Habitat Restoration in Great Lakes Areas of Concern

NOAA-GLC Regional Habitat Restoration Partnership

The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are leading efforts to restore several Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs) — the worst “toxic hotspots” in the region. The GLC implements restoration work through a NOAA Regional Partnership, a unique funding mechanism that allows key projects to receive critical funding while maintaining necessary flexibility for changing needs and administrative and communications support.  In recognition of the GLC’s longstanding commitment to restoring AOCs, it has been awarded four regional habitat restoration partnerships since 2008, with the potential of up to $100 million being directed to key sites across the basin. The partnerships are aligned and coordinated with ongoing efforts of federal and state agencies to implement other restoration projects in AOCs, and are expected to culminate in formal removal, or de-listing. These projects have immense environmental and economic benefits, and are helping to enhance quality of life for citizens across the basin.

As of 2019, The NOAA-GLC partnerships have included 46 on the ground projects in seven AOCs with nine local project partners. Once complete, these projects will have restored approximately 2,500 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat and 23,000 feet of natural shoreline. In addition, the partnerships are funding two socio-economic studies of the value of restoration on local communities and communications about the benefits of these unique restorations.

Habitat Restoration in Areas of Concern

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 five years. Within the last two years, GLC has completed projects in the Muskegon Lake, St. Marys River, and Buffalo River AOCs and is currently coordinating projects funded under a 2016 partnership in the Muskegon Lake, Clinton River, Cuyahoga River, and Maumee River AOCs.  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. A new partnership established in 2019 is funding the implementation phase of three restoration projects in the Muskegon Lake, Cuyahoga River, and Maumee River AOCs and adds a unique restoration project located in a priority coastal area.  

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.

Funding

Funding is provided by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a Regional Partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Great Lakes Commission (GLC). In 2013, GLC was awarded approximately $30 million through this Partnership to work with partners to implement habitat restoration in Areas of Concern across the Great Lakes Basin.  An additional $40 million was made available in 2016 to continue restoration activities under another Partnership.

For More Information

Eric Ellis
Coastal Conservation and Habitat Restoration Project Manager
Great Lakes Commission
734‐396‐6089
[email protected]

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