closures.
NOAA Regional Partnerships support fish and wildlife habitat restoration efforts in AOCs by designing and implementing high priority projects that are identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, NOAA, the states, and local AOC leaders. The partnerships are aligned and coordinated with ongoing efforts of federal and state agencies to implement other restoration projects in AOCs, and will eventually culminate in formal removal, or de-listing. Funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) and the development of the GLRI Action Plan has significantly expedited restoration in AOCs and provides funding for the NOAA-GLC partnerships.
The Great Lakes Commission has been engaged in Regional Partnerships with NOAA since 2008 to implement design, construction and monitoring of key habitat restoration projects. Partnerships typically last three to four years and GLC is currently coordinating projects funded under a 2013 partnership in the St. Marys River, Muskegon Lake and Buffalo River AOCs. A new partnership established in 2016 is funding implementation of the final habitat restoration project in the Muskegon Lake AOC and will add other AOCs into the partnership over the next two years. In addition, the 2016 partnership is funding a follow-up to a 2011 socio-economic study on the value of restoration, which showed a 6-to-1 return on restoration dollars in the local economy.
To implement this work, the Great Lakes Commission offers a centralized, core team that is augmented by local implementation partners and research institutions to help steward AOCs into social, economic and ecological sustainability.