Great Lakes Restoration Advocacy

The Great Lakes Commission advocates for funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and federal legislation that authorizes Great Lakes restoration programs and provides a strong regional framework to sustain effective restoration, protection and ongoing management of the Great Lakes.

2018 Legislative Request

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is a highly successful, popular program that enjoys strong, bipartisan support from Congress and regional leaders. While we have made important progress under the GLRI, substantial work remains. Work is still underway in 20 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (our region’s most heavily degraded areas) and hundreds of upcoming cleanup projects depend on GLRI funding. Cost-share agreements are in place with nonfederal sponsors for 16 toxic sediment cleanups in six states, with more sites being investigated.

The GLRI is also helping to prevent beach closures and protect drinking water for 48 million people by working with farmers to prevent polluted runoff that causes harmful algal blooms. Finally, the GLRI is the most important and effective line of defense against Asian carp, with more than six million pounds of Asian carp trapped and removed from the Illinois River – an important pathway to Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes Commission urges Congress to provide $300 million for the GLRI in FY 2019 to sustain this progress.

The above legislative request is included as part of the Great Lakes Commission 2018 Legislative Priorities: An Agenda for Great Lakes Restoration and Economic Revitalization (Presented to the 115th Congress: March 2018)


Restoring the Great Lakes and leveraging them as vital environmental and economic assets is a longstanding and bipartisan priority for leaders in the eight-state Great Lakes region. In 2004 President George W. Bush recognized the Great Lakes as a “natural treasure” and initiated development of a comprehensive restoration strategy. Completed in 2005, the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy built on priorities identified by the Great Lakes governors and outlined a series of recommendations to restore and protect the lakes.

A new Federal Great Lakes Interagency Task Force was established to improve coordination of agencies and programs that address the Great Lakes. Building on this momentum, President Barack Obama established the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) to implement the regional restoration strategy and charged U.S. EPA with leading a coordinated, multiagency program. Detailed Action Plans have guided the GLRI, with objectives and performance measures in five key areas: cleaning up Great Lakes Areas of Concern; preventing and controlling invasive species; reducing nutrient runoff that contributes to harmful algal blooms; restoring habitat to protect native species; and setting the foundation for future restoration actions. Funding for the GLRI began in FY 2010 and through FY 2016 has totaled over $2.2 billion.

The GLRI has enjoyed strong, bipartisan support from Congress, the Great Lakes states, tribes, cities, conservation groups, and business and industry. The program is generating real results: Through 2016 nearly 3,000 restoration projects have been implemented, six Areas of Concern cleaned up, a 70 percent increase in farmland enrolled in conservation programs, 150,000 acres of habitat restored, and more than 3,400 miles of rivers opened for native fish. Under the 2015-2019 Action Plan the GLRI will focus on cleaning up ten more Areas of Concern, reducing phosphorus runoff that causes harmful algal blooms, controlling invasive species, and restoring habitat for native species. The Commission is working with Congress and the Administration to continue this successful program to ensure complete implementation of our regional restoration strategy.

The Commission also supports legislation that authorizes the GLRI and other critical, existing Great Lakes programs to strengthen coordination with regional stakeholders and binational cooperation with Canada. Specifically, the Commission supports legislation that formally authorizes the GLRI to provide clear legislative direction for Great Lakes restoration efforts; authorizes U.S. EPA to lead the Federal Interagency Task Force to coordinate activities among federal agencies; and advances implementation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada.

For More Information

Matt Doss
Policy Director
Great Lakes Commission
[email protected]

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