Healing Our Waters
October 17, 2012 09:15 AM
Great Lakes restoration projects that work.
Since 2005, the Healing Our Waters coalition has been working to improve the health of the Great Lakes. This group includes over 115 conservation, science, environmental, and civic organizations. Through a grant to the National Parks Conservation Association, HOW successfully advocated for funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program to repair damage done by pollution and mismanagement of watersheds, wetlands, and habitats. To answer questions about where restoration funds were spent and what improvements were made, the Healing Our Waters Coalition is documenting Great Lakes funding success stories that highlight actual environmental and economic benefits including job creation.
Invasive species entered the Great Lakes through ballast water discharge by ocean freighters traveling through the St. Lawrence Seaway. Freshwater ships that travel through the lakes take in and dump zebra mussels and other aquatic invasive species along with ballast water. Thanks to Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding, the first permanent ballast treatment system was installed in a freshwater vessel that ferries visitors from Houghton, Michigan, to Isle Royal National Park. Invasive species found in Houghton have not been transported to Isle Royal. The reverse is also true.
Funding from the Initiative allowed the Sea Grant programs to work with law enforcement agencies in collecting more than two million pills and distributing information about improper disposal of pharmaceuticals and personal care products. These chemicals get into the lakes and move up the food chain into fish, wildlife, and people who drink Great Lakes water.
Last year, the HOW Coalition issued a report: Great Lakes Restoration: Delivering Results, highlighting six successful restoration projects. Each of the innovations outlined can be put in place elsewhere. For example, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, used green infrastructure, primarily rain gardens, to absorb and filter storm water that flooded the city’s sewer system. This strategy reduced the flow of harmful bacteria to Lake Michigan beaches during storms, keeping the lakefront open for business and recreation.
The National Parks Conservation Association was established in 1919 to protect and enhance America’s national parks for present and future generations. In 2007, NPCA opened its Midwest Regional office in Chicago. The Midwest office advocates for protection of the more than 620 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. The NPCA report, A Sound Investment: Restoring the Great Lakes in our National Parks, highlights the role that the National Park Service plays in restoring the Great Lakes, safeguarding public health, creating jobs, and protecting places belonging to all Americans.
The Great Lakes are America’s greatest freshwater resource—and comprise 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water. The Joyce Foundation Great Lakes Protection work addresses three interconnected issues: preventing the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species; eliminating polluted runoff from cities and farms; and advancing and defending key state, regional, and federal Great Lakes policies and funding.
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